Workforce Planning Among Top Concerns in 2018
With an evolving workforce and changing societal demographics, workforce planning is a top challenge for employers today. It is imperative for employers to have a clear understanding of the challenges workforce planning presents with respect to recruiting and hiring; training and performance management; employee engagement and retention; and employee retirement. In order to remain legally compliant and competitive in a changing marketplace, it is essential for employers to prepare and create a comprehensive strategy on how they will approach the complex issues related to workforce planning.
Each new year brings changes in the workplace, government, society, culture, technology and the legal landscape that translate into challenges and obstacles for employers. Recruiting and hiring in the 21st century presents an immensely different landscape for employers who grapple with attracting, hiring and retaining the right talent in light of shifting business needs; federal, state and local legislation; and evolving technologies.
XpertHR conducted a survey soliciting input from over 1,000 HR professionals from small, medium and large employers across a wide variety of industries in all geographic areas of the country, gauging their views on the most significant compliance challenges in 2018. With an evolving workforce and changing societal demographics, workforce planning was one of the top challenges for employers. In today’s increasingly global environment, 21st-century employers need to respond to both external and internal factors that shape and impact the recruiting, hiring and retention of workers.
The use of technology and mobile devices allows workers to communicate in more effective and productive ways with employers, managers, co-workers, clients and customers. Brick-and-mortar offices are fading, as is the traditional 9-to-5 workday, as we continue to see an increase in flexible working arrangements, remote working and a focus on achieving a greater work-life balance. Employers are witnessing the rise of the gig economy and alternative work arrangements, as workers are no longer swayed by the promise of a steady paycheck and benefits and crave freedom and flexibility. Automation, smart devices, robotics and artificial intelligence are increasingly disrupting the workforce and challenging traditional workers.
Hiring today is challenging and complex amidst the many laws that restrict an employer’s ability to gain valuable and insightful information into job candidates. Additionally, there also may be a disconnect between the skill sets of individuals seeking jobs and the positions an employer needs to fill.
Generationally, millennials and members of Generation Z have joined the workforce in record numbers, and they are seeking new ways of working and have different expectations of their employers. Further, employers must confront and account for an aging Baby Boomer population, increased health care costs and making plans for succession and retirement.
XpertHR’s survey confirmed that, amid an evolving workforce, workforce planning ranked as a top challenge. Also among the findings:
- Almost 50 percent of respondents said this was among their top three workplace challenges;
- 52 percent of respondents viewed increasing employee engagement, morale and satisfaction as very or extremely challenging;
- 48 percent viewed retaining employees as very or extremely challenging;
- 47 percent were very or extremely challenged by succession planning;
- 46 percent viewed aligning talent retention strategy with business objectives as very or extremely challenging;
- 44 percent viewed upskilling employees for future responsibilities as very or extremely challenging;
- 43 percent viewed managing performance and providing professional development opportunities as very or extremely challenging;
- 29 percent stated that joint employment and the changing definition of the employer was very or extremely challenging; and
- 28 percent were very or extremely challenged by flexible working/telecommuting.
Respondents also considered “growth and retention,” “capacity planning,” talent pipeline development,” “retention in a very competitive workforce,” “attracting and retaining skilled labor,” “the ever-changing laws and keeping up with them,” “recruitment of high-performing individuals,” “providing training related to the changes” and “the declining and aging population in rural locations” among their top concerns. Additionally, one respondent stated, “it goes beyond compliance — it’s how to create a transformative HR strategy.” Another respondent revealed, “employee engagement/organizational health will continue to be a top focus for us.”
What an Employer Should Do
Given these challenges, it is important to be proactive and prepared. An employer needs to be able to effectively plan its workforce to make sure that it has the right people for the right jobs at the right cost in order be successful in a global and competitive marketplace. An employer also needs to take into account the unique factors that affect its business and shape its workforce.
To begin, HR should identify key stakeholders and members of management in different areas of the business and open up communications with them in order to understand the organization’s short- and long-term goals and how employees can play a role in bringing them to fruition. It is also critical to understand how to effectively use data throughout workforce planning, from recruiting and hiring to performance management to retention. Good data analytics can help leaders understand where and how to focus efforts and can assist in tracking progress. Primary goals should be to increase productivity and efficiency in the workplace and keep costs low.
With respect to hiring, an employer should:
- Focus not only on looking for experience in the industry, but also on the skills, competencies and talent individuals bring to the table that can benefit the organization;
- Keep budget and business goals in mind;
- Consider whether, when and how to use gig and contract workers as part of the workforce and what the primary objective will be (i.e., cost savings);
- Understand how technology and mobile applications can aid in recruiting; and
- Be aware of new laws that ban an employer from seeking salary history information or criminal history and make sure recruiting is legally compliant.
With regard to training, an employer should encourage employees to continue professional development and work with them to develop long-term skills. A focus on leadership and development, along with mentoring and coaching programs, may provide support and guidance to employees who will be able to move into key roles in the organization. An employer can help close the talent gap by creating an atmosphere centered on education, professional development and leadership opportunities throughout an individual’s career. Employees should be able to highlight their key strengths and competencies and work to build on them for the betterment of the organization.
An employer should consider how it will handle performance management and reviews, what its goals will be, who will conduct the review and how often reviews will be conducted. It is important to evaluate employee retention and engagement and why the employer may be losing employees, which employees it is at risk of losing and how to retain them (i.e., increased compensation, better benefits, better work-life balance).
It is important to listen to feedback from employees (whether through informal meetings, employee engagement surveys, etc.) to know what is – and is not – working in terms of employee engagement and retention, as this can provide valuable information on how to improve.
Given the aging Baby Boomer segment, employers need to consider retirement, how employees will leave the workforce, what packages and benefits it will offer, when employees will be eligible, who will replace them and whether it will be possible to retain older workers in an alternative work capacity.
Because of the myriad and complex challenges it presents, workforce planning is, and will likely continue to be, a primary concern for HR – one that will require thoughtful planning and development as the workforce continues to grow and evolve.
Resource: XpertHR’s Top HR Challenges White Paper