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Cielo’s recent research found that nearly 50%[1] of Talent Acquisition leaders state that addressing the skills gap is their greatest challenge. There are many reasons why a skills gap can exist, with the most prevalent being diminishing availability of qualified skills.

Businesses can manage the skills gap by understanding and utilising the most effective recruitment techniques, improving acquisition and retention processes, and investing in the right channels to attract good people to the right roles. All of this is vital to remaining competitive as a business.

As an industry, we tend to focus on the present, and jobs or roles that are available must be filled immediately. But what about the future of the workforce? Do you know where your business is heading, or what skills will be needed? With technology constantly evolving, organisations need to change their recruitment techniques to keep up with the advances in automation, tech, digital skills, demographic changes and globalisation. Particularly with the increasing introduction of automation, artificial intelligence, technology and digital skills, it’s crucial that organisations plan ahead and ensure that solutions are put in place to meet future demand for new skills.

Strategic workforce planning (SWP) enables businesses to create a talent plan in advance and is far more comprehensive than demand planning, typically based on the financial budgeting process.  SWP is the integration of the broader business goals into your human capital planning and operational requirements. As such SWP enables senior HR professionals to align skills, roles and people to meet short- and long-term company goals – considering both the existing workforce skills and the availability of talent externally.

HR professionals can use SWP to create opportunities and identify where training is needed for new skills. SWP enables organisations to pinpoint key development areas and look to create development paths for existing staff to grow into the roles they will need in the future.

Remember, with any organisation there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution and being able to tailor your needs will enable you to get the most out of SWP. This leads us to the important question – how can senior HR professionals develop SWP for their business?

Vision and consistency
Be clear and know where the organisation wants to be strategically in three to five years. Think about your technology, operations, talent and profits, and understand what is needed to achieve these goals. It is important that this vision is consistent for progress to take place. With the rapid change in the workforce, the vison needs to take disruption into account. If you think about the vision as incremental steps towards the future, it will be easier to align process with change. Start with planning a year in advance, and then two – this goes a long way to achieving SWP utopia.

Plan
As predictable as this sounds, plan for the future. Plot the availability of talent, how you will source that talent and how you will measure ROI. Then sense check these against your business objectives. Do they match? Do you have the support to reach these goals from Finance, L&D and the Executive team? Making sure that you are not thinking in silos creates a realistic picture of the future and what you may need.

Data and analytics
This is high on the agenda. With the recent developments in predictive analytics, businesses can use technology and data to prepare for possible future scenarios such as areas of prioritisation, different supply options or what happens if a policy changes. Use any existing and historical data you may have to understand areas of concern and create solutions for the future.

Be flexible
Being able to see the bigger picture across the business allows you to generate an on-demand view of expected future supply and demand. Flexibility also allows you to respond to the impacts of alternative future scenarios, while the changing employment landscape offers new opportunities. Consider factoring contractors into your SWP – doing so can assist in meeting specific organisational projects and can provide cost savings for the business. It also enables access to a wider talent pool whilst tapping into high-calibre talent that can also offer new insights from experience working for a range of businesses. This model has proven successful across disciplines such as IT, analytics, risk assessment, HR, marketing, sales and project management, amongst others.

Remember, SWP should constantly be evolving and developing alongside the workforce and business to ensure your organisation is fit for the future.

[1] Cielo European Talent Acquisition trends productivity, profitability and personal impact (2017)

Sally Hunter, Executive Vice President – Cielo

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