Aligning Workforce Planning and Business Strategy in the Plastics Industry

Running a plastics business with a team that’s perfectly equipped to deliver your strategic goals sounds ideal, doesn’t it? However, for many companies in the global plastics industry – an industry valued at a whopping $2billion as of 2023 and growing – this ideal remains elusive. Why is that? Often, it comes down to a misalignment between workforce planning and business strategy.

In a world where highly specialized skills are in demand, businesses can’t afford to overlook the importance of strategic workforce planning. It becomes even more crucial when you’re operating in a highly competitive industry, like plastics, where powerhouses such as ExxonMobil, Sinopec, and LyondellBasell dominate the market. Aligning your workforce planning with your business strategy isn’t only a smart move, it’s a necessary one.

In this blog, we’ll dive into the key factors of this alignment and provide you with actionable strategies to turn your workforce into your strongest asset.

What is Workforce Planning?

Let’s begin by demystifying the term ‘workforce planning’. In simple terms, workforce planning is about having the right people, with the right skills, in the right places, at the right time. It’s an ongoing process that involves assessing your current workforce, determining future workforce needs, and identifying the gap between the present and the future. The ultimate goal? To ensure your workforce can effectively support your business strategy.

An article from Forbes Advisor highlighted some key HR statistics, and here are a few points to ponder:

  • HR Staff Ratio: According to industry standards, there should ideally be 1.4 HR staff for every 100 employees. This ratio ensures sufficient manpower to manage your workforce effectively.
  • Organizational Changes and Employee Burnout: Nearly half of all employees experienced burnout due to organizational changes. In a dynamic sector like plastics, changes are inevitable. However, managing these changes effectively can help reduce employee burnout and retain your top talent.
  • The Employee Experience: 47% of HR leaders reported employee experience as a priority this year. Enhancing the employee experience can lead to higher job satisfaction, better performance, and lower turnover rates. It’s a key piece of the workforce planning puzzle.
  • Career Paths: Interestingly, 44% of companies did not provide compelling career paths. A well-defined career path can be a strong magnet for talent – especially in a specialized industry like plastics. It gives employees a sense of direction and an understanding of how they can grow within your organization.

Fast forward to 2024, Forbes and Gartner mentioned some vital stats we can expect in terms of workforce planning trends, and how these will impact the plastics industry:

  • A Healthier Job Market: Reports suggest a steady job market growth, with businesses once again investing in growth. This promising outlook brings a fresh wave of opportunities – and challenges – for the plastics industry. As more jobs open up, the competition for top-tier talent is likely to intensify. This underscores the need for smart workforce planning strategies that can help you attract and retain the best talent.
  • Quality Over Quantity in Hiring: The trend leans towards hiring for quality over quantity. For the plastics industry, this is a crucial trend to note. A smaller team of highly skilled employees can often deliver better results than a larger team with less specialized skills. It’s about finding the right fit for each role – individuals who can bring value to your operations and align with your business strategy.
  • HR Leaders’ Priorities: HR leaders are setting their sights on a few key areas, with leader and manager development topping the list. Moreover, organizational culture, HR technology, change management, and career management, and internal mobility are also on their radar. These priorities highlight the multifaceted role of HR in shaping a productive and engaging work environment – a critical factor in effective workforce planning.

Understanding these trends can help your business stay ahead of the curve and adapt your workforce planning strategies accordingly. After all, keeping a finger on the pulse of what’s next is a big part of staying competitive in the fast-paced plastics industry.

6 Strategies in Aligning Workforce Planning with Business Strategy

Think of your business strategy as the destination, and your workforce as the vehicle that can get you there. If your vehicle isn’t equipped for the journey – say it doesn’t have enough fuel or the right navigational tools – you’re unlikely to reach your destination.

To ensure a smoother journey towards your business goals, consider aligning your workforce planning with your business strategy like aligning your vehicle’s wheels. Here are some strategic ways to do it and why are they vital:

1. Leveraging HR Technology

In today’s digital age, technology plays a key role in nearly every aspect of business. Leveraging HR technology can give you a significant competitive advantage by helping you manage and plan your workforce efficiently and strategically. How? Let’s take a closer look.

HR technology refers to any software or tool that is designed to automate, streamline, and improve human resources operations and processes. It can range from applicant tracking systems (ATS) to performance management software.

