Recruit & Retain Talent With Strategic Workforce Planning


If you haven’t heard, there are some major labor scarcities coming in the United States and around the world. For those involved in either talent attraction or talent retention rates, you may want to look further into how external factors like the unemployment rate will impact your company and how you can be prepared with a solid strategic workforce planning function in place.

The U.S. Labor Issue:

The U.S. population is 315 million, with 154 million in the workforce, and the national unemployment rate is 7.6 percent. Typically, recruiting starts to become difficult when unemployment is less than 6 percent. However, if you dig into the current unemployment rate further, an interesting story unfolds:


Education Background

Unemployment Percent

No High School      11.5%
High School Degree      7.5%
Some College      6.5%
College or Higher      3.5%


Further, in the U.S. there are currently 600,000 unfilled skill labor jobs. This is compounded by the fact that 53 percent of the skilled labor force is age 45 and older.As you can see above, the unemployment is very wide and hides the issue that the unemployment rate for college graduates is actually very small. For recruiters, when the unemployment rates starts getting below 6%, the ability to fill roles starts to become more difficult.

The Global Issue:

The world is starting to run short on college-skilled populations. Both India and China are rapidly building out their educational systems to support their growing populations. In fact, China has projected that they need to build out another 100 universities in order to support their educational needs. China is now dealing with an immediate shortage of university professor talent.

The Role of Strategic Workforce Planning:

In order to combat external factors contributing to talent loss, strongly consider building out a strategic workforce planning function. Strategic workforce planning is the planning function that looks at the future demand within the company for key roles, and then looks at the internal and external supply for that labor. For instance, a company may identify that they need geologists over the next five years, but currently the company only employs a couple. As a result, the workforce planning function will realize over the next five years that the company needs to develop a plan to get 35 geologists.

The plans to do so typically fall into one of three buckets.

1. Buy. Develop a sourcing approach to make sure you can hire the talent when you need it. This means building a relationship with geologists in the community via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other online approaches.

2. Build. Develop internal or external programs to grow the talent. For example, vocational programs help develop future talent. For instance, find individuals who want to be geologists and build an apprentice program.

3. Borrow. Work with contracting houses or build strategic ventures to make sure you can get the resources as you need them. Continuing with our example of geologists, you can work with local universities that have their students work on company projects in exchange for R&D funding.

Getting Started:

The question, “What talent will we need in the future that is hard to find?” is not an easy question to answer. However, there are tremendous amounts of resources out there that are designed to help organizations build out a strategic workforce planning function. Here are some examples:

1. SHRM is working on a U.S. standard for strategic workforce planning, which is in its second draft and is quite comprehensive. It can be found here.

2. The Human Capital Institute has certifications programs for strategic workforce planning.

The bottom line is that if you, as HR, are not aware of what your key talent is and how you are going to get them in the door five years from now, your competitor may be ahead of you!

Categories: Talent Acquisition
Author:  Franz Gilbert

HR practitioner. @FranzGilbert


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