July 20, 2018

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5 Year Plans

At first glance, it seems unrealistic to ask recruiters to manage to a five year horizon line. There's barely enough time to fill the next position in the queue let alone think about the next five hundred. The battles and blows of daily combat in the trenches makes larger management questions seem superfluous. Demand forecasting, an inherent component of most organizational disciplines (from Marketing and Production to IT planning) is a rarity within HR.

Part of it really is a software problem. Workforce analytics products, pioneered by Icarian and an increasing part of many offerings, take such an extremely comprehensive view of the problem that they neglect to fix what's possible. Ultimately, it will be important to understand the nuances of demand and performance (How many of the new engineers have 2 years of Spanish? Of the current engineers with Spanish skills, how well are we utilizing them? What percentage of our Human Capital are we really utilizing?) By focusing on big solutions to previously unsolvable problems, vendors are neglecting to move the ball forward incrementally. Current systems focus the work on the task at hand without a meaningful picture of strategy.

In general, organizations do not filter their strategic plans by asking the Recruiting Department "Can you get us enough people to accomplish our goals?" The assumption that there is an infinite supply of the right workers at the right price is the riskiest component of most growth plans. Because they are not asked to participate, HR managers typically ignore their responsibility to let the larger company know about the realities of the labor market. Even though it's a critical question, the fact that it is never asked appears to entitle those responsible for execution to ignore it.

Answering the simple question "How many people of what type do we need over the next five years?" is a relatively easy forecast that can be based on current staffing configurations and a growth forecast. A really good assessment would include several potential scenarios that change the mix.

The second logical question is "Can we easily acquire those workers?" involves a review of employment statistics from the areas surrounding the company's various locations and the 'production rates' of the universities that supply key worker types. Again, several scenarios ranging from the demise of a competitor to a global crisis will help shape the realities of the story.

Identifying potential problem areas and their solutions is a simple matter of comparing requirements to realities.

A usable first draft of a 5 year plan, subject to revisions for clearer baseline data and alternative solutions should be easily completed with a couple weeks of focused attention.

It's surprising that this functionality is not embedded in every workforce management system.

- John Sumser