Here’s why it matters for workforce planning:

  • Efficiency: HR technology can automate many tedious, time-consuming tasks. For example, an ATS can automatically shortlist candidates based on specific criteria, thereby reducing the time spent screening resumes.
  • Data-Driven Decisions: HR tools can provide valuable data and insights that can inform your workforce planning. They can track key metrics such as turnover rate, time to fill a position, and employee engagement levels, which can guide your HR strategies.
  • Improved Employee Experience: HR technology can also enhance the employee experience. For instance, self-service portals allow employees to manage their information, benefits, and time-off requests independently. This can lead to increased employee satisfaction and engagement.

It’s important to choose an HR tech stack that fits your company’s needs. Keep in mind your company size, budget, and specific HR challenges when selecting tools. Also, ensure that any technology you adopt is user-friendly as it will be used by both the HR team and the general employee population.

2. Prioritizing Employee Development

Let’s delve into the reasons why employee development is a must-have:

  • Attracting Talent: Employees are on the lookout for companies that prioritize their professional growth. Offering development opportunities can be a major draw for talented individuals seeking to advance their careers.
  • Retaining Talent: Development opportunities aren’t just about bringing talent in; they’re also about keeping them. When employees see a clear path for growth within your company, they’re less likely to look for opportunities elsewhere.
  • Fostering Engagement: Learning and development initiatives can also boost employee engagement levels. Employees who are actively developing their skills often feel more motivated and committed to their work.
  • Building a Skilled Workforce: From a purely practical standpoint, employee development helps build a more skilled and versatile workforce. As your employees grow their skill sets, your company reaps the benefits of their increased capabilities.

Here are a few ideas to prioritize employee development:

  • Training Programs: These can range from on-the-job training to formal courses and certifications. The key is to offer relevant training that will help your employees excel in their current roles and prepare for future ones.
  • Mentorship Programs: Pairing less experienced employees with seasoned professionals can be a great way for them to gain knowledge and insights.
  • Career Planning: Work with your employees to create individual career plans. These can help them map out their career path within your company and identify the skills they need to grow.
  • Learning Culture: Foster a culture that values learning. This can involve encouraging curiosity, celebrating learning milestones, and ensuring managers prioritize their team’s development.

In essence, prioritizing employee development isn’t an expense but an investment – in your employees, their futures, and the future success of your company in the competitive plastics industry.

3. Fostering a Strong Company Culture

High-quality products and innovative technology are definitely important for successful companies. But there’s something else that’s equally, if not more, vital: a strong company culture.

Let’s take a closer look at why it matters:

  • Appealing to Top Talent: Job seekers aren’t just looking for a paycheck. They also value a workplace where they feel valued, respected, and part of a community. A company known for its positive culture can become a magnet for high-quality talent.
  • Keeping Talent: A good salary isn’t always enough to keep your employees around. However, a strong, positive company culture can significantly boost employee retention rates. When employees feel a sense of belonging and satisfaction in their work environment, they’re less likely to leave.
  • Boosting Performance: Employees who feel happy and engaged in their workplace are likely to be more productive, innovative, and committed to their work. This can translate into better performance and results for your company.

Here are some pointers to foster a strong company culture:

  • Shared Values: Identify your company’s core values and ensure they’re consistently communicated and upheld. These values can guide behaviors, decisions, and actions within your company.
  • Recognition and Appreciation: Regularly acknowledge and reward your employees’ efforts and achievements. This can boost morale and motivate your workforce to perform their best.
  • Work-Life Balance: Respect your employees’ need for a healthy work-life balance. This can involve flexible work hours, remote work options, or wellness initiatives.
  • Leadership Example: Leaders play a pivotal role in shaping company culture. They should lead by example, embodying the company values and fostering a positive work environment.

Remember, fostering a strong company culture isn’t an overnight process. It requires concerted effort and commitment. But the payoff is well worth the effort, especially in the highly competitive plastics industry.

4. Implementing Effective Recruitment Strategies

Recruiting in the plastics industry isn’t always a walk in the park. With a competitive market and a specialized field, finding the right people to drive your business goals, contribute to your company’s goals and fit well with your company culture can be challenging. But don’t worry, we’ve got some strategies that can help you attract the cream of the crop to your organization.

