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Buy, build, borrow for a successful workforce planning strategy

When Baker Tilly’s Brad Fisher joined a panel discussion about employee engagement during the Oracle CloudWorld conference in October, he opened with some startling statistics.

Citing the September 2022 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Job Openings and Labor Turnover (JOLT) report, Fisher noted that nearly 11 million available jobs in the U.S. were unfilled. With the national unemployment rate at less than 4%, there were two open positions for every qualified job seeker.

With so many job opportunities available, workers know they have a choice of employers. That makes hiring more challenging for chief human resources officers (CHROs) and their HR teams, who oversee employee recruiting and retention, to maintain employee loyalty and engagement. “Workforce planning is a major challenge for CHROs today,” Fisher said. “And the challenge is industry agnostic.”

As an Oracle Cloud practice director for Baker Tilly, Fisher stays in constant contact with CHROs who are moving their human resources operations to the cloud. He said the emerging “buy, build, borrow” approach to workforce planning is becoming more popular. Organizations have to think of workforce planning as a portfolio and not just going out to the marketplace to hire someone externally every time.

“Buying” talent: the traditional approach

The “buy” side of the hiring equation, Fisher said, refers to the traditional approach of developing a job requisition, then interviewing and hiring candidates. While many organizations have internal career sites where employees usually have a week or two to apply to a job before it would be posted externally, often there is insufficient communication to employees to look at internal resources and actually apply. As a result, a majority of openings end up with external candidates.

Based on the current imbalance of supply and demand for employees, this strategy has become less effective. Some companies may take six to nine months filling jobs, a gap that will negatively impact an organization. Recruiters become desperate, lowering qualifications and standards. This can lead to hires who are less productive, less adequately skilled and less likely to be a cultural fit which in turn will lead to higher attrition or lower utilization/productivity for the company, further impacting profitability which can quickly turn into a negative spiral.

Savvy organizations will look inward and give first consideration to internal candidates who are willing to retrain, reskill and develop the requisite skills or to relocate to a new job location. Employees who are singled out for additional training and promotion based on their future potential, Fisher said, are likely to feel flattered and develop loyalty to their employers.

“Building” from within

The “build” idea relates to when an organization proactively searches and recruits internal candidates for their needs ahead of the need to fill specific roles. With today’s HCM cloud technology, organizations can track data and metrics for thousands of employees – including performance reviews, 9 box analysis, desire to relocate, skills and competencies – all at a click of a button to run analytics in real time. This allows HR to be more strategic and surgically target internal candidates they want to court for the new positions ahead of the job requisitions being posted. They can offer to train its high-potential or high-performing employees in developmental or certification programs to close skills and competency gaps needed for the new roles.

In addition to ensuring these employees gain the skills they need to be promoted into open roles, organizations often assign a mentor within the organization to coach them on training opportunities and job performance.

“Borrowing” as needed

Finally, the “borrow” aspect is exactly as the dictionary definition: “take and use something that belongs to someone else with the intention of returning it.” In many situations, the shortest path to fill a skill gap or need is by borrowing from another source. The use of contractors can fall into this bucket, but ultimately, the idea of “borrow” goes beyond external contractors. It includes nurturing internal candidates as noted above, as well as building a great organizational culture to reduce attrition and increase employee experience.

When an organization has greater insight into the skills and competencies of its current employees, it can tap into unused potential to support specific areas of the business for a short period of time. Maybe a nurse in one hospital is under-utilized in maternity and be shifted to another location for oncology. Maybe production line workers can be repurposed for different shifts to fill a gap or relocate to another city while their production plant is down for maintenance.

If employees are already working remotely, they have a higher rate of being open to relocation to work to backfill a role. This could be for a short period of time, and then they can return to where they live.

HCM cloud technology, such as the Oracle HCM Cloud Talent Marketplace, can help generate gig opportunities for short term projects which are in essence “borrowing” resources from other areas. This supports productivity while allowing internal resources to try out new things, potentially testing a new role or skill out before fully moving into that new role. All of these activities make HR proactive instead of reactive, providing better results, increasing employee experience and improving organizational culture, which in the end will reduce attrition and increase productivity for an organization.

Fisher said, “We can’t just hire people anymore. We need to think about buying, building and borrowing talent in our workforces. Doing so will improve the organizational culture and employee experience, drive upskilling and succession planning and will demonstrate that managers are paying attention and caring for their employees, which ultimately will lead to higher efficiency and profitability for the organization.”

Technology boosts work satisfaction

Baker Tilly's digital practice implements Oracle HCM Cloud, which is designed to handle all HR functions from “hire to retire.” Because those applications automate recruiting, payroll, training and many more traditional HR functions, employees are freed from many routine tasks. Recent additions to the HCM application suite continue the trend with Oracle Journeys, a step-by-step guide that helps employees navigate difficult work situations like returning to the office during the pandemic, Oracle ME (my experience), a recruiting booster that is the only complete employee experience platform that empowers talent to connect, grow and thrive, and Oracle HR Help Desk and Oracle Digital Assistant, which helps human resources professionals better serve their constituents with ready answers to their HR questions in a more self-service setting. “All of this,” Fisher concluded, “will lower attrition rates naturally.”

LEGOS and lessons in engagement

Perhaps human resources professionals charged with creating an engaged workforce could take inspiration from the popular “LEGO Masters” television show, which airs weekly on Wednesdays on the FOX network. On the show, teams of two compete to build incredible structures using unlimited amounts of LEGO plastic building “bricks.” The rules of this entertaining contest closely reflect recommendations for maintaining an engaged workforce offered by Baker Tilly Director Bradley Fisher.

  • Employees’ skills and experience should closely match the job at hand. The bios of the LEGO Masters contestants reveal deep experience building fantastical structures; many of the competitors began playing with Legos as kids.
  • The required tasks should be structured so that team members can be creative. On the TV show, the producers ask contestants to build imaginative projects, like elaborate dinosaur habitats reminiscent of “Jurassic Park,” or spaceships complete with launching pads and sound effects. Fisher suggests business managers make use of technology to automate routine tasks, leaving their workers time to develop more creative – and productive – approaches to their work.
  • The rewards of work should be competitive. In the same way that employees should be compensated competitively, the team that wins each weekly LEGO Masters challenge takes home large cash prizes.
  • Recognition builds interest in work. Employees like to be recognized for a job well done, the same way that the LEGO Masters contestants become widely appreciated by the large community of fans of the show.

Baker Tilly is a premier Oracle PartnerNetwork Member, with global capabilities across Oracle’s Cloud platforms, including Analytics, EPM, ERP, HCM and SCM. Visit the webpage for more information on the team and their industry footprints.

Bradley Fisher
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