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How winning HR and Finance teams can get workforce planning right in 2021 - together

Grant Halloran Profile picture for user Grant Halloran October 28, 2020
Many HR and Finance teams forged a closer alliance during the pandemic, working together to create organizational agility through workforce planning. Expect even more collaboration in 2021, writes Planful's CEO Grant Halloran

Business teamwork - man and woman fist bump sitting on steps with laptops © Ultimate Photo - shutterstock
(© Ultimate Photo - shutterstock)

Even before the pandemic changed everything, millions of companies were struggling to keep up with accelerated business cycles. Some businesses were able to either keep pace just enough to survive or they were somewhere on the path to digital modernization. The need for more responsive finance and workforce planning was already on the rise.

When the pandemic hit and everything changed, business leaders had to make decisions more quickly and frequently than ever, putting new plans in place and then changing them and course-correcting again and again, as new information flowed in. They had to ensure the members of their workforce were cared for during one of the most challenging times the world has ever experienced. Business leaders relied on their Finance teams to provide options based on financial data, and they counted on HR leaders to make sure people were safe, healthy, and as productive as possible.

2020 isn't quite over yet, but the story that will be remembered will likely center on Finance and HR teams being thrown into the center ring as leaders across every organization looked to these two teams for guidance. Managing workforce planning projects to retain top talent, while balancing the company budget — depending on how demand for their business's products and services shifted due to the pandemic — became mission critical to the survival of the company.

In 2021, the next chapter of the story will be about the impact of Finance and HR teams collaborating more closely to help their company recover and meet the needs of the business at a moment's notice by working from a single source of truth to gain an unbeatable advantage.

A people-first approach for HR and Finance

At Planful, we've seen a huge increase in customer use of our Workforce Planning solution this year (90% of our customers are currently using it), as Finance teams and HR work together to adapt to changes caused by the pandemic. One of our customers, a global manufacturing company for audio equipment, uses our Workforce Planning capabilities to automate tasks and more effectively plan headcount, which streamlined their response to pandemic-related retail shutdowns and re-openings.

They use what-if scenario modeling tools and monthly forecasts to create plans, and the people behind those plans credit the ability to re-forecast quickly for a major improvement in organizational agility. As economic activity ticks up or down in response to factors outside the company's control, the company is able to pivot quickly to mitigate risks and embrace opportunities.

By putting their people first in the Continuous Planning framework, our customers are able to improve collaboration between Finance and HR and access a single source of data to stay resilient and respond quickly when disruptions occur. Whether addressing competitor actions or external events like a pandemic, business leaders who operate in a Continuous Planning framework can make faster, more iterative decisions.

Creating visibility into the company's main asset - and main expense

The pandemic underscored the need for businesses to act quickly and strategically — with immediate access to timely data and the ability to conduct more rapid, iterative decision-making. In response, a generation of digital natives in Finance departments worldwide are demanding technology to modernize the back office, so they can do their jobs more effectively. They know disconnected spreadsheets, emails, and hundreds of video meetings won't cut it, and they want to work in the cloud — always on, accessible anywhere.

Finance is often the first business unit to understand the need for Continuous Planning. Finance leaders recognize that since business is continuously changing, planning has to be continuous too. They understand the importance of implementing cloud technology that can help them reach that state. The nature of the work demands that the Finance departments have access to real-time, accurate data to compare budgeted expenses to actuals, produce forecasts and reports, and model what-if scenarios to give business leaders actionable insights.

But the budget owner for most businesses' largest, and most important expense line item — people — is also starting to demand new tools to help them plan for the workforce of tomorrow. After a crash course in working with Finance to help their colleagues see financial questions in terms of the impact on people (and absorbing the Finance team's dollars-and-cents perspective), HR leaders are turning to workforce planning solutions within cloud-based financial planning and analysis platforms (FP&A). In 2021, these solutions will be more important than ever for organizations to empower and support the people that create positive business outcomes.

Compressed cycle times, more collaboration and connections

HR is the natural starting point for Finance teams looking to expand the Continuous Planning approach into every corner of their business. Everyone plans, and these days plans change often, so it makes sense to bring everyone onto a single platform so that accurate, timely data can flow across the organization instead of being isolated in departmental silos.

Financial planning, workforce planning, and decision-making is happening across the business all the time, not just in the Finance department, but in all corners of the business. The quality of those decisions, especially around workforce planning, will have a major impact on business results, since those determinations will set human capital investment levels.

Since winning companies typically invest the most in their people as their most valuable asset, a new workforce planning solution that rationalizes employee expenses and improves collaboration and connections between Finance and HR is imperative. But, keep in mind that it is just the beginning. A fully realized state of Continuous Planning includes all budget owners in the business, and that makes the company nimble and resilient.

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