Tackling Talent Strategically: Q&A With Harvard Business Review Analytic Services

The majority of leaders (73 percent) have experienced talent shortfalls due to poor workforce planning, according to a new report released by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services (HBR-AS). Although business leaders know talent shortfalls prevent their companies from achieving their business goals, the report reveals that they have not aligned their workforce planning process to manage the issue.

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HBR-AS recently sat down with our CEO, John Schwarz, to discuss why workforce planning is such a challenge, and what HR leaders can do to ensure they have a stronger voice in the process:

HBR-AS: Why do companies have so much difficulty developing effective workforce plans?

John Schwarz: The Harvard Business Review Analytic Services survey results shared in this report are in line with what I hear from customers, and from my past experiences as an executive at companies like SAP, Business Objects, Symantec, and IBM. At a high level, the workforce planning challenge is that the budgets created by finance have little to do with the actual talent needed to execute the business objectives.

talent-shortfallsHBR-AS: How can companies shift the workforce discussion to focus on business requirements?

John Schwarz: HR, with its understanding of workforce dynamics, is uniquely positioned in the organization to ensure the workforce is aligned with the needs of the business, at the optimal cost.

HR systems are ripe with disparate data that describe the organization, past and present. Visier’s Workforce Intelligence solutions connect all this data together to create a highly accurate starting point for a bottom-up workforce plan. Organizations can match talent needs to available dollars, and vice versa.

Workforce planning is ultimately about ensuring you have the talent needed to deliver on your business goals. With Visier, you can forecast and model trends, such as cost, hiring success, and attrition, and then align with business leaders on the scenario that is most optimal to what you want to achieve.

HBR-AS: What has prevented companies from adopting a data-driven approach to workforce planning?

John Schwarz: HR tends to be organizationally not as well positioned as finance. A key reason for this is that HR has been underserved by information technology — while ripe with transactional workforce data, this data is spread across ERP, HR management, payroll, applicant tracking, and other systems, not to mention in lots of spreadsheets.

The first thing we do at Visier is to connect all this valuable data together in one place on our SaaS platform. We then make it accessible in real time via an intuitive, easy-to-consume user interface. While we count many HR analysts among our power users, we count even more HR business partners, practitioners, and leaders, who would not consider themselves “data savvy.” Companies that are most successful with data-driven HR are those that recognize that they need to promote a data-driven culture across the enterprise, not just with an exclusive set of leaders.

HBR-AS: Do you have solutions for companies trying to overcome these hurdles?

John Schwarz: At Visier we are pioneering a new approach to workforce planning that enables HR to play a key role in connecting talent with operational and strategic business objectives, and driving better business outcomes. A number of the world’s best brands are already on board with this new approach, and we’re seeing the growth of that number accelerating.

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Josie Sutcliffe |

With a background in Product Management, Business Development, and Marketing for technology start ups, Josie understands that market requirements – in the form of business problems – should drive technology. Experienced at market development, Josie has been an active thought leader for most of her career. When Josie’s not busy handling marketing for Visier, she enjoys travelling with her family, with a particular love for Italian beaches — walk up espresso bars on the sand, who can beat that?

Human Resources Today
Human Resources Today