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It’s like flossing twice per day or changing your vehicle’s oil every 3,000 miles.

It’s like thanking your spouse for taking care of a mundane chore.

Workforce planning is one of those activities that we know we should do, take seriously and acknowledge the strong business case for, but is easily and often nudged farther and farther down on the priority list.

The equation is simple: sharply shrinking labor force + large numbers of retirements = workplace and talent challenges ahead! Some of you will be experiencing this right now. It’s possible that you are aware of the trickle-down effects of the absence of a solid workforce plan (ex. staffing shortages, staff with outdated skills, turf-guarding, or “coasting”.


What can a workforce plan do for you?

  • Identify the critical positions at present and in the near future
  • Ensure sufficient staffing in those positions
  • Pinpoint skill gaps and address them
  • Use demographic data to estimate turnover
  • Find skills that are no longer needed and retool or redirect staff
  • Identify the strategic future (1-3 years out) of the organization and ensure that the people making the strategy happen are the right people at the right place at the right time.

If it is not in the cards yet to assemble a workforce planning team and launch an initiative to create a full-blown, comprehensive Workforce Plan, the following activities can be performed NOW, and will still benefit your work unit and organization.

  1. Ask staff to gather contact information for those people with whom they interact with the most for their jobs. This can help a new person tremendously!
  2. Don’t go to meetings alone. As appropriate, bring a colleague – early introductions can ease transitions and share important tacit knowledge.
  3. Doing the “cake and coffee” send-off for departing staff? What does the organization gain? Instead, ask the departing person to share three things anyone new to the staff should know, two processes that ought to be analyzed and revised, or five lessons learned over their tenure, etc.
  4. Ask staff to keep calendars noting key tasks that occur on a periodic basis (weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.). Again, this gives new staff a jumpstart.
  5. Plop a stack of file folders on each staff person’s desk. Find an hour or two to organize, LABEL, and file documents (those needing hard copy saved). Walking in to a new office with no clear filing system can be crazy-making.
  6. Likewise, as a work unit, determine an electronic file folder naming convention. Then use it! Declare one Friday afternoon “electronic file organizing day” and post copies of the new file structure and guidelines throughout the work area. Caution: people can become very sensitive about others renaming, moving, or otherwise touching ‘their’ files. Develop rules before beginning.
  7. List one or two of the key work processes you interact with in your role. Is any of this process documented anywhere? Discuss with colleagues, which processes ought to be documented and how. Collect into a binder and/or e-file in order to capture intellectual capital of staff who leave, train new staff, identify needed modifications.

The bottom line:

Don’t wait until a workforce planning task force is appointed, you create more hours in your day, or key staff are a week away from retirement. Do something now. Anything is better than nothing and will pay dividends for the work group for time to come.

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