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6 Workforce Planning Tips for New Managers and Leaders

Topics: Growth

Operations and leadership use workforce planning to identify and address the gaps between the workforce of today and the needs of tomorrow. 

While this systematic process is common at most businesses, the most cutting-edge organizations are taking a “bottom-up” approach. They’re getting their people managers and leaders involved.

If you’re a new manager, you might be feeling a bit overwhelmed. These feelings are completely normal — I’ve been there myself. Based on my own experience as a people manager and team lead, I want to share some tips to help you understand your role in workforce planning and get the most out of this process.   

Do: Get lots of input

Start with your team. If you manage people, functions or processes, you should start with a simple needs analysis with your team members. Ask them these questions:

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  • What do you want to do less of?
  • What do you want to do more of?
  • What do you want to create that doesn’t exist today?
  • What do you want to completely eliminate?

Getting early input ensures that you aren’t burning yourself out and can maintain energy for strategic decision-making.

Don’t: Make decisions by committee

While it’s crucial to get input, it’s even more important to ensure that you are driving recommendations to Finance and beyond. You can use the Darci Method to provide role clarity to employees and business leaders from whom you will solicit for information and opinions.

Think through, who needs to play each of these roles?

  • D: Decider of final decision  
  • A: Accountable for decision
  • R: Responsible for decision
  • C: Consulted on decision
  • I: Informed of decision

Do: Ask for everything you need

As you pull together your list of asks, make sure you’re covering all the things you and your team will need to succeed. The list should include money and resources for headcount, technology, training and development, employee engagement, results-based salary increases, bonuses and promotions.

Don’t: Just think in terms of adding headcount

Money talks. People are your most expensive asset. Utilize those assets well and think about a workforce plan that leverages existing talent more effectively.

Example: If it’s going to cost $100k to add two headcount to your team because work is going to double, can $30k of that go to efficiency gains through technology and $15k go towards productivity-oriented variable pay instead to achieve the same goal? It’s definitely worth doing the math.

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Do: Trust your instinct

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Don’t: Rely on it to get buy in

You know your team better than anyone — you also need to bring compelling evidence. Numbers beget numbers. Bring data that confirms what you know to be true.

Remember, you’re not going to have hard metrics for everything. Yet, qualitative data is still an important input. Metrics, units and productivity tracking are great — but don’t feel lost if you don’t have that all figured out.

Qualitative data, also known as experiential data or observational data, can be a critical input. A good example of useful qualitative data could be insights you’ve gained after conducting “stay interviews.” In these interviews, you acquired insights on what gets employees to stick as well as what’s keeping them from becoming more productive. You could use this input to booster your case when you are asking for more resources.

Even if you work in a culture where people value “hard” (quantitative) data over “soft” (qualitative) data, you might be surprised at how far you can get by shifting “I’ve noticed…” to “the observational data shows.”

Tell us what you think

Do you have tips for new managers on how to navigate the workforce planning process? Share them with us below or on Twitter.

Rita Patterson
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