In Conversation With: Foresight – The NHS Long Term Workforce Plan, and the benefits of effective workforce planning (Part 2)

Continuing our In Conversation With series with Danny Hodgson of Foresight, Liaison Workforce’s Jack Mazzina looks at the implementation of an organisation’s workforce planning approach…

9 August 2023

In Part 2 of our interview with Danny Hodgson of Foresight, we look at the implementation of an organisation’s workforce planning approach…

Jack Mazzina (JM): What was required to design this approach, and put it into place at the organisation?

Danny Hodgson (DH): As we’ve successfully run similar programmes many times before, the organisation allowed us to be the lead in the implementation, which took five overall steps.

1. We defined the problem statement. What were they looking to solve through better workforce planning? By linking this into wider organisational goals, it’s easier to show the business benefit, get buy in upfront, and ultimately get support from the right levels.

2. We guided them through understanding which and how many managers should be involved.

3. We helped the organisation define what the managers should be thinking about when creating their digital workforce planning. We then worked out what the best approach to communicate this out to the business would be.

4. We then configured our digital platform to facilitate the data capture from their managers. This allowed us to carry out this process at scale and with speed, allowing more time for the really interesting aspect; analysing the data and using it to produce great programmes to really benefit the workforce.

5. Finally, we built in mechanisms to action the data straight away.

JM: Would you say this final step is the key to avoiding failure in workforce planning?

DH: Yes, in our experience, this is the number one reason that workforce planning programmes fail, or never get maintained. If you engage your managers sufficiently to have them take part in a workforce planning exercise, but then don’t do anything with their data, why should they do it again? Managers need to see a different response, if they do, they immediately see value and get validation that their own efforts were worthwhile. Meaning that they take part the next time you need them to, and the next, and so on. Workforce planning should really be for the manager first, then for the organisation.

However, this is easier said than done. That’s why as part of the digital platform we use, we can create personalised automated support back to the manager depending on what they tell us. Let me give you an example…

If a manager tells us they have some recruitment requirements in 6 months’ time, the platform will automatically engage with the manager and guide them into the correct recruitment process, at the right time.

This creates a seamless manager experience of requesting data, storing it, and then instigating the recruiting process at the perfect time, all with no human touch, no manual time spent. So, the manager thinks “wow, HR created a simple workforce planning process, they remembered all of my information, contacted me at the right time, and even did the next stage of admin on my behalf, and now I’m being proactively guided through the recruitment process”.  

Another example is if a manager suggests they have a succession risk, this would automatically alert the relevant person in the HR team, but also that manager would automatically receive guidance the very next day on how to think about mitigating their risk. The relevant person in HR is safe in the knowledge that the manager has had a follow up to their concern, and they can now reach out too if required. By creating these kinds of manager experiences automatically, we drive up manager experience and remove thousands of HR admin tasks each year, allowing far more time to focus on the strategic outcomes we’d like to deliver. Not to mention that the role of HR/Talent becomes more able to spend time adding value, rather than reacting and firefighting bad situations.

JM: So, how is the organisation you referenced getting along now?

DH: Let’s look at their initial results. On their first attempt to build workforce planning across the Trust, they achieved 65% adoption from their managers. Meaning that 325 managers (or teams) had a detailed workforce plan showing future recruitment needs, flight risk analysis, succession gaps, and had their learning and development needs captured. And that’s on their first attempt!

This was all automated. Had they run a more traditional manual workshop process, the equivalent volume of data gathered would have taken in excess of 75 working days to complete. It took each manager less than 10 minutes to complete on average, and no HR involvement whatsoever. Collectively, these managers shared 230 future recruiting needs, spanning 3-36 months in the future. They shared 70 flight risks (or ‘itchy feet’) across all levels, and 85 critical succession risks to the Trust.

Because we knew the salary levels behind this data, we were able to demonstrate that the potential cost risk to the business on this data alone was in excess of £2.2million.

And that’s just the start. Most of the managers that took part received support and guidance based on their data, whether a recruiting prompt, or a flight risk acknowledgement, for example. Feedback from managers reinforced that the process was simple, and more importantly that they felt heard and were getting support that they never had before.

Continue reading Part 3, where Liaison Workforce’s Jack Mazzina and Foresight’s Danny Hodgson discuss managing flight risks with workforce planning, succession planning, and the organisation’s outcomes and results…

Catch up on Part 1 of the conversation where the NHS’s Long Term Workforce Plan and benefits of effective workforce planning is discussed with Danny Hodgson of Foresight…

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