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Dave Foxall 3 Pre-Selection Steps for Workforce Planning Software

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 By Dave Foxall

How to Choose A Workforce Planning Software Solution

Ventana Research in The Time Has Come for Workforce Planning (2011) proclaims that, "Workforce planning is an increasingly important aspect of human capital management" but goes on to say, "For the most part workforce planning remains an elusive HR management practice because it requires sound workforce analytics and metrics, which many organizations lack."

With the varied modern workforce – full-time and part-time, salaried and hourly, contractors, consultants, and including strategic partner, contingent and outsourced labor – appropriately sophisticated workforce planning is virtually impossible without some form of software automation. Which is why workforce planning software is featured on Gartner's 'on the rise' list of software technologies in their 2011 Hype Cycle for Human Capital Management Software. As workforce planning solutions approach maturity, adoption is spreading. But before entering the standard round of demos and software product evaluations, a number of 'pre-selection' steps are called for in order to ensure the best purchasing decision and business fit.

Workforce Planning Software Step #1: Define the outputs

Know what the workforce planning software needs to accomplish. Is it the 'traditional' outcome of head-count statistics and straightforward forecasts of required full-time-equivalent projections, salaries and other employee-related expenses – a pure focus on financial issues. Or is the more modern output required: predictions of future requirements of the organization in terms of skills, competency and talent management, succession planning, informing multi-strand strategies for stability and growth that look years ahead, not months? As with any business software application, it is important to make a selection based on future plans (and aligned requirements) and importantly, to consider the plans of the vendor – are user and vendor likely to grow together or will paths diverge, leaving a gap to be bridged between requirements and provision?

Workforce Planning Software Step #2: Define the metrics

At the core of workforce planning are metrics, developed from comprehensive information and analytics, that can help identify best practices and future strategies. More and more a comprehensive planning process collects and crunches data from the emerging collaborative technologies that are increasingly influencing the way we acquire, develop and retain talent, including:

  • Social media – both external and internal networking, encouraging knowledge sharing, mentoring and employee engagement.
  • Mobile computing - allowing real-time communication and agile collaboration.
  • Software as a service (SaaS) deployment – allowing flexible, remote access to key workplace software.

Ventana research shows that currently, "only 12% of companies are truly innovative in how they aggregate, track and manage analytics to improve their workforce and business performance – despite the fact that for 77% of executives and managers, the performance of the workforce is the most important metric." The report goes on to conclude, "Optimal next-generation workforce planning products must take into account all of these factors while at the same time considering past, present and predictive workforce analytics, global benchmarking data and the HR complexity of global compliance and multiple employee types."

Workforce Planning Software Step #3: Identify the Planning Model

Individual software vendors tend to base their offerings on one of the workforce planning models according to workforce planning consultant and MD at Revolution Advisors, Brian Wilkerson—who notes each of which is appropriate to a particular set of needs:

  1. Metrics – the simple presentation of measured and stored data as statistics and basic predictions, focused on the present and immediate future.

  2. Linear Projections – predicting workforce needs in terms of numbers and roles using straightforward linear math, encompassing the 'equilibrium' and 'deterministic' models of workforce planning.

  3. Scenario-based – allowing the organization to input assumptions about the future of the business and project future needs in terms of headcount, HR programs, and business metrics; including 'change', 'network flow' and 'optimization' models.

The Future of Workforce Planning Software

Ventana Research believes that workforce planning will be a critical activity for companies in the coming years. This creates a need for ever more evolved workforce planning software and, by extension, a more in-depth, informed selection and purchasing process. These pre-selection steps can help probe beneath the surface of each vendor's offering and establish current and future fit.

Finally, as to that future, some organizations find in-house workforce planning expertise to be cost-prohibitive and Brian Wilkerson sees an emerging paradigm shift: "I see workforce planning evolving into a hybrid model where organizations seamlessly leverage outside resources to perform analysis when needed." In this new model, the organization would maintain employed specialists for 'everyday' ongoing business management and strategic monitoring but when larger, one-off exercises are called for the analysis would either be outsourced entirely or conducted in partnership with an external consultancy. End

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As with any software, it is important to make a selection based on future plans (and requirements) and importantly, to consider the plans of the vendor – are user and vendor likely to grow together or will paths diverge, leaving a gap to be bridged between requirements and provision?"


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