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Why workforce analytics is the key to making smart federal human capital decisions

Workforce planning is one of the most important factors for a federal agency’s success — it’s also one of the hardest to get right.
Firstly, your workforce is constantly changing. The profile of your team — ages, backgrounds, experience levels, and number of people — is different each year, so your plan needs to adapt accordingly.

And just as all of these factors are difficult to analyze and pin down, so too are the policies regulating workforce management. The restrictions concerning who you can hire for your federal team, when, and how are just as varying as your applicants, making it an even greater challenge to form a solid plan.

Throughout this article, we’ll help you develop a method of workforce planning that is as flexible as it is reliable — starting with an outline of the six phases of workforce planning.

The six phases of workforce analysis (and how they relate to smart HR decisions)

1. Strategic direction

Do you know what your federal team will look like in 5 years? What about 5 months?

What about what you want it to look like? That’s where things get really interesting. And having strategic direction vastly increases the likelihood of your agency getting where you want it to be.

Upcoming policies, changes in the workforce, your agency’s strengths, weaknesses, and needs, expected funding, and your department’s key relationships — these are all considerations, as each will shape the short-, medium- and long-term future of your firm. Taking time to map these out will give you a great idea of where you are today and how you plan to navigate tomorrow.

2. Supply analysis

When we refer to personnel as human capital, we’re directly acknowledging the tangible value they bring to a business. And it’s true: your workforce is an asset, and you should analyze it as such.

Look at your current “supply” of employees: how many employees are in each level of your agency? Where are the shortages and overages, which positions require the most talent, how will turnover rates affect your current workforce? And, most importantly, how does your current workforce align with your long-term goals?

3. Demand analysis

After thorough supply analysis, you’ll next determine what your present and future workforce needs are. If you don’t have enough employees in a particular department, how many would you like to have there to best meet your goals, and how can you find the right people for the job?

A great way to quantify your demand is to look at how long it takes an employee in a specific role to provide a product, service, or result. How would a change in your current team profile affect that time? By analyzing your workforce in this way, it becomes much easier to understand where the greatest demands are — and then go on to answer them.

4. Gap analysis

Gap analysis is the process of looking at your supply versus your demand, finding the gaps, and then coming up with ideas for closing those gaps. This is a multi-faceted process and — as it builds on the previous two activities — your success here depends on how well you understand your workforce supply and demand.

Crucially, gap analysis is built on the understanding that your workforce is far more than the number of employees you have. It’s also the range of skills, experience, and competency — as well as the expected changes in these areas, affecting your workforce’s efficacy. Find the gaps in each of these areas, rank them by importance, and come up with solutions to close them.

5. Solution implementation

With your gaps identified and solutions in hand, it’s time to put all of the data you’ve gathered into play. The keyword here is “implementation”; the “planning” phase of workforce planning is over. The time for making change is now.

It’s important to remember that you don’t just want to implement all of your ideas at once, or as they seem convenient. You need an implementation plan where each step is paced and ordered thoughtfully, so that you capitalize on your goals and avoid missteps. Again, collecting data during phases two, three, and four is the best way to achieve this.

6. Monitoring progress

Finally, no solution should be implemented without a healthy amount of monitoring. If you aren’t monitoring your progress, then you risk spotting underperforming strategies a little too late.

Data: too much, or not enough?

As you may have ascertained, the most critical phases in workforce planning are supply, demand, and gap analysis. All of your decisions are based on the information you gather during these points, meaning that the success or failure of your workforce management hinges on successful data collection.

The problem is, this is also the most difficult aspect of workforce planning. As described earlier, it can be difficult to analyze your workforce and break it down metrically without the right tools or experience. Many agencies find that they’re only able to gather surface-level data at best, and many times, this is done manually.

In recent years, federal HR departments have developed the ability to automate the collection of data on employees — gathering more employee profile data, faster than ever before. However, being able to organize, structure, or pull meaningful insights from this data is its own hurdle, a challenge more difficult than collecting the data in the first place.

The smart solution? Workforce analytics software

It’s in this challenge that workforce analytics provides an excellent solution. Workforce analytics use modern software backed by expert statisticians to provide the best supply, demand, and gap analysis possible, as well as providing insights into how to maximize each of these areas.
Below are three ways that federal agencies can benefit by implementing stronger software analytics into their workforce planning approach.

Prioritizing skills over background

When people are left entirely in charge of recruitment and promotions, unconscious bias sneaks in. One way this manifests itself is to look at education and background, rather than skills and potential.
However, as college prices have soared and the US workforce has gotten older, what we may once have held in mind as the “ideal federal hire” is no longer altogether accurate.

Here, workforce analytics can be a tool for increasing your diversity of job candidates and spotting gaps in the skills of your current and future employees. This shift to skill-based hiring and developing has been strongly supported by the current administration and is making it easier to place veterans in roles where they can thrive.

Coping with an aging workforce

As mentioned above, America’s workforce is aging due to a variety of factors. For employers, this poses several challenges, primarily that you’ll be investing in people nearing retirement. Additionally, older employees tend to have more immediate needs than younger ones, which requires more services and care from employers.

Using analytics software, you can mitigate these risks by better understanding what each employee and candidate has to offer, regardless of their age. Being able to manage your workforce with less concern for age dramatically increases your pool of candidates, and makes it easier to plan for a smooth retirement turnover.

Replacing annual reviews with meaningful, data-driven insights

There are few things in the workplace as outdated as annual reviews. The entire process is inefficient and non-comprehensive — giving you an incomplete view of performance management. Today, most agencies would benefit greatly by supplementing or even outright replacing, annual reviews with on-going data-driven insights.
Tools like Skills Navigator are designed to provide you with an easy and reliable way to test your employees’ competencies in various areas, as well as your supervisors’ and your own. This not keeps your employees more engaged than the traditional annual review, but it also makes it easier to analyze your workforce, implement stronger training models, and more effectively manage your career ladders.

Planning for success with EconSys

Your workforce is one of your most challenging assets to manage, but it’s also your greatest. By implementing strong, modern analytics models and adapting old methods of workforce planning, you can overcome these obstacles and substantially improve the performance of your agency.

Schedule a demo of our workforce planning software, and usher in the future of your federal team.

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