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For some companies, workforce planning sounds like a siloed task for a single HR professional. However, companies who take this approach to workforce strategic planning could be unpleasantly surprised by its inability to meet their talent needs.

In business sectors like manufacturing — which are often in fierce competition for technically qualified talent — a company’s workforce is often its most crucial asset. Yet at the same time, it’s likely the one most prone to disruption due to a lack of planning and foresight.

At the root of this lack of preparation lies a bigger problem. In most cases, there’s a disconnect between a company’s leadership — typically its CEO and CHRO — who feel driven to plan for the future needs of their company and the rest of the organization’s employees who are often more engaged in its day-to-day affairs. Because of this disconnect, workforce strategic planning that doesn’t comprehensively address the needs of an organization can catastrophically fail to meet those needs when disruptions occur.

Consider the challenges so many manufacturers in Pennsylvania — and across the country — face due to factors such as an aging workforce, geographic competition, erosion of worker loyalty, changing hiring regulations, a lack of workers with the right technical skills and related obstacles. That’s why workforce planning is much more than simply another task for HR.

What Is Workforce Strategic Planning?

So what is workforce strategic planning, and what does it look like when done right?

Workforce planning is a process that addresses any talent gaps between an organization’s existing workforce, its strategy and its business objectives. These gaps, once identified, can be corrected in a variety of ways, including restructuring the organization, better deploying the workforce, taking advantage of new talent sources and engaging and upskilling existing talent through in-house training opportunities.

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) suggests five steps for workforce planning that serve as a great systematic approach for companies to emulate. From linking up the workforce plan with a company’s strategic plan to identifying skills gaps and implementing an action plan, these steps are as follows:

  1. Set a direction based on a workforce plan that takes into account your company’s business plan, annual performance and strategic plan.
  2. Conduct a current workforce analysis to accurately identify where issues such as skills gaps and understaffing exist.
  3. Determine an action plan that includes strategies such as workforce training, outsourcing, the addition of new technology and succession planning aimed at remedying skills and labor gaps.
  4. Apply the action plan with a coordinated approach that ensures it has the necessary visibility and resources it needs to succeed.
  5. Monitor the progress of your action plan — preferably against measurable indicators — and make adjustments as needed to make sure it meets the workforce challenges you face.

Benefits of Workforce Planning

In order to benefit from workforce planning, an organization needs to involve more than just its C-suite. After all, company-wide communication and visibility of the workforce plan indicate the organization is open to change, has a forward-thinking approach to talent challenges and is implementing an agile approach to meet its workforce needs.

Once a company embraces a comprehensive approach to workforce planning, it gains numerous key benefits. Most importantly, when an organization can identify staffing shortages earlier, it can be proactive instead of reactive regarding its recruitment strategies and talent sourcing. Moreover, instead of merely leaving the problem to HR, the company can utilize a team approach that includes upskilling in-house staff and leveraging social media to effectively communicate an employer’s brand and engage new talent.

The result doesn’t just ensure you have enough people to make your company profitable today — it also gives you increased confidence that you’re headed in the right direction to meet your business challenges of tomorrow.

Choose MANTEC for Efficient Workforce Planning Strategies

Established in 1988, MANTEC — a private, non-profit 501(c)(3) — is a specialized manufacturing consultant that meets the needs of small to mid-sized manufacturing companies in South Central Pennsylvania. Because of our deep understanding of both the manufacturing workforce and strategic planning, we’re ideally suited to assist you in identifying, implementing and monitoring an efficient workforce strategic plan.

To learn more about MANTEC’s consulting services, feel free to contact us today.

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