Global Workforce Planning Tips

  • Forecast the market
  • Have a succession plan
  • Set up a redeployment strategy

Global workforce planning is possible with preparation. Here are some tips to help you get started.

Each week, as part of Envoy’s Global Talent Adviser guest blog series, HR influencers will weigh in on topics of global talent and workforce management and planning. This week, we welcome Matt Stollak, associate professor at St. Norbert College and adviser to the college’s SHRM chapter. 

HR planning is finding the right number of people for the right jobs at the right time.

And when you’re expanding beyond the United States, planning becomes even more important. The environment is constantly shifting and changing. Companies cannot wait to react to current events. Instead, managers must have action plans already in place to anticipate change. Here are the crucial components needed for successful global workforce planning.

1. Forecasting

Forecasting involves collecting information about both the internal and external environments in which the firm operates. Once gathered, planners can forecast the demand for and supply of employees at various points in the future.

First, the company can judge the need for labor by asking knowledgeable people to identify where they think increases or decreases in firm growth might occur. If your organization has enough data, you can also use mathematical models to minimize error.

Second, companies may also examine their internal supply of labor through skills inventories, or their HRIS can determine what skills employees possess. Also, a Markov analysis can help determine the likelihood that a job incumbent will stay, move to another job, or leave entirely (this is most effective when applied to a single location).

2. Succession Planning

Any global workforce plan must address how to replace key business leadership positions. Employers can identify potential replacements, provide them with the needed training and development, and fill vacancies with minimal disruption. Bench strength must be a top priority.

3. Redeployment Strategy

Companies have to consider how to get the right knowledge, skills and abilities where they are needed, regardless of location. Cultural sensitivity, as well as the capacity to speak a second language, will also be important factors in employee selection. And you’ll want to choose wisely: The average cost of an overseas assignment can sometimes be greater than an employee’s pre-departure salary, so selecting the right person is critical.

4. Flexibility

Is your technology flexible enough to consider differences in local language and culture? How might each country’s different laws affect staffing? China, for example, has complicated rules affecting the ability to use contingent workers. The Philippines prohibits the use of labor-only contract workers.

5. Metrics and assessment

You’ll also need to decide how you’ll assess the effectiveness of the plan. How accurate was the forecast? Where are the shortfalls of succession planning, if any? Was any component ignored or overlooked? This is a critical piece, yet a recent Mercer survey found that 90 percent of companies do not take the time to track the results of their mobility programs.

6. Anticipating obstacles

When you’re mapping out your global workforce plan, prepare for problems before they occur. The same Mercer survey indicated, for example, that international assignments often fail due to poor candidate selection, family-related issues, or difficulty adjusting to the host country. Knowing and acting to prevent these problems from arising can be extremely helpful.

While there’s no “one-size-fits-all” approach to managing a global workforce, planning goes a long way.

Matt StollakMatt Stollak is an associate professor at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin, and adviser to the college’s SHRM chapter. Follow Matt on Twitter at @akabruno and on his blog.

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