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Employer Support Resources: Strategic Staffing for Your Business Needs

Leaders of successful organizations understand that planning for their business needs over the short, medium and long terms is crucial to being able to successfully execute on business plans, take advantage of unforeseen opportunities and manage unexpected challenges.

A key component of any business planning has to include a robust analysis of human resources needs as well as a plan on how to meet those needs to ensure the right number of workers with the right qualifications are in place.

What Is Staffing for Business Needs

From Betterteam, “Strategic staffing is a human resource strategy designed to ensure an organization has the workforce it needs to meet both current and future business objectives. Essentially, strategic staffing ensures you have the right number of permanent and temporary employees for your business to run efficiently.”

A now retired Human Resources business partner recalls, “Years ago, our company used to provide every new employee with a copy of a business strategy book whose essential story was that you had to fundamentally understand all aspects of your business now and where things might be in the future—including where you wanted them to be. We always struggled internally, though, in our ability to have a plan for what people we would need to get to those milestones. We always seemed to be in a crisis to find the right people because we needed them immediately as opposed to planning for our needs and bringing in the right new staff and moving people internally to ensure a smooth and consistent path forward.”

Having your workforce as a core business issue has not been a priority to date in the energy sector according to a study by Deloitte. “Over the past five years, for example, there has been no major change in the hiring strategy or job postings of OG&C companies. Job postings are dishearteningly similar irrespective of the location or the skill set.” 

Why It’s Important

In a full economic or sector downturn like the one the oil and gas industry has endured for several years, non-critical functions tend to face the most aggressive cost-cutting efforts within an organization. KMPG notes “Most oil and gas companies responded (to this crisis) with large reductions in capital spending and share repurchases. Among the likely targets for cutbacks or cancellation? Planned people and talent enhancements.” 

The ability to operate, produce products, deliver services, and generate revenue is almost entirely dependent on an organization’s people. Even companies like Amazon that interface with customers and suppliers almost entirely virtually, rely on their workforce to ensure they can operate, meet current and peak demands as well as to grow the business. With over 1.3 million employees, it is amongst the world’s five largest employers.

For companies that are disciplined in their development and application of strategic business planning and execution, there is no way to achieve their planned objectives if their permanent and temporary staffing needs do not figure into the process. A strategic approach to staffing analyzes the needs for workers and their associated qualifications against what the business is working towards now, as well as the plan in the medium and longer terms. It helps to not only identify current human resource availability, but where existing employees can be redeployed depending on need and their professional growth, as well as to plan for anticipated new hires, potential limited-term consultants, and temporary staff at specific points in the business cycle.

What You Can Do

The Society for Human Resources Management lays out a comprehensive process for creating a strategic staffing plan and the questions that you should be asking yourself as you move through each step:

Evaluate goals: What does this function need to accomplish?

  • What are the organization’s major strategic and tactical goals for the upcoming year?
  • How will the HR function support those goals?
  • What goals do I need to set for my function to ensure I’m aligned with the company’s goals?
  • What support are other functions/departments expecting from my department this year?
  • What internal goals would this function like to achieve this year?

Identify influencers: What factors might affect the staffing plan?

  • What is the talent availability in our market?
  • What trends are affecting skill development? These could be social impacts such as managing social media requirements, learning new skills as part of process evolution or the need to learn new technology.
  • Will technology changes influence our labor supply or demand? These changes could be new technology that will require additional staffing or training time or technology that improves efficiencies, thereby eliminating jobs.
  • Will changes to regulations affect our workforce?
  • Do we have competitors that will affect the supply of labor? Perhaps competitors are growing their workforce, or they are laying off people, thereby growing the labor supply.
  • Will economic or financial factors affect our staffing plans? These may include anticipated changes to the local economy, tightening of financing available to the organization or an influx of venture capital funding.
  • Do we need to account for constraints or impacts from facilities or infrastructure? These include office size, location and commuting implications.
  • Are potential “game changers” affecting our industry? Those may include disrupter companies, technology improvements such as driverless haul trucks that are impacting the oilsands.

Identify the current state: What is the starting point?

  • What systems should I review for data on the current state?
  • Who are my current staff members? What positions affect how we get things done.
  • What expertise do staff members bring to their role? 
  • Do other employees outside of my function regularly influence achieving HR team goals. This question is especially relevant in matrixed organizations.
  • Do vendors, contractors or others outside my organization regularly contribute to achieving team goals? 
  • What are the competencies my current staff have? 
  • Do I have any employees who are flight risks or who have personal issues that may affect their longevity with the organization?

Envision needs: What is really needed (end state)?

  • What expertise does the HR function need to accomplish our goals for next year?
  • How many people will we need to meet our goals, and where should they be located? Sources for this figure may include current span-of-control numbers, staff ratio recommendations, historical rule of thumb within the organization or statistical regression analysis.
  • Does staffing change throughout the year? What will it look like in six months? In 12 months?
  • What is the ideal mix of staff, contractors or outside expertise needed to meet our goals?
  • What budget will we need to meet our goals?

Conduct a gap analysis: What differences exist between the current state and the end state?

  • If I compare the end state to the current state, in what areas are we currently unable to support outlined goals?
  • Where will we need to adjust current staffing? Will factors such as current performance or mobility affect the current staffing?
  • Do we lack staff with the right expertise in functional areas?
  • Do we have geographical gaps in which we need to hire staff?
  • Will cross-functional collaboration be needed? If so, how can we strengthen that partnership?

Develop a solution plan: What types of staff are needed? When and where?

  • Given all the information above, how do I use it to achieve the goals outlined in Step 1? 
  • At the end of the year, what should my staff composition consist of?
  • When and where will we need to adjust staffing levels to support organizational goals?
  • What level of expertise do I require in which roles? 
  • How am I accommodating for the influencers identified in Step 2?
  • How am I addressing the gaps outlined in Step 5? Outside of hiring, would training or other methods help cover these gaps? Can we fill some of these gaps with technology?
  • Finally, how often do I need to revisit this plan to ensure it continues to meet organizational needs?
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