Over the next few months, we’ll be taking a close look at the concept of strategic workforce planning (SWP). This is an emerging area in HR and there’s a lot to learn. At the most basic level, this type of planning has always played a role in the employment sphere. For example, HR has traditionally been asked to participate in forecasting and planning to:
- Make the most efficient use of existing human capital
- Ensure that recruiting infrastructure and processes can replace key workers as needed
- Project budget requirements for staffing
- Provide evidence that learning & development are producing desired outcomes
- Prepare for changes in workforce size or structure (downsizing, expansion, mergers, etc.)
- Promote diversity within the workforce
The newer version of truly strategic planning takes a longer and broader view. For example, comprehensive succession planning doesn’t rely simply on recruiting efforts to fill vacancies once they occur. Instead, an ecosystem of hiring vendors may be developed at the same time that internal talent is groomed to take over leadership positions. This provides a much greater safety net so an employer doesn’t have to make rushed decisions about filling important positions. At the same time, analytics can be used to identify core workers who are at high risk for attrition so that retention tactics can be launched in time to preserve the employment relationship. This network of strategies can mitigate the uncertainty inherent in managing human capital in a rapidly evolving labor market.
Where to Learn More
The Human Capital Institute is busy facilitating a many workgroups and discussion forums on this topic. Basic membership is free, so I’d recommend registering to get access to some helpful resources. For example, the HCI published an interesting blog post last month about why HR so often falls short in strategic planning. The author posits that HR professionals are often too risk averse to make these decisions alone. There may need to be a sea change in attitudes, practices, and skills training before HR can fully step into its role as a strategic partner.
- If you had the opportunity to begin SWP today, would you jump at it?
- What types of consulting support would you find most helpful?
- What business analysis tools would you need to make smart decisions?
Let’s talk in the comments.
We’ve been looking at a lot of data privacy standards over the last few weeks. These various principles and guidelines offer a broad overview of industry best practices that can often be applied to workforce data. But the fact is that the employer/employee relationship remains fraught with boundary issues when it comes to collecting and using private information appropriately. The website EPIC.org has a very comprehensive rundown of current news and debates over this topic. You can find their workplace privacy page here.
Courts Often Side with Employees about Data Privacy
In 2010, the New Jersey Supreme Court determined that an employee’s attorney-client privilege was violated when her employer read private emails transmitted on a company laptop. The worker was using a password-protected account on a web-based email service (not the employer’s internal email platform) and so had a reasonable expectation of privacy.
In 2009, a federal appeals court determined that police officers had their privacy violated when personal text messages sent via employer-provided pagers were examined by the City. The employer in this case was making an effort to enforce a policy against personal use of City equipment and this unfortunately backfired.
Many court cases involving employers monitoring social media postings and other personal online activities have led to defeat for businesses. These decisions are an indication that although employers may notify workers that all communications could be monitored, this does not mean such policies will always be supported by the courts.
How Much Data is Too Much?
It is important for employers to take into consideration not just data privacy standards, but also the purpose behind these policies. One beneficial guiding principle might be to protect the worker’s private information while enabling the company to collect necessary data for effective and compliant workforce management (such as the information typically collected using Universal Onboarding software). When this approach is followed both in letter and spirit, there is likely to be little conflict between employers and employees regarding how data is collected and used.
What about the wealth of information available about workers by searching the net? Although more knowledge may lead to better decision making in some cases, overreaching in the collection of private employee information also tends to lead to litigation for discrimination. This is definitely an area where legal counsel coupled with common sense (putting yourself in the average worker’s shoes) is needed for good decision making.
More and more industrialized nations from China to Canada will be experiencing talent shortages over the next 10-20 years. For some countries, a burgeoning economy based on manufacturing and service industries is the driving force behind the need for more workers. In nations like the U.S. and the U.K., an aging population is expected to create an increased demand for foreign-born workers. This means corporations all over the globe must prepare to operate in a world with a much more mobile workforce.
What This Means for HR Administration
U.S. jobs that require extensive education and training will increase the demand for importation of skilled labor resources to supplement the local talent pool. Immigration and visa regulations are very complex. While some quota limits may be lifted on the number of visas issued in the future, the process of applying for and maintaining them is likely to remain challenging. HR departments will need to step up yearly internal training in both I9 and H1B visa administration to ensure compliance with changing immigration rules.
At the same time, even widespread immigration reform probably won’t have a huge impact on the practice of setting up shop in less developed nations. The profit margins that can be realized by tapping into a less expensive workforce will continue to make globalization an attractive option for many industries. This means corporate HR will also need to understand the issues surrounding labor regulations in each of the countries where their organization hires and maintains a workforce.
This is in addition to the need to expatriate American workers to fill critical roles in foreign-based locations. The competition to attract multi-lingual U.S. workers for relocation to other countries is likely to be steep. So, recruiting and retention for these high-value employees is an area of special interest.
Technology Must Keep Up
HR software will also need to evolve to keep up with the needs of globalized employers. Applications that cannot support multiple languages are too limited to be considered fully functional. The same holds true for modules that are designed with rules and processes that are specific to only one country. Companies will need to look for solutions that allow customization of rules for data collection and handling and that support a large library of languages. Universal Onboarding is an example of a software application that is constructed to be highly adaptable to fit the needs of multi-national employers.