Why Recruiting Needs To Own Workforce Planning

Workforce planning is currently one of the hottest topics on the planet. Unfortunately, most recruiters see workforce planning as something that occurs beyond their scope. But in fact, it could be their ticket to job security during these tough economic times. Here are a few of the many reasons why the recruiting function should be responsible for managing workforce planning. Why Recruiting Should “Own” Workforce Planning There are a variety of reasons why recruiting managers, and even individual recruiters, should seize the opportunity to take charge of a companies emerging workforce planning process. Although every firm is different, here are some reasons you or your boss might find convincing:

  • Much of workforce planning involves “headcount management,” and no one knows more about that (within HR) than the recruiting function.
  • Recruiters, because they deal in “offer development,” are well aware of emerging employee issues and workforce trends.
  • Recruiters have a “stake” (in the form of job security) if they accurately forecast and then provide the right quantity and quality of employees. If the plan allows a firm to “overhire,” that will eventually mean unemployment for recruiters, because internal transfers are all that will occur during the inevitable hiring freeze. If firms “underhire” it eventually means an excessive workload for recruiters when managers realize that rapid hiring is needed.
  • Since recruiting often owns the “employer of choice” branding process, it is the first to realize that continuous hiring (with no layoffs) is the winning brand and image builder.
  • Because recruiters continually use the Internet, they are likely to have superior skills in searching for and identifying the necessary data needed for planning and forecasting.
  • Since understanding the business and building strong relationships with managers are essential to recruiting, these current skills can easily be adapted for use in workforce planning.
  • Since most experienced workforce planners were laid off during the ’80s and ’90s (and few universities offer courses in workforce planning) there is no one currently trained to do it in HR. And since no one else is doing it…why not step into the void?

Seize the Opportunity: Here Are Your Next Steps If you decide that workforce planning is part of your future, here are some basic steps to get you started:

  • Become an expert. Identify key workforce planning experts and learning sources. Read everything you can. Hold brainstorming sessions and consult with experts.
  • Study “parallel” business processes.There is little current information on workforce planning models. But other business processes?? like budgeting, sales forecasting, resource redeployment and supply chain management?? operate similar models. Many of the tools from these fields are transferable to workforce planning.
  • Benchmark. After you learn the key terminology, processes, and strategies, it’s important to see which firms have implemented which practices. You need to know what others are doing. Don’t forget to identify the best workforce planning practices within your own firm.
  • Aim ahead. Because most current workforce planning processes are “basic” at best, it’s important to forecast the evolution of workforce planning. Aim ahead and avoid just “copying” current practices.
  • Study failure. Look at the many workforce planning failures and the few successes. Then develop a list of the critical success factors that are needed in order to make a process work.
  • Build a business case. Put together a qualified business case that will enable you to “sell” the idea to management. Be sure to estimate the payback period and the potential ROI. Also calculate the cost of “doing nothing.”
  • Identify data availability. Identify your general data needs for forecasting and decision making. Next, see what information and data are already available (without additional collection efforts) both internally and externally.
  • Develop a project plan. Set your goals and develop your project plan. Then pretest (in order to refine) your project plan with cynical managers to ensure that it is both logical and convincing.
  • Use metrics. Develop a set of metrics (success measures) so that after implementation you can prove that your workforce planning process actually met its goals.
  • Identify internal competitors. Identify any potential “internal competitors” for operating or owning the workforce planning process. Either identify the areas where your skills and plan are superior (in your business case) or invite them to be part of your team.

Conclusion I have been advising firms on workforce planning for over 20 years now, and I find that the use of workforce planning and forecasting in HR is at its lowest level than at any time in my memory. In contrast, the world around us is changing at a faster rate than it ever has. Although some would argue that with this fast change (and the resulting uncertainty) planning and forecasting become too difficult to attempt, I would argue the reverse. Faster moving targets require better tools, advanced thinking, and superior strategies. Coincidentally, it turns out that recruiters are the people in HR who are the most agile and most in touch with the market. Whether it’s recruiting or some other function that chooses to become a company’s workforce planner, whoever does eventually step forward is bound to be famous. Why? Because, people love the person who prepares them for “tomorrow” (as opposed to the historian, who tells them after the fact, when it’s already too late). So what are you waiting for? Carpe Diem…Seize the day!

About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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