STRATEGIC WORKFORCE PLANNING: THE NEED OF THE HOUR
To cope with the rapid growth in Qatar’s business environment, most organisations have had to be more reactive than proactive when building their workforce.
To cope with the rapid growth in Qatar's business environment, most organisations have had to be more reactive than proactive when building their workforce.
Many organisations have therefore found it difficult to assess whether they have hired too few or too many people, or hired too early or too late, leading to a workforce structure that might not be aligned well with business needs and cost expectations. But it's never too late to get it right. Every business can take action to leverage talent through strategic workforce planning.
Harnessing the power of data
As for most strategic initiatives, the starting point is to gather the right information. There are broadly three types of data to be analysed:
The demand drivers for talent:
Organisation strategy, business plans and business activity volumes. It is important to understand the business' key growth areas, changes required in its structure and roles, business volume projections by function and the mode and strategic focus of growth (e.g. organic vs. inorganic, profit growth vs. revenue growth, etc.). However, the future vision often resides in the minds of the executive management and sometimes business plans are not broken down into projections of business volumes. In such cases, take a step back and understand what forecasts can be reasonably obtained.
The profile of the current workforce:
To prepare for the future, it is important to understand the present. Businesses must analyse the current workforce profile; skill-sets, rate of turnover by function, high performers by function, etc. This task is relatively easier for organisations that have invested in the right technology and HR analytics solutions, or for organisations that are just starting up.
The talent supply:
Around 94% of the working population in Qatar are expatriates. This number will only increase as the demand for labour continues to outstrip the availability of local talent. The situation is further complicated by the restrictions of the Kafala system that already limit the mobility of expats across organisations, and the impact of the proposed changes to the system is yet to be seen. It is important that data is collected and analysed to understand skills availability, sources of talent, recruitment lead times (for various categories of employees) and the macro-economic projections for other markets competing for the same talent. One aspect of this analysis can be with respect to
the national workforce (at the experienced hire and the fresh graduate level), and this can help organizations run a much more focused Qatarisation programme.
Apply the right techniques for the right roles
As they say, one size does not fit all and this certainly applies to the process of creating workforce models. Developing a workforce model will depend on your business needs, but broadly, there are two parts – capacity and capability.
This is the process of determining how many people are required at what time. Certain roles will have a fixed demand for workforce (like heads of departments); for other roles, demand will vary based on business volumes and other activity drivers. Focus on one role at a time and identify the best mechanism to project future requirements. Ways to do this include:
Activities and Specifications: Workload analysis, equipment specifications, legal or safety requirements, etc. combined with business volume projections for the planned period.
Key business drivers: Business drivers and their relationship to workforce numbers – for example, number of patients per day may be a driver for a general physician position at a clinic, provided other factors are accounted for (time per patient, shift requirements, etc).
Workforce ratios: Standard workforce ratios for the industry and region. Support functions are relatively easier to estimate with this technique than core operations roles.
Once it is known how many people are required by the business at what time, an analysis of the skill gap can be conducted. This involves analysing current and future skills and competencies to determine whether skills are available internally, can be developed or need to be acquired from the market. If there is sufficient time to develop certain skills, organisations can decide to align their Qatari development plans to meet such requirements.
What does success look like?
The final workforce model must comprise the number of employees required for each role, split between those that will be filled from within the organisation and those that must be hired. The workforce model must also identify the skills required, lead times for developing skills, recruitment lead times for each role, roles that can be Qatarised by hiring or developing internal staff and the indicative workforce budget. Following this approach, organisations can gain a greater understanding of staffing patterns to understand steady state requirements and temporary peaks and troughs that may not require permanent hiring.
Implement the model with your feet on the ground
Implementation requires time, resources and commitment. The hard work spent on analysis will be of no use without the right resources for timely execution.
It is important to create a realistic action plan, identify a capable implementation team, and support them fully. Once these fundamentals are in place, businesses should ensure they leverage the available resources e.g. the recruitment process, learning and development systems, etc. During the implementation phase, the model assumptions should be tested/ validated to ensure they still hold good.
Top things to watch out for
Don't fall prey to an analysis paralysis; focus on actions.
Don't worry too much about the gaps in the data – make reasonable, conservative assumptions around gaps but be consistent.
Get people with the right skills onto the project team. Strategic thinking, business analysis, data modelling and talent management are some of the important skills required.
Validate findings and assumptions with management at the right times.
Be flexible. Business is dynamic – if plans change, adjust your assumptions and projections accordingly
“Around 94% of the working population in Qatar are expatriates. This number will only increase as the demand for labour continues to outstrip the availability of local talent. The situation is further complicated by the restrictions of the Kafala system that already limit the mobility of expats across organisations, and the impact of the proposed changes to the system is yet to be seen.”
BY SAURABH MATHUR