William Uranga, HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board

William Uranga

I had it all planned out.  An extended September weekend backpacking with my oldest son (our first trip together) along with a couple of neighbors – It was going to be great.  Skyline-to-the-Sea is a great Bay Area trail with views, moderate elevation gain (and loss) and diverse micro climates.  I made the reservations, created a Google doc, listing gear, food, who was carrying what items and everything was measured to the ounce.  Oh, yes, I had it all planned out.

What upended everything was the “light rain” turning into an outright deluge about 9 miles into the trip on our first day out.  Rain shells for jackets and hats that we had packed were fine, but the sopping socks and squishy shoes, the deep muddy rutted trails, and the numbness made continuing impossible.  It was still a fun adventure, but we bailed on the trip.

Recruiting also likes to have everything planned out.  There are programs, processes and workforce planning.  That last one still seems to be discussed a lot – from conferences to tool pitches to resource requests.  Could our executives, HR leadership develop an overall plan that we could build off of or execute to?  The identification of variables and definitions of realities that flow up to business goals gives Recruiting a great sense of certainty and control.  There are a lot of reasons why your organization should develop a workforce plan.   Having a plan is often cited as a best practice and high-performing companies are 2x more likely to have a workforce plan than other companies.

However, there is always some “light rain” that ends up deluging us with changes and frustration.  The marketplace’s increasing pace of change undoes a lot of our planning – and that assumes your company even has the resources to develop a workforce plan.  Only 13% of companies have a workforce plan with contingencies.  Whether your workforce plan has the lifespan of a gnat or you can’t afford to put one together – you’re in good company.  The fact still remains that your company still has goals to reach.  Recruiting still need to expand teams, upgrade skill sets. Complaining about not having a workforce plan is similar to the characters in this humorous video shown by Fred Wilson at his Talent Connect 2013 talk.

What can Recruiting do?  Here’s a checklist of things to get done:

  • Know your company like your executives do.  Can your coordinator explain the company revenue model?  Can your sourcer whiteboard your technology stack?  Can your recruiter explain how (and why) the business model evolved and its various stages?  If not, document, train and test.

  • Go CSI on metrics for your company.  If you aren’t certain what matters to your company then start small, but start somewhere. Define your major workflows, terms (what they mean), record them. It doesn’t have to be fancy.  Once you have data, publish it internally.  This will likely create more questions and requests.  This is a good thing.

  • Vacuum up and absorb information from other sources in your company.  Competitive intel or marketplace data is often being collected or monitored by peers in Marketing, Product Management/Marketing, Sales and Business Development.  Go make new friends.  Figure out what things they need (data-wise) and share what you know.

  • Start over.  If you were to start Recruiting over right now, would you build it the same way?  What would you allocate differently or risk?  Even if you are not leading Recruiting, this is a great brainstorming activity.

  • Anticipate black swans.  John Sumser presented that we should think of talent acquisition in terms of the black swan theory here {link?}.  Such possibilities may not ever materialize in your company, but the mere practicing for them will ensure your ability to react to those “light rains” when they do occur.  Exercise your “what if” powers and include others in solving for them: a new location for a manufacturing plant, the loss of a key executive (a.k.a. “succession planning”), shift from one technology to a brand new one.  What companies have faced this before and how did they solve for it?

This isn’t an exhaustive list.  However, if you’ve completed these five areas, you don’t need a workforce plan.  You and your recruiting team can handle a “light rain” any day.


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