Workforce planning during uncertain times (and how HR tech can help)

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5 mins, 43 secs read time

The past few years have been a roller coaster of hiring frenzies and freezes, making workforce planning seemingly impossible. But agile and adaptive HR and talent acquisition (TA) teams are leveraging tech stacks to prioritize employee engagement, analyze data and plan for future hiring needs.

HiBob’s “Do more with less: Optimize workforce planning with powerful HR tech” webinar with Oyster’s Senior Director of Global Talent Acquisition and our very own Head of Talent Planning & Acquisition explored:

  • Top HR and TA challenges in our current economic environment

  • How Oyster and Greenhouse are responding to those challenges

  • What strategic workforce planning looks like right now

  • Getting alignment amongst stakeholders

  • How to leverage your tech stack to handle the hurdles ahead

Read on to catch the highlights, or listen to the full webinar on-demand.

What are the biggest challenges HR and TA teams face right now?

As businesses grow and the economy fluxes, HR and TA teams must adapt to change and the hurdles that come with it. In the current macroeconomic state, talent teams have shifted from hiring employees to prioritizing their existing workforce and employee engagement and aligning broader business goals with HR.

A strategic approach to putting people first

With discussions about the uncertain economy and employees getting anxious, Eryn Marshall of Oyster emphasizes the need to put your people—and their growth—first. Annie Rosencrans from HiBob and Ariana, our head of talent, discussed some of the benefits of workforce planning: how prioritizing people is an opportunity to show them you care about their growth and to be more strategic.

  1. Tighter budgets mean doing more with less—it often feels like an increased business demand. The feelings of more responsibility could lead to conversations about non-traditional growth paths. Embrace this opportunity to keep employees engaged and show them they’re still top of mind.

  2. Pay attention to employee well-being, engagement and development to inform your workforce planning process. Are there opportunities for internal promotions? Is well-being at an all-time low? If so, you can account for potential attrition risk and longer-term pipeline strategies.

  3. Ask questions about how to keep employees engaged—especially in tough times—and encouraged to do their best work. How can you maintain constant communication with your employees and get a pulse on how they're doing? Using data from employee surveys can point you toward an effective engagement and retention policy.

Aligning TA goals with business goals

Leaders have made workforce adjustments and reevaluated budgets to prepare for an economic downturn, which means taking another look at company goals. Is your TA team aligned on those goals?

Eryn's team follows an annual workforce planning process, but they also implemented a monthly check-in to ensure their goals align with changing company initiatives. These conversations keep everyone working toward a common goal and provide clarity for workforce planning.

How can we overcome these challenges?

Ariana recommends sending engagement surveys more frequently so you have continual feedback straight from your people.

  • Send surveys more often (quarterly), but make them smaller

  • Keep questions focused

  • Use a combination of in-depth and pulse surveys

Another option is to prioritize internal mobility. Both Oyster and HiBob have opened up paths internally, outlining skills employees will need to build (or already have) to be successful in future roles. As Annie explained, this approach prepares employees for when a job opens in the future.

Oyster even worked with leadership to preview the hiring plan and align on filling jobs internally. The result? They hired 13 internal candidates.

Eryn, Annie and Ariana all agree there needs to be a shift to hiring for skillsets instead of job titles for internal mobility to be viable. Focusing on transferrable skills opens more internal roles to candidates who may have a title that doesn't appear to translate. We predict the move to transferrable skills will be a hiring trend.

What does workforce planning look like right now?

Workforce planning looks different for every organization. At Oyster, which is still growing and maturing, they focus on headcount planning and building a skills gap process. They align everything with business goals and set expectations early on, making necessary adjustments along the way.

Greenhouse analyzes our people data to forecast talent needs across the business. Data drives our planning decisions, from adding headcount and getting the right people in the right roles to examining and reducing attrition risk.

While we'd all like to do more, Ariana makes a point about how we should approach workforce planning:

“I think the approach that we’ve taken that has been enlightening for us is acknowledging with workforce planning, you can do anything, but you can’t do everything.”

Pick a focus and stick with it.

Tech tools to handle workforce planning challenges

Whether you want to automate workflows or improve efficiencies, HR tech can help. Here's what Oyster and Greenhouse use:

  • An HRIS to collect employee data you can analyze and use to predict future needs

  • Performance management software to help identify what's working and where you can automate

  • A feedback channel can be as simple as Google Forms or Typeform—as long as employees can communicate consistently with you

Eryn points out that your tech is only as good as the implementation and adoption. You need to set your tools up for success, which includes constant data hygiene. Without quality data, you can add making informed decisions to your list of challenges.

Another thing to consider is if your tools integrate with your existing tech and how they communicate. The more connected, the less manual work on your end.

But if your organization is trying to do more with less, look to internal resources to automate parts of your TA process. Ariana suggests talking with an engineer who could write code to automate sending promotion letters. It gives your team time to focus on more strategic initiatives and doesn't require budget for new software.

How to be better at workforce planning during downturns

With an unpredictable economy and a slow hiring year, 2023 has been tough for strategic workforce planning. You can make it a bit easier to navigate by:

  • Prioritizing people

  • Continually checking in and aligning with stakeholders

  • Leveraging HR tech to keep employees engaged

  • Automating processes

  • Analyzing people data to forecast needs

And remember what Ariana said: you can do anything, but not everything.

Looking for insights around workforce planning during uncertain times and how you can use HR tech to add efficiency? Check out the full webinar!

Sheena Fronk

Sheena Fronk

is a writing-obsessed entrepreneur who founded her all things writing passion project turned small business, wanderluster co. She works with SaaS and tech companies, transforming jargon into conversations using human-centered copy. When not working, Sheena eats doughnuts, plays with her pup and travels the world.

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