Ensuring that your organisation has the right workforce plan

Ensuring that your organisation has the right workforce plan

Workforce planning is the process by which an organisation aligns its changing needs, both operational and strategic, with its people strategy. This process entails a lot of things and from experience, different functions of the business appreciate the different facets of workforce planning individually, but rarely the entire process. Human resources practitioners seem to know a lot more about this exercise. However, there is a “knowing – doing” gap which should be addressed. I have described below the exercises that I consider very important and should be part of your workforce plan.

Organisational Structure Review and Design

Your organisational structure defines your organisational hierarchy and how information flows in your organisation. This establishment of the chain of command and communication lines determines how efficient decisions are made and how tasks are grouped and coordinated. It follows that if your organisation is to achieve its objectives, it must be supported by an appropriate organisational structure. A review and design of your organisational structure is therefore a fundamental element of your workforce plan. Everything else is then aligned to this structure.

Before redesigning your organisational structure, you need to understand the following, among other things: output of each department; how the department adds value to the organisation; who benefits form the existence of the department; which skills are needed in the department?; who would best coordinate the work of each job or department and why? By way of a desktop research or benchmarking against similar organisations, organisational structure metrics such as span of control, manager to non-manager ratio and number of reporting layers can then be established for all your departments objectively. You should also pay attention to one-on-one reporting and duplication of responsibilities.

Headcount Analysis

If you ask any manager if their department is overstaffed or understaffed, more often than not, the answer you get is less than satisfactory. Managers have relied on subjective judgment to decide on their staff numbers. An objective way to decide on staff numbers is to look at Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) at three levels. These KPIs are: 1. organisational KPIs (e.g. Revenue for profit-making organisations); 2. Departmental KPIs (e.g. the HR Department will have the HR budget or the number of recruitments, hearings etc. as a departmental KPI); 3. role specific KPIs (e.g. the number of Data Capture Clerks required may depend on the file count that needs capturing). For one to make a decision to recruit, retain or retrench staff, one should establish specific benchmarks that objectively map the level of business activity, as measured by KPIs, to staff numbers. Techniques such as regression, analysis of proportions, Monte-Carlo simulations, forecasting etc. come in handy when you want to establish these benchmarks and this requires the expertise of persons with analytical skills. Having established the benchmarks, you then use them to determine whether you are appropriately staffed for your current and forecasted business activity, taking into consideration the cost and legal implications associated with each recommended headcount adjustment.

Time Utilisation and Workload Analysis

The next question is are your employees efficiently using their time. In any organisation, projects can be broken down into activities and employees can allocate the amount of time they spend on each activity. These activities include core and non-core activities. An example of a core activity is when an executive attends a strategic meeting. The executive’s non-core activity may be capturing the minutes of the meeting as this is the duty of a secretary. Overtime can also be studied where employees record as having completed tasks during their normal hours or after hours. See an illustration of an executive’s time entry below.

DateProject NameActivityActivity TypeNormal/After HoursHours WorkedDetailed Description of Activity
20/08/2018Company Strategy DevelopmentStrategic MeetingCoreNormal7.5Meeting with the EXCO to discuss strategy
20/08/2018Company Strategy DevelopmentCapturing MinutesNon-CoreAfter Hours1.5Consolidating the meeting notes for presentation to line managers

An analysis of the above by business unit, department, level of employment or even by individual employees will tell you exactly how much time is needed to complete specific tasks and whether or not there are inefficiencies in your operations. Each department may then be given a specific time utilisation plan which is in line with departmental and organisation goals.

Workload Analysis

For each of the activities described under time utilisation above, the next set of questions may be as follows: How much mental activity was required? How much physical activity was required? How much time pressure did you feel due to the rate at which the task occurred? How successful do you think you were in accomplishing the goals of the task? How hard did you have to work to accomplish your level of performance? How insecure, discouraged, irritated, stressed and annoyed did you feel during the task? These questions are meant to measure the dimensions of workload which are mental demand, physical demand, temporal demand, frustration and performance. Workload analysis, in conjunction with time utilisation analysis, can uncover the source of your inefficiencies which helps you establish feasible time utilisation benchmarks for your departments and roles.

Skills Audit and Staff Capacity Assessment

One may probe further and question each employee’s ability to operate efficiently. Where the source of inefficiencies are structural (e.g. under-staffing or inappropriate organisational structures), employees are exempted from blame. However, some inefficiencies arise as a result of gaps in employee skills. You need to determine if employees are adequately skilled or capacitated to do their jobs efficiently by way of a skills audit. Traditional skills audits focus on experience and qualifications only, whereas the contribution to performance these two make is only marginal. Their combined contribution to explaining differences in performance is only 3.6%. This implies that an experience and qualifications audit will only solve 3.6% of your problems. It is important that you bring in other assessments such as cognitive profiling which explains 42.3%, job knowledge tests (23%) integrity tests (21.2%), assessment centers (13%), biographical data (12.3%) and personality tests (6.4%).

It is clear that in order to come up with a workforce plan, one needs to have a clear action plan for all the activities listed above. Failing to plan is as good as planning to fail. Furthermore, the activities involved in a workforce planning exercise require diverse skills and buy in from employees in different levels of employment and across all functions in your organisation. A workforce planning exercise should not be an “HR Department project”, but rather, a strategic exercise which all executives take part in as committed individuals rather than involved individuals.

If you are interested in discussing workforce planning further, feel free to contact us using the details below.

Tapiwa Chipoyera is the Manager – Workforce Analytics & Research at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd a management and human resources consulting firm. Phone +263 242 481946-48/481950 or cell number +263 774 852 759 or email: tapiwa@ipcconsultants.com or visit our website at www.ipcconsultants.com

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