How Workflow Automation Takes the Guesswork Out of Workforce Planning

How Workflow Automation Takes the Guesswork Out of Workforce Planning

Steve Wilson
July 19, 2022

The last few years have been undoubtedly hard on Human Resources professionals. From quickly rolling out remote work policies to navigating the current talent shortage and finding ways to retain top performers, HR teams are confronted with the difficult task of managing immediate challenges while planning for future organizational needs.

In my time with OnTask, I’ve had the opportunity to work with several companies on implementing automation solutions that allow them to better assess the current state of their workforce through easy data collection and storage. In turn, giving their HR departments the resources necessary to better align their talent strategy with existing business goals. Through those engagements, I’ve been fortunate enough to get a close look at how organizations take different approaches to workforce planning.

Workforce Planning: More than Just a Fancy Term for Staffing

When I first heard somebody describe workforce planning, I thought it was just a fancy term for talking about staffing. It didn’t take me long to realize that it actually involves quite a bit more than simply making the right hire. A good workforce planning strategy also covers HR considerations such as:

● Identifying existing and potential talent gaps

● Providing training and development resources

● Developing succession plans for vital positions

● Establishing key metrics to better evaluate performance

Workforce planning allows organizations to be more systematic in their approach to hiring and development. Instead of constantly reacting to changes and business pressures, HR departments can proactively assess what skills and experience are most directly related to success as well as continuously evaluate internal factors that might impact workforce needs.

For instance, a company may have a fully staffed sales department that’s performing well, but if the majority of those salespeople will be retiring within the next five to ten years, HR needs to be able to identify that future need and take steps to address it ahead of time.

Why HR Data is Critical to Workforce Planning

Of course, none of this would be possible without access to quality workforce data. Assuming your organization already has a business plan in place that identifies key goals, the next step involves conducting a thorough analysis of your current talent to determine what skills and training they possess. Sometimes called a “supply analysis,” this review should also look at factors like age, job roles, demographics, and performance. By gathering information about employees, HR teams can get a more objective view of their workforce.

High quality HR data makes it possible to identify trends over time and project how factors like resignations, retirements, promotions, and terminations will impact your workforce. It also helps to highlight opportunities that might otherwise go unnoticed. Just because someone is working in one position today, for instance, doesn’t mean they lack the potential to do something else at your organization in the future.

After gathering and analyzing data about your existing workforce, you can then look forward and evaluate what your future workforce needs to look like to accomplish your business goals. This “demand analysis” must consider factors like new products and services being offered, customer needs, the competitive landscape, and talent availability in key markets.

By comparing this data, your HR department can begin to identify potential talent and skill gaps. In some cases, you’ll have to hire new employees to fill roles, and recruiting efforts can be adjusted to take future needs into account. But this might not always be necessary. Since your HR team will have a lot of workforce data on hand to evaluate, you may find that many employees could be retrained or transitioned to new roles much more easily. In most cases, workforce planning solutions will involve a combination of both approaches.

How HR Automation Software Empowers Better Workforce Planning

Before your HR department can use all that wonderful workforce data to make informed decisions, you’ll need to collect it first. Unfortunately, this is where a lot of organizations stumble due to their continued reliance upon cumbersome manual processes. A lot of the information you need about employees should be gathered during the hiring and onboarding process, but in many cases these important details are recorded on paper forms that may not ever be entered into a system of record for easy access.

Collecting additional workforce data manually takes a lot of time and effort. In many cases, one person ends up being responsible for tracking down information and entering it into a shared spreadsheet. Not only is that process extremely prone to error, it also usually relies upon insecure email and other forms of communication that don’t meet compliance standards related to privacy.

Automating core HR processes like onboarding, learning and development, employee relations, performance reviews, and offboarding with workflow tools ensures that vital workforce data is constantly being gathered and securely stored for future analysis. Even if you’re not ready to implement a workforce planning strategy just yet, simply having that data readily available will help you to gain meaningful insights faster when the time comes.

Workflow automation tools can quickly extract information from forms and documents to create a detailed profile of every employee. That data can then be compared to key metrics established as part of workforce planning to assess whether your current employees possess the skills, characteristics, and experience the company will need in the next few years.

Get Ready for Your Future Workforce with Workflow Automation

Having the right talent in place is going to be one of the most important factors in determining your company’s success in the future. By implementing a workforce planning strategy, you can begin to identify how well your existing workforce stacks up against the one you’ll need in the near future. Workflow automation software can help your HR department gain the transparency you need to make data-driven decisions about hiring, employee development, and engagement while also streamlining your day-to-day HR operations.

About the Author

Since the company’s inception, Steve Wilson has dedicated his time at OnTask to making workflow automation simple and accessible for businesses of all sizes. Steve also serves as Head of Product Development, working with the team on new updates to continue improving the product. In his spare time, you can find Steve coaching youth basketball for his two sons or saltwater fishing.

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