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Strategic workforce planning: 4 questions to elevate the talent function

October 10, 2023

The labor market has been anything but steady. And this leads to the talent acquisition (TA) team getting tossed around with its fluctuations. When hiring ramps up, it’s full speed ahead and requests are coming from every angle. But when a slowdown occurs, some companies aren’t sure what to task their TA team with.

Have you convinced your C-suite that the TA team needs to be part of the strategic workforce planning conversation – so you can foresee what’s coming and be ahead of the game? That’s the direction you should be heading if you want to remain part of the modern talent function.

The TA team needs to be brought in to advise on workforce planning initiatives, which include foreseeing skills gaps and determining internal mobility opportunities. Working on a wider workforce plan will allow them to be focused on what will move the organization forward into the future – and help them make smarter decisions in the near term.

As you consider how to amplify the work your recruitment team is doing to the rest of the business and the executive team, reflect on these questions. It will help you determine where you can make inroads to elevating the talent function and its importance to the success of the business.

#1: Who is being included in strategic workforce planning conversations and how can I influence these stakeholders?

According to a study by Flextrack and Price Waterhouse Cooper, only 46% of respondents stated their human resources staff had a role in workforce planning and decision-making and only 36% said they included workforce/people analytics staff.

As a TA leader, your expertise and knowledge should afford you a seat at the table where strategic workforce plans are discussed. If not, take this as an opportunity to showcase you and your TA team are not only experts in your field, but understand the nuances of hiring in your industry and for your organization. When you’re hiring for departments in your organization, do you have the opportunity to be an advisor? Do hiring managers take your advice seriously?

Bring data to the table to back up the claims you intend to make, whether you see a hiring surge on the horizon or an increasingly important skill at the center of candidate conversations. Do you have access to talent intelligence tools that others in the organization don’t? Do you regularly share this information so they’re in the know? Other departments may have data and knowledge you don’t as well. Be sure you have a healthy working relationship with them so you can gain an understanding of their innerworkings.

#2: How do I make an impact on the organization when hiring isn’t currently happening?

The labor market changes at the drop of a dime, which means you must be ready for when a surge might surface. Every industry is different, so become an expert at understanding the hiring trends in your space. If you understand them well enough, you may be able to get ahead of the hiring competition and lock in top candidates before they’re ever needed. What are some of the ways you keep abreast of the latest TA trends? Are they industry — and region — specific?

There is still a raging skills gap in many sectors and building a strong talent pipeline for the future should be your focus during slower hiring times. What are the ways you engage candidates when you don’t have any open roles? How do you showcase these efforts and the impact it has on your employment brand to the executive team? Growth in the talent pipeline and shorter time-to-fill for open roles are just two of the indicators you’re making improvements to your brand.

#3: How do I quantify what goes into quality-of-hire and incorporate this into the workforce plan?

There are many factors that go into quality-of-hire and this measurement might look different to each organization. It might even look different depending on the current goal of the organization – are you in innovation mode or trying to fill a massive headcount for a transactional role?

A few data points you can dig into include:

  • Retention rates
  • Performance
  • Time-to-productivity
  • Promotability

Read more on important metrics to track as a TA leader

What are the most important factors when your organization recognizes top performers? Are you privy to this information and how it may change over time?

Once you identify the candidates, you should be able to draw conclusions about these workers and make some clear links. Have you brought this information to the boardroom to help guide the strategic workforce plan and advise on the candidates your organization should be courting?

#4: How do I focus on making strategic decisions now that will have the greatest impact on future business success?

This might be the hardest question yet because you have to connect the answers to all of your previous reflections. If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that having the right talent in place during challenging times can make or break your business (and brand). What skills are necessary to fuel your business into the future? Are you thinking about the next five to 10 years?

Skills intelligence may very well be at the crux of the issue. Many organizations aren’t prioritizing this as part of the workforce plan. The exercise (if done at all) has the tendency to focus on cost management and revert back to being a transactional task. Steer the conversation to focus on securing the future talent your organization needs to evolve and prioritizing quality-of-hire to ensure the talent is capable of moving your organization forward.

Keeping close tabs on how you’re measuring quality-of-hire and what it means to your bottom line will require deep and wide analysis. Be open to listen and take in the organization’s opinions. It’s your job to shake it out and come to some key conclusions. Use these to determine your strategy forward. How can you put this information into action?

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About WilsonHCG

WilsonHCG is an award-winning, global leader in total talent solutions. Operating as a strategic partner, it helps some of the world’s most admired brands build comprehensive talent functions. With a global presence spanning more than 65 countries and six continents, WilsonHCG provides a full suite of configurable talent services including recruitment process outsourcing (RPO), executive search, contingent talent solutions and talent consulting. TALENT.™ It’s more than a solution, it’s who we are.