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Five Ways to Include Workforce Planning in Corporate Strategy Sessions and
Why You Should

Lessons learned from the Tennessee Valley Authority

Corporate strategy sessions help energy companies set priorities, establish goals and allocate resources to achieve those goals. While they might typically include information about how many people the company hopes to hire in the coming year – necessary for setting an annual budget – it’s not typical to set aside time in these sessions to discuss workforce planning.

Unless you work for the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).

“We go beyond a head count exercise and actually focus on providing information to the business about our workforce and workplace climate, to drive discussions on people initiatives for the coming year,” said Sam Held, a TVA analyst in its Workforce Planning and Analytics department.

Held started doing this five years ago, when the company underwent several changes and Human Resources took back the responsibility for workforce planning. He thought it would help company leaders if he provided them with greater context to support initiatives under development in the annual business plan, as well as information about emerging issues that the company may need to address, such as stronger retention efforts or diversity and inclusion programs.

“We go beyond a head count exercise and actually focus on providing information to the business about our workforce and workplace climate, to drive discussions on people initiatives for the coming year.”

Sam Held

Analyst, TVA

The process has received positive feedback from leadership, said Held, so he has continued to expand his efforts each year. Here are his tips for how to include workforce planning in a company’s strategic planning sessions, along with his thoughts on why doing so is of value.

1. Start simple. Then expand and improve your efforts each year. It takes time to earn trust.

“We pretty much started very simple and basic, with two or three slides the first year on the headcount, hire and attrition projections, and composition of the total workforce (employees and contractors). The next year, we added information on diversity and inclusion. This last year, we focused on a lot of topics related to the workforce and workplace, the broadest overview we’ve had yet, and it was well received.”

2. Make your improvements around the changing needs of the business.

“Each year we worked with HR business partners to improve the information we provided based on feedback regarding the needs of the business. In year three, we had a focus on contractors, we put in a lot of information about the various roles contractors were playing, how often they were used for short-term or long-term projects, for outages, or to fill permanent vacancies. Then we had information about which vendors they came from and how long they had been working with TVA.”

3. Collaborate with HR business partners to hear the business concerns.

“Adding the contractor information came from conversations we had with HR business partners about what was driving the business, what the leadership felt they needed to focus on that year.”

4. Focus on the workplace climate that supports retention of employees, in addition to making sure there is proper staffing.

“We focus so much on making sure we have enough people, but we don’t focus on the quality of the experience they are having in their workplace, whether or not people want to stay with us or stay within the business unit they are in. We need to focus on ways to ensure that they are engaged, that they are having positive relationships with TVA and their leaders.”

5. Make sure Human Resources is seen as a partner.

“The benefit of doing this is that you get data-driven decisions on initiatives around the workforce. So instead of every year the same initiative being in place, the data can drive and inform the gaps in what the business needs to allow for better decisions. You are helping leaders to make data-driven decisions about their people initiatives.”

“If we see a significant change in underrepresented groups, such as women or people of color, we can bring that to the attention of leadership and talk about inclusion and other efforts. This process is a way for us to review that with leadership at least annually.”

“We try to come up with recommendations, then work with the leadership on specifics. What we’re trying to do is show them where we have gaps, so the business partners can engage in discussions about how to address those gaps.”