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Building your workforce: How to plan and execute a successful workforce planning strategy

For many years, HR departments have had a tough job. Lack of funds led to reduced recruitment for some time, and talent acquisition, recruitment outsourcing and changing lifestyles have all undoubtedly changed dramatically in recent years.

While many of these changes were originally driven by the recession, they are here to stay and rather than seeing them as problems to be solved, recruiters should consider them opportunities for talent management to prove its worth and confirm its place at the heart of the business.

The HR function is becoming ever more strategic, and a successful workforce planning strategy has become an essential place to start when building your workforce. Here's how to make sure that yours is in great shape:

1. Find out which roles are critical to your organisation

Generally, your critical roles will be those without which the business could not function, and those which can have a significant impact on the bottom line. These jobs are the ones most likely to restrain growth if you don't have a sharp focus on how to fill them with the best people. Be open minded about what these roles could be. These are not necessarily just senior positions, but those which keep the business moving forward. For example, a fairly unskilled role with high levels of customer interaction could prove to be just as critical as a top management job.

2. Identify any gaps

Once you have an idea of what the central roles are, you need to consider if they're currently being done well. Data is the key to this, as it can help to compare the skills of critical talent with industry averages to identify where you should be looking to develop internal talent, and where you might need to recruit externally. Where skills gaps exist, identify ways to address them. Can you train or reassign current staff, or will it be necessary to recruit new talent who already possess the relevant skills?

3. Develop your internal talent

Getting better at external recruitment is only half the picture. It's often more important to focus on developing and upskilling internal talent. The key is to have some sense of what the balance should be between internal talent supply and external recruitment. To measure this, you again need access to robust data. Make sure you are aware of the skills that exist within your teams, and keep records so that you are able to utilise them in the future.

4. Connect with external talent

Networking and communication technologies now enable organisations to manage their talent with greater insight, flexibility and efficiency than ever before. Use different channels to tap into relevant talent pools and keep in touch with them. For example, social media is a great way to build relationships with key talent for whom you may not currently have a role available, but who may be the perfect fit for your business in the future.

5. Keep up to date

It's important to continually update your talent intelligence data, as people's skills and aspirations will change and grow over time. Ask both employees and their line managers to proactively update information from the point of hire onwards. This can then be translated into clear succession plans, which will ensure that you can support career aspirations and fill talent gaps as they occur.

6. Measure success

Finally, it is essential to measure the success of your actions. Ensure that you have access to the relevant data to help you review the success of your plan and make changes where necessary to address the continual needs of your business.

By following these steps, HRs can ensure that they have a plan for any eventuality, and that their business will not suffer from the loss of a critical team member. Access to data will also help you to share your vision with senior decision makers and hiring managers across the wider business, and gain their support. Comprehensive talent management should be a priority not just for HR, but for the entire business.

Faye Holland (pictured) is managing director of SharedXpertise, organisers of the HRO Today Forum Europe