The Importance of Strategic Workforce Planning

When I read about the situation at ProRail last week, I was shocked. How can it come as a surprise that a large part of your key employees is retiring? This is not something that just happens suddenly, this happens because your workforce is aging. Apparently, the unions did see the problem coming. ProRail itself lacked a strategy focused on strategic workforce planning to mitigate the problem it is facing right now. There is a huge outflow of key knowledge and experts in traffic controlling combined with a scarcity of new employees for this field.

The situation they are in could have been avoided but unfortunately, this situation is not rare. Many organizations only realize they have a knowledge gap when it is already too late. What can you do to prevent these problems?

1. Knowledge mapping

First of all, having a knowledge map of your organization is key. It is so important to know who knows what and who are your experts in certain topics. If you combine this knowledge map with an age map of your employees, you can see if there is any knowledge retention risk due to an aging workforce. It will show you risks like Key Man Exposure; Knowledge Retirement; or Knowledge Isolation. In the case of ProRail, the fact that many of their traffic controllers were getting close to retirement age shouldn’t be a surprise.

2. Knowledge retention

How to deal with a Knowledge Retirement risk? This means your core experts are retiring soon. It is time to work on a strong knowledge retention strategy. Do these experts have successors? Who are they? How diverse is the expertise group in terms of age, location, etc? Are you planning to hire successors from outside the organization or can you reskill part of your current workforce? How are you going to do the knowledge handover from the retiring employees to their successors? Do you have any knowledge documentation strategy or shadowing program in place? In the case of ProRail, the unions mention that the training program for this specific job takes nine months and that it is quite an intense program. Even more reason to start early with knowledge retention for your aging workforce!

3. Knowledge-driven onboarding

Finally, that knowledge map we mentioned above can also be used to execute a knowledge-driven onboarding process making it much easier for new employees to jump right in and to start being productive much earlier.

Every company should focus on strategic workforce planning to be ready for the future, whatever that future may be. By having clear who knows what and who your key experts are, situations like the one at ProRail right now can be avoided.

Want to know more about strategic workforce planning through knowledge mapping? Get in touch and let’s have a chat!

Strategic Workforce Planning Should Be A Key Activity Of Any Organization


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