What Is a Workforce Strategy?

A workforce strategy helps you achieve your business objectives by sizing up your existing talent and predicting your staffing needs, for the immediate future and for the long term. A strategic workforce plan ensures you have the employees you need when you need them. Yet hiring plans too often slip through the cracks, or are skipped altogether during planning—a mistake that is costly.

In a 2015 survey conducted by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, 73 percent of the 323 responding CEOs said they were not able to meet some of their business goals due to poor workforce planning. With a strategy in place, organizations are less likely to slip into reactive hiring, which results in mis-hires, unfilled critical roles, and lost revenue.

Here are other ways a workforce strategy improves business and operations:

  • Reduces time to hire and the financial losses of unfilled positions
  • Improves existing employee morale because they do not have to take on extra work
  • Formalizes employee development and training
  • Improves new employee retention

Whether your company is creating a workforce plan from scratch or reviving a stalled hiring plan, the process will be similar. Read on to learn how to build a seamless workforce strategy that helps your business or institution flourish.

Start the Conversation

Leaders of small companies and large are busy with pressing demands, and the plates of Human Resource managers overflow with tasks that should have been done yesterday. Additionally, while leaders and managers are comfortable with business, sales, and marketing language, they can feel out of their element when the discussion turns to talent acquisition. As a result it is difficult to get everyone to the table for workforce planning. Start small by adding talent strategy education to the agendas of meetings so stakeholders begin to understand its significance to their long-term business plan. Once decision makers are familiar with the benefits of a proactive hiring strategy, they will likely incorporate it into all planning decisions.

Clarify Your Business Goals

Workforce strategies are not one-size-fits-all. They vary depending upon the scope of your business, your industry, and your business goals. For example, a hospital that is preparing for a small wave of retirements among its maintenance crew is going to have a different hiring plan than a hotel chain that is adding properties, as well as facing high turnover in existing ones. Sometimes it is as simple as aligning a workforce plan with your existing strategic business plan, but usually it is more complex. Which critical positions must you fill to meet your goals, and when should you fill them? How does the talent market look in your industry? How does the supply and demand for talent look in your market? Are these roles challenging or easy to fill? Is your industry changing because of technology? To stay competitive, for example, call center businesses will have to hire people with expertise in chatbot technology as the industry shifts to a mix of Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) and people for customer service.

Assess Your Current Workforce

You can build a plan for the future only by understanding where you stand now. Take time and a step back to observe the big picture of staffing in your organization. This helps you discover which departments face skills shortfalls, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of certain staff members. For example, a construction company may find a particular foreperson has lower employee turnover than another, a problem which often can be mitigated through leadership training. Or a retail business may find seasonal hires feel unprepared to work the register, highlighting the need for improved onboarding.

Foster a Talent Pipeline

Having the right number of people in place at the right time is important, but that alone will not bolster long-term goals. For that, your organization needs to develop a talent pipeline of skilled workers who will step up during the busy season, or join the team when your organization goes through an expansion. This requires long-term, continuing efforts on multiple fronts.
Some options to consider:

  • Create formal training and advancement programs for existing employees. Supporting career growth reduces turnover of top performers while allowing you to fill skills gaps from within the company.
  • Polish and amplify your employer brand. Employees share their experiences with companies, with friends and on social media. When they share positive messages, you are more likely to draw talent.
  • Establish an employee referral program.
  • Focus on engagement. Direct hires, temporary hires, and seasonal hires want to feel valued at work and to know they are contributing to the achievement of goals. Find simple ways to show your appreciation for your employees.
  • Engage with a staffing company that specializes in recruiting talent for your industry, as well as the most critical roles for your business.

Create a Hiring Timeline and Accountability

Set deadlines for creating a workforce strategy and for meeting the hiring goals outlined in the plan, and include accountability for reaching those targets. This ensures everyone from the CEO to human resources managers to department heads will prioritize staffing along with the other pressing concerns of the workday.

Finally, just as business strategies must shift with industry trends and customer needs, hiring requirements will shift over the course of the year. The most effective workforce strategies are adaptable and flexible as they prepare for the future.

Need help with your workforce strategy? Contact LINK.