Predictive human resources
Strategic workforce planning uses historical trends to influence staffing.
When Sean Morrison joined the workforce, the human resources (HR) department tended to be reactive and transactional. Today, the Mountain America Credit Union vice president of human resources uses predictive analysis to keep the $16 billion asset credit union in Sandy, Utah, fully staffed and operating efficiently.
“HR has come a long way,” says Morrison, who has previously worked in HR at Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Guckenheimer. “People don’t always act rationally or predictably, but we can identify patterns, trends, and supply and demand needs that give us direction and insight.”
That’s where strategic workforce planning comes into play. It’s the idea that companies can use historical data, insights, and predictive analysis to plan for staffing changes and needs.
“It’s about being more thoughtful, predictive, and actionable about how we’re planning for, attracting, recruiting, and retaining the best talent for the credit union,” Morrison says. “It’s what's going to happen based on what's happened previously.”
There are many different approaches to workforce planning. Some companies may seek to fill every role they anticipate opening, while others may try to cover 80% of the roles ahead of time. Either way, reducing the time a role is open decreases the pain businesses feel when short-staffed.
Prior to the pandemic, Mountain America’s service center turnover rate exceeded 20%. When the pandemic hit, it rose to almost 60%. Further, when a service center agent left the 3,100-employee organization, it took six to eight weeks to fill the role.
“It was creating a ton of pain in the credit union,” Morrison says. “When turnover starts to go up, it creates more stress because you've got fewer employees doing more work. It drives turnover even higher, so you want to get in front of it where you're not losing people because they’re overwhelmed. Our service center was the first place we said, ‘We're bleeding and we have to stop this.’”
To do so, Mountain America staff looked at historical turnover rates and projected growth rates of their high-volume roles to predict when openings would occur.
“We obviously don't know the future, but we know where we've been and we know where we want to grow,” Morrison says. “What’s nice about looking at historicals is that people aren't that different over time. We've been attracting the same types of people for a period of time, so you can start to see what's happening.”
The credit union’s automated system refreshes every day based on the assumptions input from staff. Biweekly meetings go through the projections and adjustments the credit union needs to make. With that model in place, high-volume roles fill quickly.
“When a role opens, we essentially have someone ready to go,” Morrison says. “A couple of months ago was the first time I can remember we were fully staffed.”
It's not just about getting the staffing numbers right. Morrison stresses the importance of a detailed onboarding process that brings employees up to speed and allows the credit union to find candidates that will succeed in their role.
“Getting hiring decisions right is important. If someone’s not a good fit and it doesn't work out, that’s more money wasted,” he says, adding that credit unions should build talent pools within the organization to prepare employees for their next role.Morrison also suggests HR departments interested in using predictive analytics make strategic workforce planning “big enough to matter, but small enough to execute.”
“If it's not big enough, you're not really building any credibility with the leadership,” he says. “If it's too big, it becomes unmanageable, overwhelming, and people give up. So, start somewhere and slowly add on to make it bigger.
“In the end, we want the right people with the right skills at the right time,” Morrison adds. “When do we think people might leave? What do we need to do to prepare people to take their place? The process never stops.”