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Workforce Planning: How to Futureproof Business

As we enter a new financial year, you’ll be allocating resources to keep your business operational, competitive and profitable. As part of this process, it is important to consider your workforce. As one of your greatest assets, where do you need to invest to engage and empower employees?

Taking Stock with Workforce Planning

The start of a new financial year is the ideal time to take stock of your workforce. As with any other asset, you need to be certain that you have the right people, with the right skills, in the right place to meet evolving business demands.

This doesn’t happen by chance, it requires an assessment of the current situation and mapping out what is needed to futureproof the business. Then decisions can be made about investment in learning pathways for staff, along with redundancies and recruitment.

The following questions can kickstart your workforce planning process:

  • Who is on your team and what roles and responsibilities are they fulfilling?
  • Does this match with the business forecasts?
  • Are you over-reliant on any team member, putting operations at risk if they leave?
  • Are members of the team planning retirement?
  • Does investment in technology mean redistribution of the workforce?
  • What skills do team members need to equip them and the business for the future?
  • Are any areas over or understaffed?

So, what actions are required to best meet the short and medium-term business objectives?

This process will likely highlight a common issue of skills gaps. Many industries are struggling to find employees with the necessary expertise and experience. This isn’t just a challenge in the UK and without a change of plan, there will continue to be a void of talent.

Underinvestment in Training & Development

Raising the Bar*, a report by the Learning & Work Institute, revealed insightful research on training. It suggests that investment in employee development dipped in the financial crash of 2008. This is understandable, however, it has never recovered. What’s more, UK businesses now only spend around half on training and development as their counterparts in France and Germany.

It’s clear that the budget for upskilling teams is not a priority and yet, most employers report skill shortages. What’s more, employees are actively seeking out companies that offer career progression. And, those business that are proactively investing in professional development report increases in:

  • Job satisfaction & staff retention
  • Performance & productivity
  • Attitude & confidence
  • Alignment with company values
  • Self-motivation & innovation
  • Quality candidates in recruitment drives

Doesn’t that sound like a strong return on investment? These are some of the reasons that the British Chamber of Commerce states that investment in skills is vital for business success**.

Why Hasn’t Upskilling Been a Business Priority?

We’ve had years of unexpected changes. As a result, your businesses may have experienced difficult financial decisions. Have budgets been spent on reacting to the latest challenges, rather than workforce planning? And yet, you may have identified the need to invest in training and development, even if that plan has not been actioned.

In addition, during times of uncertainty, there is a fear that you’ll invest in upskilling employees and they’ll move on. As a result, that money and time is wasted. However, I’d like to argue that if you don’t value and invest in your employees, there is no reason for them to stay. Isn’t it time to elevate their skills and potential and reap the rewards?

Establishing a Pipeline of Talent

Even if there are no immediate training needs within your team, you can make plans to futureproof the business by considering the pipeline. When your top talent moves up, on or into retirement, who is lined up to step into their shoes?

There may well be individuals in different roles with potential and interest in other areas of the business. As such, training and mentoring could open up new avenues for them and build your pipeline of talent. This reduces the risk that expertise or systems falter when a key player is lost.

Options for Developing & Embedding Skills

Skills development can take many forms. For example, I provide structured leadership training and mentoring programmes, tailored to individual and business needs. In addition, I see incredible value in enabling employees to access micro-training resources. These include modular online learning, podcasts, webinars and mentoring sessions delivered by colleagues.

If some team members are trained, encourage them to share the learning. They can impart knowledge or insight in a presentation, demonstration or discussion slot in a team meeting. This can increase the value and inspire fresh thinking about how things are done.

* https://www.cipd.org/uk/knowledge/reports/learning-at-work/

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Designed for Learning

The value of training and development comes when the knowledge is received, retained and applied. To achieve this outcome, we need to ensure that our