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Three workforce planning New Year’s resolutions for HR directors

By Tom Fitzlucas

HR Director

09 December 2023


2024 offers HR Directors a fresh start to renew their approach to workforce planning. Getting in shape, trying something new, and making the most of your network shouldn’t just be personal New Year’s resolutions – they apply to workforce planning too.

2024 offers HR Directors a fresh start to renew their approach to workforce planning. Getting in shape, trying something new, and making the most of your network shouldn’t just be personal New Year’s resolutions – they apply to workforce planning too.

It’s that time of the year again: Organisations have revised their business plans for the year ahead and considered how their strategy needs to evolve – which means HR Directors have been thinking about how to update their workforce plan to meet the changing demands.

The New Year presents an opportunity to resolve to do things differently and learn from mistakes of the past. So what should HR Directors consider when developing their workforce plans? There are three key New Year’s resolutions that savvy HR teams would do well to take up – and not forget about into February.

1. Get (your data) fit and healthy

Organisations often fail in workforce planning because of poor data quality. For many, the lack of accurate data – either on the fundamentals, like number of employees and contingent labour, or the detail, such as skills profiles in the organisation – remains a major stumbling block.

CIPD’s Recruitment and Talent Planning Survey found that just 31% of organisations collect data to identify skills gaps and only 28% use it to identify retention issues within the organisation [1]. Surprisingly, even fewer assess the availability and supply of talent in the market (16%).

In 2024, we will see HR Directors reframing the imperfection by focusing effort on improving data and drawing insight in an area that will provide the most business benefit. Starting small, for example, by understanding the external market or analysing why people are joining or leaving in more detail, can have a considerable impact on decision-making.

This can form part of a broader workforce narrative that HR directors can use with business leaders to explain workforce priority and improve productivity. Given the ongoing shift in all types of roles and labour market movement in 2024, understanding what is happening in the market will be just as important as internal data.

2. Try something new

The challenge of building the right workforce for the future is changing fast and organisations therefore need to adapt and evolve their responses too. Whilst the Great Resignation has subsided somewhat, its aftermath can still be felt in 2024, and talent challenges are persisting. The UK, along with other developed nations, is facing a skills shortage problem, and this may only increase in areas that are strategically important in 2024, such as deep learning for AI and natural language processing.

Attracting and retaining the right people in 2024 will require ongoing personalisation of the employee offer, while addressing the policy challenges this might bring. The workforce of 2024 will be even more diverse, with the impact of five generations in the workforce, each with a complex set of differing needs, becoming ever clearer. HR Directors will respond through differentiated offers to recognise this variation, with an obvious example being the employee offer differing for those entering the workplace through early talent routes compared to those in their mid-50s.

In the year ahead, expect HR Directors to start trying new means of responding to this challenge. For example, the recent emphasis on supporting older generations in the workforce is only likely to grow. The use of flexible retirement is becoming increasingly popular and many more organisations will start providing tools to support managers with ‘mid-life’ career conversations in 2024. It won’t stop there though; the personalisation and flexibility required of the more varied workforce will require all HR Directors to understand their people, listen to their specific needs and prioritise targeted action to attract and retain the best talent.

3. See more of your friends

Resolutions are much easier to maintain if you work with others – and workforce planning resolutions are no different. This means working with others in three ways. Firstly, bringing different HR disciplines (such as learning, operations and recruitment) together will help create joined-up solutions. Addressing skills shortages will often require effective work on the employee value proposition to attract and retain, efficient recruitment practices and learning and development offers to build from within, all working as a combined team.

Secondly, collaborating with senior decision-makers together to build support for workforce planning is essential. Effective collaboration will mean senior leaders encouraging their teams to keep data up to date, reviewing the workforce ambition and demonstrating progress in meeting the workforce requirements – all crucial measures. Those organisations that are able to embed workforce planning in broader business governance are the ones that will reap the biggest rewards.

And finally, partnering with like-minded organisations and working together can make a big difference. Industry skills frameworks, the evolution of ‘professions’ in the public sector or ‘skills passports’ all encourage mobility and consistency. Partnering in this way presents significant benefits to the individual, as well as helping organisations to plug skills gaps in an agile way. The recent announcement on the digital skills brand for the civil service is one example that we are likely to see grow next year [3].

Don’t forget about these resolutions in February

While many resolutions fall away through the year, these three resolutions need embedding to make sure they stick. Like resolutions, workforce planning fails to have an impact if it is done once a year and then forgotten. As such, HR teams should not only sign up to the resolutions, but also schedule time in February to review progress so far.

HR Directors must work with their organisations to choose a few things to do well, set clear goals and measures of success, report regularly to senior leadership teams and continually review. With slow economic growth forecasts and pressure on public spending increasing, showing value for money from HR and workforce planning will be increasingly important. Demonstrating the value of these resolutions throughout the year will help to achieve just that.

This article was first published in HR Director 

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