Craft your ideal team with strategic workforce planning

High workloads and constant deadlines often push organisations into a cycle of ad-hoc hiring, where vacancies are filled swiftly without considering the long-term implications. This can result in a skills mismatch between employees and the company's future needs, potentially hampering growth and innovation. Els, head of account management, explains how strategic workforce planning can break this cycle.

Marjolein Jansen
Marjolein Jansen

The importance of strategic workforce planning

Strategic workforce planning ensures your business has the right people with the right skills for the future. It merges your business plans with active team development to meet current and future needs. This process ensures that you have the right talents on board in the short term and invest in your employees’ development to face future challenges. The outcome is a resilient organisation that proactively adapts to market changes, fosters innovation, and lays a strong foundation for sustainable growth.

“Strategic workforce planning isn’t just about filling current vacancies,” Els clarifies. “It’s about looking ahead, understanding how your team needs to evolve over the next five years, and determining what actions you need to take now to achieve that vision. This long-term outlook helps businesses build a team that is successful today and will thrive in the future.”

Take time for your ideal team

“Many managers are trapped in a cycle of meeting one tight deadline after another, never having time to think about the future,” Els observes. Budget constraints and the complexity of predicting future needs can also contribute to delays. The solution? “Start with a clear understanding of your ideal team and the strategic goals of your business,” says Els. “It all begins with a blank slate. What are your operations, and what is your ideal team? Which hard and soft skills should employees possess? What gender ratios are you aiming for, and what do you need now to have this team in five or ten years?”

For companies looking to start strategic workforce planning, Els advises: “Give yourself time to think it through. Begin with a clear vision of your future goals and take the time to evaluate the current skills within your team. Identify the gap between where you are now and where you want to be. This requires thorough analysis and also open conversations with your team about their ambitions and development opportunities. Then, create a plan for internal development and external hiring aimed at bridging that gap. This process leads to a focused approach, investing in people who will advance your organisation.”

Investing in the future

“It might seem daunting at first, but it’s an investment in the future that will aid your operations and the success of your business later,” Els continues. “I spoke with a manager at a company with many seniors, a few mid-level employees, and many freelancers. He faced the issue that critical knowledge was staying with freelancers, leading to the departure of mid-level employees. Together, we looked into strategic workforce planning. Eventually, he reduced the number of freelancers and hired young talent instead, to encourage knowledge sharing and reduce costs. This led to a dynamic team and a more efficient cost structure by placing the right people in the right roles.”


More diversity through strategic workforce planning

Diversity of skills within a team is not just enriching; it’s a strategic necessity. By making diversity a core component of strategic workforce planning, organisations ensure their teams are not only prepared for current challenges but also flexible and innovative enough to seize future opportunities. “Teams that combine a wide range of skills and perspectives are better equipped to solve complex problems. They’re more adept at generating innovative solutions and can better adapt to the rapidly changing marketdemands,” Els states.

When team members bring different strengths and specialisms, they complement each other, enhancing the team’s overall effectiveness and resilience. Make sure to think about diversity and inclusivity from the moment you start writing a job vacancy. This creates a dynamic working environment where challenges are approached from multiple angles, leading to more thoughtful and sustainable solutions.

"You need a bold leader who dares to say, 'Enough is enough, we need to approach this differently.'"

A leader who dares

Support from the organisation is crucial for the success of strategic workforce planning. “You need a corporate culture that embraces change and where there is room for development,” Els emphasises. Additionally, you need an inspirational leader who dares to say, ‘Enough is enough, we need to approach this differently,'” Els adds. Courageous and inspiring leadership contributes to a long-term vision and ensures that the team continuously develops to meet future challenges.

The success of strategic workforce planning initiatives can be measured by various KPIs, such as reduced external costs, improved employee satisfaction, and the extent to which the company achieves its strategic goals. “You know you’re successful when you see movement towards the direction you intended,” Els says.

A foundation for the future

In a world where the pressure to deliver immediate results often compromises future prospects, strategic workforce planning provides the necessary balance. It’s an approach that addresses current needs and also establishes a foundation for future growth and success. “By investing in the right people, with the appropriate skills, for the correct roles, we’re not just building teams that are successful today but are also equipped to tackle the challenges and seize the opportunities of tomorrow,” Els concludes.

Want to know more?

With our extensive experience in mediating between young professionals and managers, we know what works. Els would be happy to talk with you to tell you more about strategic workforce planning.

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