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Why Workforce Planning Software is Essential for Your Organization

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The role of technology increasingly influences the modern economy. Instead of replacing humans as once feared, industry leaders are instead finding ways to leverage new tools and rich data-driven insights to guide the optimization of their organization’s workforce. 

Competition is fierce and agile; forward-looking businesses are most likely to succeed. Planning new hires, team or company-wide restructures, reducing turnover, driving improved productivity, and modeling the impact of all proposed scenarios before proceeding are all outputs of an effective workforce plan.

Given most organizations’ complexity and scale, workforce planning software is now an essential tool in every leader’s toolkit. Software enables leaders to identify trends ahead of their competitors and identify opportunities to leverage existing and new human resources. Furthermore, management can monitor costs, both current, expected, and throughout modeled scenarios to empower decision-making.

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What does workforce planning mean?

If you manage an organization employing more than just yourself, you will need to consider your workforce as a critical component of your business strategy. Almost every business relies upon its staff to operate effectively. 

When organizations scale up, one of the first steps is to hire new talent to work productively, whether to produce more goods, provide additional services, or lead and execute an expansion. On the other hand, when things aren’t so good, the workforce often needs to be scaled back to trim costs, ensuring only mission-critical staff are on the payroll. 

Workforce planning is the process that aims to ensure an organization has adequate access to the human capital (staff) it needs to operate effectively. Not only does it involve sourcing the right pool of talent, but also the costs involved with doing so. 

The future is not absolute, so workforce planning must continuously analyze the current situation and provide a vision on a range of future scenarios, both internal to the organization and considering external factors.

The business environment is constantly changing, no matter which industry you operate within. The higher education and utility sectors are increasingly benefiting from workforce planning software that effectively models future scenarios in a fast-moving, digital environment.

The purpose of workforce planning

Managing people is never an exact science, so workforce planning does not give an absolute answer. Instead, the purpose is to provide organizational and human resources (HR) leaders with a framework-based guide to making educated employment decisions that support its long-term goals. 

As a significantly data-based approach, workforce planning software empowers leaders to avoid making ill-advised staffing decisions based on a short-term viewing lens. Instead, the long-term impacts are analyzed and inform decision-makers in a way that supports both the workforce and the organization in the long run. 

The purpose of workforce planning is far greater than hiring and firing employees. It also enhances a range of HR functions that support new staff and optimizes existing employees’ output, business hierarchies, and operational structures. For example, the impact of COVID-19 on the workplace has been immense.

With an effective workforce planning plan in place, workplaces have been able to model the effects of increased flexible working arrangements, appropriate learning, professional development opportunities, and the impacts of all of the above.

Workforce planning is essential, particularly in industries that rely heavily on human capital, such as higher education. The expectations and operational realities of the organization and its environment need to be realistically aligned and supported by its employees to achieve its organizational aims successfully.

Effective workforce planning has a range of benefits

A well-implemented workforce planning protocol, including capable workforce planning software, will offer a range of benefits to an organization, including:

  • Monitoring and managing leave accruals: Many businesses struggle to effectively plan and manage their staff’s leave (annual, personal, sick, and long-service) entitlements. An encompassing workplace plan will take this into account, optimizing accruals and informing people managers.
  • Optimal allocation of teams and individuals: Where are specific staff performing best? Where are there bottlenecks? Would these teams be more effective if they were restructured? Workforce planning helps answer these questions.
  • Tracking and minimizing costs: Managers are empowered to manage expenses and increase efficiencies when they have the required information to support their decisions. 
  • Understanding ROI: Business isn’t all about minimizing costs; it’s also about investing organizational capital to earn a sufficient return. Workforce planning helps leaders understand the implications of hiring additional staff and the expected payoff from investing resources into learning and development opportunities for existing staff.
  • Reducing employee turnover and improving employee retention: The cost of filling a new position is roughly estimated to be $8,000. The cost to replace an existing job is much higher, sometimes costing up to 50% of the annual salary. Any insight into how to retain quality existing staff is beyond valuable to any organization.

The benefits of workforce planning are clear, so what’s the best way to implement such a plan? Workforce planning software.

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How workforce planning software optimizes results

Developing and implementing a workforce planning strategy and all its intricate components can be a daunting prospect, no matter the size of the organization. Useful workforce planning software conveniently addresses all the modern business’s everyday needs while facilitating company-specific scenario analysis.

Research from Cognanta paints a clear picture from the top-level down: a fully integrated workforce management and planning solution increased productivity in 68% of the high-value organizations surveyed. Perhaps more significantly, 64% reported an improved employee experience, 73% experienced streamlined processes, and 69% minimized their compliance risks.

Technology is an enabler that now solves higher-level problems than base activity and output productivity. Intelligent software supports executive and people-oriented strategic decisions that make significant contributions to an organization’s success.

Of course, there is no cookie-cutter software that gives leaders all the answers. Each organization is fluid and has different goals, processes, rules, and markets that they operate in. Agile businesses need a workforce planning tool that is both smart enough to monitor and provide insights in near real-time, as well as enable forward-looking scenarios and ‘what-if’s?’

Planning for future scenarios requires a large quantum of data and the tools to generate meaningful insights. Workforce planning software allows for an accurate view of current employees, planned hires, part & full-time distribution, dispersion of crucial skills, and so much more.

Once this is known, the software enables leaders to identify dangerous trends early, such as an upcoming skills shortage or gap and opportunities to leverage existing and new resources. Furthermore, management can monitor costs (and other critical metrics), both current, expected, and throughout modeled scenarios to empower decision making.

How would your utility business operate with a completely new structure? Which area would benefit from new hires? What department can handle the bulk of the cuts to budget without sacrificing educational outcomes? Which professional development program or talent retention strategy will have the most significant impact?

Workforce planning software answers all these questions and so much more. The right software should solve problems clearly, and provide meaningful insights and direction, not create more headaches.

If you operate in the higher education and utility industries and stand to benefit from advanced workforce planning software that meets these criteria, maybe it’s time to look at new solutions.