5 mindset shifts to approach strategic workforce planning

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Abacum Team


6 min read · Published: November 14, 2022

Strategic workforce planning

Every company faces similar challenges when optimizing operational processes to improve business performance. One of these challenges is hiring a high-performing workforce, which is especially true in the current competitive environment as organizations require more and more specialized talent.

As a result, businesses are increasingly focused on their current workforce capacity planning processes. The good news is that certain initiatives can help companies improve their headcount strategy and ensure employees are highly engaged, productive, and fulfilled. This includes practices such as speaking to each department to understand their operational needs, knowing which new roles are going to drive the greatest impact, having a clear budget set in place, and aligning organizational goals across all teams.

Strategic workforce planning is growing in popularity among organizations everywhere. It is a practice that helps businesses identify skill gaps within their teams so that they can make the right hires at the right time to support organizational growth. While this business strategy has gained visibility over the last decade, it has not always been an easy practice to implement.

Leadership teams must shed their old habits and adopt a more strategic approach in order for this practice to be effective. Which means they must shift from a reactive to a proactive mindset in several areas.

Below are the top 5 mindset shifts all business leaders should be making toward strategic workforce planning.

1. From the short-term to the long-term

Human resource initiatives were an afterthought during a company’s annual planning. These practices were only considered during periods of high demand or when there was a sudden increase in the number of vacancies. However, as today’s business landscape continues to evolve, organizations must now take a more strategic and tactical approach to their hiring processes and keep sight of their long-term vision. 

Strategic workforce planning presents a unique approach compared to old methods as it aims to create a sustainable solution that benefits organizations in the long run. With its rise in popularity, businesses have started to see the importance of developing a more strategic workforce planning approach to support growth and remain relevant in the future. This requires business leaders to think beyond the next quarter and plan for future scenarios.

By integrating the workforce planning process into long-term corporate strategies, companies may now act as a holistic union and work together to identify talent gaps and hire the right candidates to better meet short- and long-term goals.

2. From hasty hiring to addressing talent gaps

Traditionally, Talent Acquisition and Finance were not aligned when it came to headcount planning. As a consequence, TA department tended to simply filling in open positions without considering which ones to prioritize or how each hire would impact the overall performance of the organization. However, due to the growing demand for more specialized talent, the hiring process was forced to evolve and take on a more tactical approach.

With the emergence of strategic workforce planning, corporate leaders are now identifying skill gaps within each function to assemble their all-star team and generate a greater impact on overall performance. Therefore, understanding the specific workforce gaps has become critical to knowing how each hire will impact other functions and ultimately drive change. 

One useful method for identifying a company’s talent shortages is to speak directly with the company’s current workforce. Aside from communicating with current employees, organizations must also factor in industry seasonality, market conditions, or changes in demand to see how their day-to-day operational needs will shift over time.

3. From full-time to hybrid hiring modalities

Many companies nowadays recognize the importance of having a varied skill set among their staff to position themselves for success.

“Diversity is in demand, particularly for companies that are experiencing rapid growth.”

As Stacey Zhou highlighted in our webinar

But is hiring full-time employees really necessary to fill all sorts of talent gaps? There are numerous approaches to building a dream team, one of which is to consider recruiting part-time or freelance workers to fill temporary talent needs, as the amount of work necessary for some particular functions does not always justify prioritizing a full-time new hire.

More and more, part-time workers and independent contractors are being welcomed at the table to assist businesses in growing after achieving significant milestones. Keeping a flexible headcount plan and adding punctual expertise as needed enables organizations to increase efficiency immediately, overcome challenges, and deliver results without having to incur significant long-term costs.

4. From a siloed to a cross-functional approach

The world is more interconnected than ever before. Modern business operations are no exception, especially given the wide range of possibilities provided by new technologies in terms of corporate performance management and alignment.

At the heart of strategic workforce planning is the need to break down silos while taking a more tactical approach to hiring. The reason behind it? To enhance communication between all teams and involve not only Finance and HR but the entire company in the headcount plan.

Taking a birds-eye view and streamlining departmental communication to ensure all voices are heard are two of the secrets to hiring the greatest workforce. Thus, the stronger the internal communication, the easier it is to agree on the appropriate talent needed to meet company goals.

5. From spreadsheets to FP&A software

When it comes to planning headcount, using technology to your advantage is the key to success. Today’s tech solutions allow organizations to consolidate data, streamline processes, and complete tasks in a fraction of the time.

Modern companies are now moving away from number-crunching in spreadsheets and instead focusing on workforce planning software that supports data automation, internal collaboration, and a number of enhanced capabilities.

Conducting headcount planning processes in spreadsheets can be tedious and inflexible. To integrate modern solutions into a company’s tech stack, the first step is to determine what needs to be changed and which tools would be most beneficial for streamlining procedures and increasing productivity. All-sized companies wishing to consolidate all data sources into a single source of truth should consider FP&A software as a go-to alternative.

Today’s FP&A tools offer strategic insight that provide business leaders with an overview of a company’s health, allowing them to make better and faster decisions for both short-term initiatives and long-term goals.

How Abacum can help you improve your strategic workforce planning process

If you are looking to plan strategically rather than simply react to events as they happen, consider integrating FP&A software early on to assist in all operational workforce planning initiatives for your organization.

NEW Product Release! Model, forecast and plan your headcount in one place with Abacum.io 🚀 📊

Abacum is a 3rd-generation software designed to help your finance team streamline processes, cross-collaborate with other functions, and ultimately position your organization for success. We offer an easy way to create customized models that will allow you to see how your business is performing from every angle, as well as analyze data to make informed decisions about your current and future workforce with just a click of a button.

Request a demo today to learn how our product can put workforce planning at the heart of your strategic business objectives.

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