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Forecasting talent requirements can be daunting for human resource executives and involves planning. No matter the industry or business, essential components of this process require that HR professionals take the following steps:
Forecasting in any context requires understanding forces of change that will affect the status quo or current norms, and spotting future needs for talent planning requires a deep understanding of dynamics that will be present in the years ahead. HR leaders should examine their industry environment for trends influencing how work is accomplished, company positioning and potential value chain shifts. Gathering perspectives through analysis, planning sessions and thought-leader engagement should also uncover key industry uncertainties—those potential game-changing forces that no expert can accurately predict will occur or foresee the outcome of—that may change the nature of a business’s work and workforce in the future.
Most every organization conducts some type of strategy-planning effort as part of its annual budgeting. In the best cases this process supports ongoing analysis, decision-making, positioning and governance efforts to keep a business headed toward its future goals. Unfortunately, HR leaders are not always involved in this process; more frequently, they are the recipients of its results. Strategic HR leaders will bring their insight of the environment and their expertise in evaluating opportunities to leverage human capital directly in their organizations. To gain and retain a seat at this table, HR executives must offer substantive contributions in explaining how environmental changes may offer opportunity and risk, and help determine human capital requirements.
Strategy documents that lay out goals, initiatives, investments and targets offer a road map for business direction. Similarly, the leader profile—for key positions or by responsibility level—based on an organization’s future strategy, can help define the capabilities, knowledge and behaviors the business will need to execute and succeed with its intentions. HR leaders can construct a future-leader profile by considering what success will look like for leaders down the road. For example, what competencies, experiences, skills and behaviors will they need to navigate different competitors, new innovations, broader scale or different structures? They should also consult current executives about what they think it will take to succeed down the road.
With a destination defined, HR leaders must manage their investments to align talent for today and tomorrow. This process should start by prioritizing interventions for key talent groups that are critical to the business’s future needs. Whether programs, assessments, rotations or action learning, these interventions should be piloted, refined and measured in terms of value to the participants, their managers and the overall business, as HR leaders must oversee the return on human capital investment.
Samantha Howland is a senior managing partner at Decision Strategies International, a Pennsylvania-based leadership development consultancy.
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