How to create a smart and flexible staffing plan

With many companies having to make tough staffing decisions over recent months, a flexible and pragmatic plan around staffing and budgets will be vital to navigating the current market.

While businesses continue to deal with market uncertainty, you can take proactive steps now to prepare for the future. Here are some tips for creating a smart staffing plan.

Evaluate your goals and projects

A good starting point is to evaluate your current projects and strategic initiatives, as well as the prioritised goals you want to achieve over coming months.

Many companies will have been impacted by reduced customer demand and the need to comply with new health and safety requirements. Use this is an opportunity to meet with other leaders in the company to understand their needs, concerns and expectations during this ‘new normal’. This may include asking questions like:

  • Which projects or initiatives should be given priority? Are there any that could be suspended temporarily with minimal impact on the business and staff?
  • Are there any new strategic imperatives (such as health and safety restrictions, or employees working remotely at scale) that will impact how your staff do their jobs and serve customers?
  • Do we need to pivot our product or service offering moving forward in response to pandemic-related shifts in customer/client needs?
  • What are your plans for growth, both in the short term and after social distancing has been lifted?

Your staffing plan should always support the business plan, so it’s important that both are aligned. As restrictions are eased across many locations, a timeline for employees returning to the office will also need to be factored in.

Conduct a skills audit

The next step is to determine if your current workforce is equipped with the skills needed to execute on your goals. Social distancing has helped to accelerate the pace of digital transformation while reshaping many customer behaviours. As a result, companies will need to make sure they strike the right balance between business-critical activities, and nurturing innovation and growth in a fast-changing world.

A skills audit can help you understand where your skills gaps exist, which in turn informs your employees’ training and development plans, as well as your recruitment strategy. The key steps to cover should include:

  • Identify core skills: Which skills (technical or soft) do employees need to ensure business continuity, adapt to change, and support growth? Use your knowledge of goals, processes and innovations the company is planning in the coming months.
  • Define role competencies: Build a competency framework for each role. This must define the knowledge, skills and attributes needed to perform the job effectively. Be aware – the skills you prioritised pre-Coronavirus might not be need-to-have competencies today, and vice versa.
  • Maintain good communication: When conducting the skills audit, ensure you take the time to reach out to each member of your team. Explain to them its importance in helping them identify areas in which they could grow their skills, and in the process, more easily meet their daily work and career goals. In your conversation with employees, make sure you include some questions about how they perceive their role and responsibilities. This will provide valuable information that you can integrate into your framework.

Create a staffing plan that addresses your skills gaps

Now that you have a picture of the skills within your team and how they align with your goals and associated competencies, you can plan for a range of scenarios. Consider:

  • Which roles are essential. Who are your core staff members? What are your contingency plans if any essential employees become unwell or leave the company?
  • Upskilling requirements. With certain companies having had to reduce team sizes, many remaining staff will need to take on extra responsibilities. Are there training programs which will help them to integrate these into their role? Mentoring and training programs will likely need to shift to virtual environments as many employees continue to work remotely, so determine the configuration of content, delivery channels and personnel (internal as well as external subject matter experts) which will be optimal to address your needs.
  • What roles you need to hire for. If you don’t have enough people or the right skills in-house to meet your business objectives, you will need to move forward with a hiring plan. That means thinking about required start dates, availability of local vs. remote talent, and what levels of compensation are required to put you on par with industry competitors and peers.

Engage a temporary solution

A recent LinkedIn survey found almost two-thirds (62 per cent) of talent professionals said COVID-19 has made it more challenging for them to hire according to plan. If you find yourself in this situation, consider turning to temporary and contract personnel to cover any critical skill gaps. This approach allows you to staff up and down both quickly and cost-effectively, which will be an ever more important capability as more companies face unpredictable staffing challenges.

It’s always recommended that you set aside part of your budget for unplanned hiring needs, for example, in the event a staff member becomes unwell. Putting together a plan that helps you understand your staffing needs, now and in the months ahead, gives you a foundation for business growth and helps you prepare for the unexpected.