Tribridge Connections

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Are You Taking Workforce Planning Cues from Your Customer Queues?

Published: November 11, 2013

Today I had one of those mornings when I was thinking about aging — and not just my personal journey through the calendar, but our aging society in general. Within the past week, I have received an invitation to a retirement party for a former colleague and had a conversation with an industry colleague who’s in his winding-down stage. These recent events left me feeling a little nostalgic about my days of working with these two. I will miss their camaraderie and wisdom. It was in that frame of mind that I headed off to the airport for a quick two-day business trip…

My destination — Terminal 3 at LAX. With my flight half empty, it still took over 30 minutes for passengers to board and the plane to push back from the jetway.

After waiting in traffic on the highway this morning, waiting to pass through U.S. border control (my departure city was in Canada) and waiting again at security, there I was, waiting for an unusually long time in a mini traffic jam in the plane aisle, watching a group of seniors struggle to get settled. Trouble is, they couldn’t lift their own carry-on luggage to store it, and all the young, more able-bodied flight attendants were absorbed in other tasks, including assisting a wheelchair passenger onto the plane.

Finally, a young woman waiting ahead of me jumped into action and two more of us joined her, stowing away multiple bags for the four seniors and two other elderly passengers behind us. It struck me that this airline is one of those organizations that is probably not at all prepared for the age-related changes we are just starting to face in our workplace.

Have a Solid Succession Planning Strategy in Place for Increasing Workforce Retirements

I have to wonder if the HR folks for this airline have a solid succession planning strategy and the tools and talent in place to analyze and then adapt their staffing to continue to fill key roles in the face of increasing retirements. But more important, are they also thinking about the ways they may need to reinvent their workforce to respond to a changing passenger base — an older base who will need more high-touch services when traveling (increasing the need for even more employees in a tight talent market, and increasing operating costs)?

Is your business preparing for the implications of both an aging workforce and an aging customer? Do you have an analytics team, and the right tools and data to analyze and plan for an age-related business transformation? Is that analytics team made up of data gurus; analytics specialists who’ve taken more than a first-year stats class; and a combination of HR practitioners and experienced marketing professionals who work side-by-side to monitor customer behavior, and who develop plans to respond to customer aging with new staffing levels and employee skill sets?

If your company is like most companies, you’ll answer “No, we don’t have that in place.” You might even say, “We’re not that far along with our big data strategy yet” — but this isn’t even big data, this is still the small stuff around employee and customer demographics. If you’re a large, even somewhat innovative company, you’ll probably answer that you’re in the midst of implementing, replacing, troubleshooting or expanding some portion of your HR platform, be that your HRIS, recruitment management system, LMS, performance management system or other system. But are you putting all your focus and resources on software solutions at the expense of starting to build a talent analytics function?

Bersin’s latest research on the state of talent analytics provides a very accurate account of the common challenges companies are struggling with right now. As the report states, “Only 4 percent of companies have achieved the capability to perform ‘predictive analytics’ about their workforce.” Eight-four percent “are still dealing with data management and reporting challenges, trying to get out from under the burden of ad-hoc reports to deliver standard operational metrics.

In other words, they haven’t started to form an analytics team to get on top of trends and patterns that provide the clues for workforce planning. Also boldly stated was a fact that few leaders talk about (but those in the trenches who spend days on just one report know all too well): many leaders fail to act on what the data is telling them. “One of the biggest challenges…is getting people to change their behavior once they have the data. Most managers have years of ‘belief systems’ and ‘experience’ that holds them back from using the data science we provide.”

Innovative Data Mining Tools

The HR industry is blossoming right now with some really innovative data mining tools that companies should be adopting in addition to their HR systems. And if your organization is not into the DIY approach, there are brilliant vendors who will help you manage your data and mine it, and will read it back to you like a psychic reading your palm — only in this case, instead of reading your lifeline, they’ll tell you what your customer lineups mean in terms of your workforce planning needs.

If you don’t yet have a comprehensive workforce analytics and planning solution in place, let us help you get started with some key tools to first “read” your current data. Then, with some key insights in hand, we’ll help you craft the right road map to get the appropriate HR software solutions — and the requisite talent attraction, development and retention programs — in place to better prepare for an older workforce and customer base.

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