A recent survey by Watson Wyatt found that many organizations are increasing their workforce planning activities as a result of the economic situation. Of the 129 North America-based employers surveyed, 40 percent believe workforce planning is more important to their organizations’ business success since the downturn, and 31 percent already have begun to increase activity around it.
“[Organizations] want to make sure that if they do any reductions in force, they understand what the implications are not only today but also in the future, so as business hopefully turns around, they won’t be sorry about which positions they kept and which positions they did not keep,” said Jamie Hale, the national practice leader of workforce planning at the global consulting firm.
But unfortunately, organizations are only doing the easy analytics when it comes to workforce planning — such as measuring head count and turnover. They aren’t going the extra mile to do business-driven analytics that would help organizations make smart decisions that they won’t regret when the economy starts to improve.
“What workforce planning really does is provide business analytics to make a business case for investments,” Hale said. “[For instance], it helps learning and development functions make a case for investing in learning if [they] can show a linkage between productivity [and training].”
Because of the economic climate, many organizations are looking to scale back. According to the survey, 50 percent of organizations are staying the course in terms of replacing talent in all roles; 33 percent are scaling back on replacing talent across the organization; 21 percent are only replacing talent for critical jobs; and 3 percent are not replacing talent. The percentages do not add up to 100 percent because some companies are scaling back on replacing talent across the organization, except for replacing talent in critical jobs.
“[This] could [mean] that people who are currently in the organization [will] have to work in broader roles, and you [have to] develop people to take [on that type of] position versus [a role] that’s more narrowly focused,” Hale said.
In addition, learning and development could be the key to retaining high potentials and high performers during these tough times.
“I know there’s a lot of concern by employers right now that their best people are going to be the ones who [are] picked off. So [companies] need to make sure [these employees] feel good about working there and that they have a future there,” Hale said. “Our research [finds] that learning and career development is something high performers look for.”