To understand the magnitude of the importance of workforce management, consider the example of automotive giant Ford. As technology continually advances, allowing cars to become more connected, software plays an increasingly prevalent role in automobile manufacturing. Not only does Ford offer a software system called SYNC that allows people to connect their mobile devices to Ford models, but the company also opened up its software platform (AppLink), allowing developers to create apps specifically for their cars.

You could almost say the automaker is a software company on the side. And Ford does think of itself that way, as well: According to CNBC, Don Butler, executive director of Connected Vehicle and Services at Ford, "We need to adopt more and more of a mindset of a software company."

As little as 10 years ago, it would be difficult to imagine Ford positioning itself as a software company, but today the company needs to think about evolving its workforce in terms of that particular talent need. It poses a perfect example of the importance of having a workforce management process in place that's aligned with the overall strategic goals of the organization. But how can this approach be implemented across the company, and how can CHROs take the lead in that process?

While enterprise companies like Ford may be exploring different avenues of business, midsize companies may be expanding to enterprise level. They may even want to expand into the global market. According to ADP Research Institute®, 75 percent of midsized business owners surveyed in 2014 didn't feel prepared to manage a global workforce, despite their desire to do so. In that case, how do HR leaders get comfortable with the idea of planning a global workforce?

Collaboration Is the Key

The key to effective workforce management is full collaboration between people, data and technology. According to Jenna Filipkowski, director of research at the Human Capital Institute (HCI), there should be a cross-functional team in place with the full support of senior leaders.

So how can the CHRO push for full alignment between the leaders of such integral departments as IT, finance and operations? HCI recommends an approach that helps organizations match up talent needs with desirable business outcomes.

  • Articulate the process. The CHRO gathers the team, explains the process and describes how it aligns talent with the business goals that each team is striving to achieve.
  • Define and segment roles by value and priority. Define what roles are needed (today and in the future), determine the value of each role, and prioritize that list.
  • Identify trends that impact the organization. Keeping an eye on the industry, competitors and the economy will help executives see what's ahead so they can be ready for it.
  • Inventory and evaluate the current workforce. Document the current state of organization competencies.
  • Develop a picture for how the workplace should look in the future. Consider technology advances, operating structures and talent needs.
  • Identify gaps between the current workforce state and future needs. What roles and competencies exist today, and what might those roles and competencies look like in the future?
  • Create an action plan to close those gaps. The end goal is having the organization's structure and talent initiatives in lockstep.
  • Monitor and report on progress. The combined forces of IT, finance and operations, led by the CHRO, should be accountable to each other to deliver on this process.

Collaboration is critical for this entire process to be a success. Technology will be needed to gather and analyze data, budgeting will be needed to fund action plans, and since operations will likely have the largest audience, that department will need support throughout. The CHRO leadership role will be critical in driving everything to get the organization ready for an inevitable, changing future with different talent needs.

If your company's outlook for hiring changes over time, will you be ready for it? If all your department leaders aren't on board, you won't get the results you're looking for as you dive into the deep talent pool.

Tags: Human Capital HR Workforce Management Human Capital Institute Ford Software CHRO