  • Targeting Passive Candidates: While active job seekers are certainly worth your attention, don’t overlook passive candidates – those who are not actively looking for a new job but might be interested if the right opportunity comes along. These individuals often have the experience and skills you’re looking for. You can reach out to them through LinkedIn or similar professional networks, or hire a skilled recruiter who specializes in your industry.
  • Leveraging Professional Networks: Speaking of professional networks, they can be a goldmine of potential candidates. Attend industry events, join online forums, and participate in relevant groups on social platforms. These activities can help you connect with professionals in the field, including those who might be interested in working for your company.
  • Employer Branding: A strong employer brand can attract high-quality candidates. Highlight your company culture, development opportunities, and other perks on your career page and social media platforms.
  • Detailed Job Descriptions: A well-written job description can attract the right candidates and filter out those who are not a good fit. Be clear about the job responsibilities, required skills and qualifications, and what it’s like to work at your company.

Skills Assessment: To hire the best fit, it’s essential to assess a candidate’s skills carefully. This can be done through interviews, tests, or even a short-term project related to the role.

5. Promoting Internal Mobility

One of the best sources of talent may be right under your nose. Promoting internal mobility can offer a host of benefits for both your company and your employees.

We’ve listed a few compelling reasons to consider for promoting from within:

  • Familiarity: Internal candidates already understand your company culture, processes, and systems. This can lead to faster onboarding and quicker productivity when moving to a new role.
  • Retention: When employees see that there are opportunities for growth within your company, they’re more likely to stick around. Internal mobility signals that your company values its employees and their career progression.
  • Morale Boost: When your employees see their colleagues moving up the ranks, it can boost morale and motivation across the board. It sends a clear message that hard work and dedication can lead to career advancement.
  • Cost-Efficient: Hiring from within can be more cost-effective than external hiring, as it can significantly reduce recruitment expenses and time.

Here’s a simple and effective roadmap:

  • Career Pathing: Discuss clear career paths with your employees. This gives them a vision of their future within your company and the steps needed to get there.
  • Skills Development: Invest in training and development programs to help your employees acquire the skills needed to move up the ladder.

Fair Assessment: Use a fair and objective assessment process when considering internal candidates. This can involve interviews, performance reviews, and skills assessments.

6. Maintaining Open Communication

A business without clear and open communication might make the employees feel like they’re running in that confusing and chaotic relay race – doesn’t know when to pass the baton or in which direction they’re heading.

Here’s why maintaining open communication is vital:

  • Clarity and Alignment: Open communication can help your employees understand your business strategies and how their roles contribute to these strategies. This understanding can foster better alignment between your workforce and your business goals.
  • Employee Engagement: When employees are well-informed about your company’s direction and their role in it, they’re more likely to feel engaged and committed to their work.
  • Trust and Transparency: Open communication fosters a culture of trust and transparency. When employees feel their leaders are transparent and approachable, it can enhance their sense of belonging and trust in the company.
  • Improved Performance: Clear communication about expectations, goals, and feedback can lead to improved performance. Employees can better focus on their tasks when they know exactly what they need to do and why it matters.

To cultivate open communication in your organization, consider these:

  • Regular Updates: Regularly update your employees about your company’s strategies, changes, and updates. This can be done through team meetings, newsletters, or digital communication platforms.
  • Open-Door Policy: Encourage an open-door policy where employees feel comfortable raising ideas, concerns, or questions with their managers.
  • Two-Way Communication: Communication shouldn’t be just top-down. Encourage bottom-up communication by asking for feedback and ideas from your employees.
  • Clear and Concise Communication: Keep your communication clear and concise to avoid misunderstandings. Remember, the goal is to keep everyone on the same page, moving towards the same goal.

 

Aligning your workforce planning with your business strategy is about unlocking the full potential of your workforce, paving the way towards your business goals, and building a company that people are proud to be a part of.

At Plastic Executive Recruiters, we understand the unique challenges and opportunities in the plastics industry. With our years of expertise in the field, we’re delighted to support companies like yours in developing strategic workforce planning to take your business to new heights. 

Yes, the journey may be complex, but with the right partner by your side, it’s definitely attainable. Reach out to our team today and let’s start working together towards your success!

Ed Keil

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