Challenges

The organization needed to match staffing levels with growing demand from customers, including both employees and contract staff around the globe. It had been using spreadsheets to build people strategy and workforce plans. However, planning with spreadsheets made it difficult to establish a consistent process, keep track of versions, and ultimately, ensure the workforce could meet its new goals as it evolved.

Workforce planning was driven largely by the Finance department. Analysts in Finance partnered with business groups, which in turn had their own processes, calculations, and timelines for creating plans.

When the organization tried to create a consolidated plan, the results were chaotic—due to differences in data, manual errors, and version control issues. The organization wanted to do monthly forecasting, but it proved to be too difficult.

Results

When the organization hired a director to lead capacity planning and people strategy, it was already using Visier to give leaders access to self-service workforce analytics. With Visier, the company had a unified view into data from its many workforce data sources (representing multiple human capital management systems and countless HR processes) and was able to see an accurate picture of its entire workforce.

The new planning director saw the value of integrating a planning solution with the people analytics solution, and decided to implement Visier Workforce Planning.

A transformed process

The company used Visier to implement a workforce planning process with the right level of governance and rigor. After first building relationships with the Finance leaders who had been in charge of planning, the planning director started by connecting larger groups with 500 to 750 employees into the consolidated planning environment within Visier.

Using Visier as the single source of truth for workforce information, he worked with each group to refine their headcount plans each month.

More accurate plans

More than 100 vice presidents, directors, and managers throughout the organization now use Visier Workforce Planning to capture their headcount needs. The planning director creates a top-level plan in collaboration with each vice president, who then delegates further sub-planning to several directors, who in turn assign managers in their reporting line to refine the plan even more.

This layered process of refinement increases the accuracy of the workforce plan exponentially as information is collected from deeper and deeper levels of the business. The distributed effort means that a single person can coordinate a large plan, but also that the organization can more closely match talent demand as customer demand grows.

headcount-plan-workforce-planning
Unified view of headcount plan and cost of workforce.

The company’s monthly workforce planning cycle

The company now uses a monthly planning process to capture workforce demand for the different groups within the organization. Visier Workforce Planning enables multiple people to collaborate on the same plan to create a more accurate picture of demand. Department leaders can review and refine projections that Visier makes based on historical data—and then assign other leaders who report to them to refine the plan further.

During the month, the planning director checks in with leaders to make sure they can meet the plan deadline and runs a meeting on staffing governance. He pulls in other stakeholders as needed, encouraging everyone to share input and provide insight. If hiring isn’t progressing as fast as necessary, he talks to Recruiting about how to stay on plan. If leaders recommend a plan that’s over budget, he discusses options with stakeholders from Finance.

Easy sharing of plans

Because of the improvements to workforce planning and analytics, it’s easy for leaders at the company to share their headcount plans with other areas of the business so they can plan their own work. For instance, by reviewing up-to-date hiring targets, the Learning & Development team can plan the right number and type of onboarding and training sessions.

Ability to optimize scenarios and costs

After analyzing the total cost of the workforce, planners are able to compare scenarios for future states of the workforce. For instance, planners can see how the cost of using contractors or full-time employees would compare over time.

“Using Visier Workforce Analytics in combination with Visier Workforce Planning has helped us manage flexibility with staffing and workforce costs as the organization grows.”

Planning director

“By planning more intelligently and further ahead,” the planning director says, “we can ensure budget that would otherwise have gone unused is used effectively.

Workforce planning practices

If your organization is looking to create a more effective workforce planning practice, the planning director recommends several practices.

Build relationships and train leaders

When the planning director began to roll out Visier Workforce Planning, he says leaders weren’t necessarily enthusiastic about adopting a new process. To them, he says, “It was just another task they’d need to do every month.” That’s why it was critical to explain how monthly planning would ultimately save them time and frustration. To that end, he invested time in doing demonstrations, reviewing the benefits of the process, and building relationships with leaders who were key to its success.

Create a sense of urgency

Because stakeholders will inevitably have competing priorities, an effective workforce planning process needs to have a sense of urgency built in. Emphasize to leaders why an up-to-date plan is critical for each area of the organization. Facilities, for instance, needs to know how many new staff are joining—and what departments they’ll be in—so they can make the right workplace preparations. Book month-end meetings in advance so that planners are motivated to finish their plans on time.

Streamline the planning team

The planning director says at least one person should be dedicated to workforce planning—to configure the plan, do plan cleanup each month, and collaborate with contributors. At larger organizations, he recommends other employees—such as HR business partners— act as part-time capacity leads.

Each capacity lead can support several VP-level leaders by providing data, translating demand into people numbers, and fitting that demand to plan. The capacity leads can also run regular staffing governance meetings with the leaders, facilitate planning discussions, and make sure plans—and outcomes—are progressing as intended.

Get ahead of the talent acquisition curve

At the most effective organizations, the planning process is so effective—and well-communicated—that talent acquisition teams don’t need to wait for requisitions to know they need to hire. That’s because headcount targets in the workforce plan already take into account turnover assumptions like resignations and retirements, allowing recruiting teams to predict future hiring needs and budget requirements more accurately.