Digital transformation, a radical, new way of working, and increasing competition over the past several years has made talent planning an increasingly mission-critical business function. Done right, strategic talent planning helps create the level of workforce flexibility and business agility organizations need to compete in today’s dynamic business environment.
Yet, balancing the immediate staffing needs of the organization with long-term business goals is one of the most difficult things for HR professionals to get right. According to a survey conducted by Kornferry, 82% of talent professionals reported that when it comes to finding talent, it’s a challenge to meet current business needs while planning for long term business goals.
What Is Talent Planning?
Talent planning is a process that allows organizations to predict future workforce needs in order to build effective recruitment, engagement, and retention strategies.
Organizations with successful talent planning programs use real-time workforce insights to understand the skills and capabilities of their current talent pool, and forecast what’s needed in the future.
Talent planning helps organizations stay agile and pivot quickly as market, competitor, and operational needs change. Understanding where skills gaps exist in your organization allows you to bridge these gaps in the quickest and most efficient manner possible—either through internal learning and development programs or external talent acquisition.
What Is the Importance of Identifying Skills Gaps for Talent Planning?
Identifying skill gaps is an important part of the talent planning process. First, it gives a roadmap for learning and development teams to build targeted upskilling and reskilling programs. Workforce planning software that provides insights based on verified skills and credentials can help your organization identify which skills may lose relevance, and which are transferable to future jobs. This allows for further optimization of L&D programs to focus on the skills most likely to drive value in the future.
Second, identifying skills gaps upfront helps talent acquisition teams understand the specific skills the organization must hire for—in both the short and long term. (It can also be incredibly helpful in writing skills-based job descriptions).
However, identifying, mapping, and bridging the skills gap can feel like a daunting task with many unknowns. What skills do you currently have? What technologies will be prevalent in the future? What tech platforms or coding languages will be redundant or likely to be phased out? How do you acquire new tech skills and at what cost? How can you map skill sets to business objectives?
Being able to answer these questions and more is critical to implementing a talent planning strategy that meets the needs of the business today as well as tomorrow. Below are five best practices for HR professionals looking to empower your workforce needs and maintain talent as your competitive advantage.
5 Talent Planning Best Practices to Achieve Short and Long Term Business Goals
1. Rely on verified credentials
Most skills assessment today is an inexact science. While it’s common for those in the talent management field to equate an individual’s experience with expertise, this approach is not an accurate way to gauge ability.
Don’t assume employees or candidates with a certain number of years of experience have the skills to do a current or future job. Instead, your organization must inventory your current talent pool based on verified credentials, and shift to a skills-based hiring approach to make staffing decisions.
When you’re getting started on your talent planning initiatives, use verified digital credentials rather than outdated proxies such as college degrees, internships, and prior experience. This is especially true of tech skills. A certification from a trusted third-party should trump any self-reported skill on someone’s LinkedIn profile or resume.
2. Use workforce analytics to provide clear career paths
People data tells a story about your workforce, and can help make it easier to create employee development plans and career paths to get your organization where you need to go. But data is only useful when you’re able to glean valuable and actionable insights from it.
By introducing strategic workforce planning (SWP) to bring multiple data points together, you can quickly assess the current state of your internal talent marketplace and decide on the actionable steps that need to be taken to advance to your future state.
By having your workforce data consolidated in a central tracking platform, talent planning professionals can see all the verified skills and credentials your employees earn from internal and external sources. This consolidated view allows you to identify skills gaps, opportunities for advancement, and targeted training needs in one place where stakeholders from across the organization can access the necessary insights to make data-driven decisions.
3. Take full advantage of the power of AI/ML
These workforce and skills gaps insights should be powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).
Advanced AI/ML capabilities to build custom predictive models are now available, and can provide insight into your workforce challenges and inform your talent planning efforts. These models can help you predict the future state of the workforce, so you can plan accordingly—and stay ahead of disruptive change in demand patterns due to economic fluctuations or changes in technology adoption rates.
Move away from making talent planning decisions on gut feel or feedback from hiring managers. AI/ML powered talent planning solutions can help you understand how future trends will impact your workforce, so you can feel confident in creating your talent strategy for the next one, three, five, or even ten years.
4. Invest in employees to improve engagement and retention
According to SHRM, the average cost of recruiting a new hire is $4,700, but many employees estimate the total cost to be three to four times the position's salary. As the Great Resignation continues to put an enormous strain on organizations across the globe, it’s clear that retaining existing employees has become a critical component in talent planning and talent management strategies.
Investing in employees by providing professional development opportunities and career pathing communicates that you value their contributions and want to see them grow with your company. It also contributes to a strong recognition culture, leading to increased engagement, performance, and retention.
In the short term, employees who receive development opportunities will feel more appreciated, happier, and willing to go the extra mile for the company. In the mid to long term, the upskilling and reskilling they receive will make them more proficient at their jobs and better-equipped to navigate the more senior roles you promote them into.
5. Tie talent needs to business goals
The pandemic era has expanded the role of HR and solidified the value the department brings to the enterprise. Tight alignment between overall business strategy and human resources is absolutely critical to ensuring the right skills are available to execute the company’s mission.
Be sure you’re making talent planning decisions based on agreed upon business objectives so that your workforce is prepared for the direction your organization plans to move in. For example, you might ask the question, Will customer experience be critical for success?
If the answer in your case is yes, it’s best to start acquiring the skills needed to ensure customer success now—such as technical support and communications—and the personality traits needed to do the job well—such as patience and logic.
Your strategic workforce planning software should provide a way to track talent decisions so they can be measured against business goals set out by senior management or the C-suite. Doing so will help HR justify and back talent decisions with data, strengthen the case for increased budgets, and improve overall business outcomes.
Meeting the Needs of Today and Preparing for What Comes Next
Use accessible, accurate data to drive your organization’s talent planning initiatives and meet the needs of today while preparing for what comes next. Our workforce solutions give organizations forward-looking analytics, forecasting tools, and verified skills data that workforce planning teams can use to take a skills-based approach to talent management.
Schedule a demo to learn more today.