Remember being the "captain" of your lunchtime team? You know, choosing sides for kickball. I know the focus of this type of memory usually revolves around the kid that was picked last, but let's instead look at the first one chosen. You know, that kid that was just the best at everything; he/she could kick a ball farther, run quicker and look cool while doing it. The two captains would guess a number between 1 and 10 or draw straws or punch each other until someone cried "mercy" (yeah, it was tough being a kid in Philly) in order to determine who chose first. And then, that miracle kid was chosen and the game was all but over before it began.
While I was not that kid, I was a captain at times. When I could pick Richie (that kid), I knew we would win. Nothing like a bunch of boys in Catholic school uniforms playing handball in the schoolyard or stickball on the street. Nostalgic, yes, but a lesson in fighting for talent.
Workforce planning is a wonderful exercise and one that can help an organization chart out its future needs. Being strategic in cost management and production output helps greatly in an organization's competitive advantage. That company can operate leaner and meaner. Perhaps you've gone through the exercise of developing a workforce plan for one of your business units or departments. Deciding on a strategy to meet those future needs leads to a few conclusions.
My colleagues at DoubleStar do a nice job with outlining strategies. Perhaps it's time to GROW internal staff through training and/or development to close the gap that future needs will certainly show. Perhaps, instead, it might make more sense to BORROW workers through contractors or outsourced means. Maybe it's abundantly evident that the future needs for the workforce can only be met by EMPLOYING external candidates to bring much needed competencies into the organization. Rarely done, but still an option, is to PARTNER with other companies in sharing talent resources. And the least popular strategy, but one that sometimes needs to happen, is to REDUCE the workforce in light of a business reduction or process improvement that will cause fewer workers to be needed.
These strategies will prove effective. However, they will only prove to be when a thorough analysis of the business and its current workforce is done. Throwing these terms around with your executive is not a great idea if you cannot deliver what they mean. Be mindful of your approach.
Lest you think I have forgotten about "Richie," I have not. What does your organization do with a "Richie" that lands on your doorstep? Do you take a look at his/her credentials, KSA's, work history and then say, "Sorry, we don't have anything open right now, but I will keep your resume on file"? If he/she is a superstar, will your organization really let him/her walk out the door? Sadly, for many companies, the answer is yes.
Workforce planning is just that. It's planning. It's being responsible with the talent you have in front of you and with what you reasonably think will be needed over the next three years or so (maybe five years). What you cannot plan for is the ace who walks in your front door. This one person can change the course that some of the workforce plans were based upon. So the question is not "do we have an opening?" but rather "where can I put this person today?" This person may just be the one that's needed to open up new doors of business, to develop a new process for improvement, or to invent a new product/service for deployment into the markets.
Think of it this way, I am a huge Phillies fan. Kyle Lohse is not a Phillie, but if for some reason he showed up on Ruben Amaro's doorstep looking for a job, the Phillies would be foolish not to make it work. I know there are salary issues that would have to addressed, rotation schedules to be changed and plans to be revamped. So what? The Phillies organization, like any other organization, would have to evolve and re-calibrate to chart the course to win. Isn't that what we are supposed to encourage in our companies?
Don't hold onto those workforce plans like they are infallible and unchangeable. They are a chart based upon information from today. If tomorrow, a "Richie" curve ball is thrown into the mix, then adjust. Don't deny this talent a place in your organization. Many years ago, I worked for a company that told me, "John, if you interview someone that you think is amazing and brings strength to our team, then let's find a place for that person." That's a superb order. We should fight to bring that kind of talent in when we can.
As I shared, when Richie was picked first, it was a guarantee that the team he was on would win. The opposing team would just grit their teeth and play through their frustration. They made plans for new ways to attack the situation and moved people around until the best use of talent was happening. The other team adjusted to the situation. And because of that, they were more open. So when a new kid, Dave, came to the school, that team was more willing to have him join them. They were open and eager to see how he could fit in to help them win. And on that day, they did. Dave was as good as Richie.