How Far Out Should We Forecast Skill Needs?

By Staff Report

Apr. 10, 2014

Dear Soothsayer:

Unfortunately, the answer to your question is: It depends. Your forecasting will be influenced by the difficulty you have finding the right people with the right skill sets, plus the time it takes you (with your internal system) to hire them. Here are some examples.

If you are recruiting an endocrinologist for a rural health system, it might take two years to find a suitable candidate. On the other hand, if you are looking for a chicken plucker, you will want to consider how soon your facility will be automating its process. You then will need to forecast the need for an IT professional capable of programming your plant’s software and technologies.

Most organizations are forecasting one to two years out. This time period used to be longer, but too many aspects have sped up the pace of change with the emergence of global business. Now, many organizations consider three years to be a long-range forecast.

Start by looking at your organization’s goals and strategic plan. Attempting to forecast your skills needs in a vacuum makes it a rather fruitless exercise. That’s not to say you should abandon the effort, since workforce planning is a critical component in preparing for the future. In brief, be sure your forecasting time frame is long enough to recruit and hire people who have the skills you need, at the point you need them.

SOURCE: Joyce Gioia, strategic business futurist, The Herman Group, Austin, Texas, March 27, 2014

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