workforce planning technologies

When Technologies Don’t Play Well With Others … Workforce Planning Suffers

Doesn’t play well with others. That staple of report card feedback could just as easily be applied to the state of workforce data sharing in many of today’s organizations. i4cp’s latest report Workforce Planning: Data Choices for High Performance underscores the fact that uncooperative technologies are the single most frustrating data-related challenge for workforce planners.

It’s a growing problem, too. Over the past several years, technologies that fail to share data effectively crept up the list of workforce planning challenges for high-performance organizations from the number-three slot to number one.

Perhaps what we’re seeing is not much different from the same old silo issues companies have encountered for years. Information (or data) hoarding within business functions was, and is, a big stumbling block that impedes effective communication about workforce planning or any other organizational initiative. Only now business functions often are electronically siloed, which somehow seems worse. Or more challenging to fix, anyway.

Silo busting in days past may have required little more than a mind full of resolve, a legal pad, and a fervent one-on-one conversation between business functional leaders. Sooner or later, data hoarders could probably be persuaded, cajoled, or forced to part with whatever figures they held near, dear, and close to the chest. A handshake, a little quid pro quo, and eventually the parties involved would share and coordinate needed data – good to go.

Workforce planners still need to have those conversations with functional leaders. It’s important that everyone in an organization understands what workforce planning is all about and how it benefits each function. Those functional leaders need to feel ownership of workforce planning, and they need to acknowledge that they can’t execute on business strategies without it.

Agreement must be reached on the meaning of metrics, too. What constitutes turnover to folks in finance needs to jibe with the definition used by workforce planners, HR, marketing – everyone. And then one (and only one) figure for that data point must be designated THE metric that the organization will use. Some companies, such as i4cp member organization Toyota Financial Services, have successfully brokered that company-wide collaboration, working together to construct a data mart (an online database) to be the central repository of workforce data.

But other organizations are still struggling – nearly half of high performers, according to i4cp’s findings. Clearly, getting data from information system A to information system B without hours of manual data re-entry is the new play-well-with-others challenge. Apparently it’s much more difficult to get machines to talk to each other than it is to get business leaders on the same page about sharing data. Who knew?

Carol Morrison
Carol Morrison is a Senior Research Analyst and Associate Editor with the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp), specializing in workforce well-being research.