Forecasting the needs of inside candidates

Knowing staffing needs satisfies only half the staffing equation. Next, is to estimate the likely supply of both inside and outside candidates. Most firms start with the inside candidates.

The main task is determining which current employees might be qualified for the projected openings. For this a HR manager needs to know current employees’ skills and their current qualifications. Sometimes it’s obvious how to proceed. For example, when Bill Gates needed someone to lead Microsoft’s new user interface project, his first question was, “Where’s Kai-Fu?” His firm’s voice recognition expert, Kai-Fu Lee, was in China at the time establishing a new research lab for the firm. Sometimes it’s not so obvious, and managers turn to qualifications inventories. These contain data on employees’ performance records, educational background, and their capabilities for promoting them. These help mangers determine which employees are available for promotion or transfer.

Using Computers to Forecast Personnel Requirements:
Employers also use computerized forecasts to estimate future personnel requirements. Typical data needed include direct labor hours required to produce one unit of product (a measure of productivity), and three sales projections – minimum, maximum, and probable – for the product line in question. Based on such data, atypical program generates figures on average staff levels required to meet product demands, as well as separate computerized forecasts for direct labor such as assembly workers, indirect staff such as secretaries and exempt staff such as executives.

With programs like these, employers can quickly translate projected productivity and sales levels into forecasts of personnel needs. They can then estimate the effects of various productivity and sales level assumptions on personnel requirements.

Many firms use automated employee forecasting systems. In retailing, for instance, automated labor scheduling systems help retailers estimate required staffing needs based on sales forecasts and estimated store traffic.

Whichever method you use, managerial judgment will play a big role. It’s rare that any historical trend, ratio, or relationship will simply continue unchanged into the future. An employer will therefore have to modify the forecast based on factors such as projected turnover or a desire to enter new markets they believe will be important.

Manual Systems and Replacement Charts: Managers use several simple manual devices to track employee qualifications. A personnel inventory and development record form compiles qualifications information on each employee. This information includes education, company-sponsored courses taken, career and development interests, languages, desired assignments, and skills.

Personnel replacement charts are another option, particularly for the firm’s top positions. They show the present performance and promotion potential for each position’s potential replacement. As an alternative, a HR manager can develop a position replacement card. Here a card is created for each position, showing possible replacements as well as their present performance, promotion potential, and training.

Computerized Information Systems: Companies don’t generally track the qualifications of hundreds or thousands of employees manually. Most firms computerize this information, using various packaged software systems. These systems are linked in with the firm’s other HR systems, including its automated applicant tracking systems.

In many of these computerized qualifications systems, the employees and the HR department enter information about employees’ background, experience, and skills, often using the company intranet. When a manager needs a person for a position, he or she describes the position (for instance, in terms of education ad skills). After scanning its database of possible candidates, the system produces a list of qualified candidates. Such a computerized skills inventory might include Work experience codes; Product knowledge, the employee’s level of familiarity with the employer’s product lines or services; Industry experience, the person’s industry experiences, since for some positions work in related industries is very useful; and Formal education.

The Matter of Privacy: It is important to secure the data in the firm’s personnel data banks. First, there is a lot of employee information in most data banks. Second, Internet / intranet access and other changes mean it’s often easier for more people to access thee data.

Balancing the employer’s legitimate right to make this information available to those in the firm who need it with the employees’ right to privacy isn’t easy. One approach is to use the access matrices incorporated in many database management systems. These matrices define the rights of users specified by name, rank, or functional identification to various kinds of access such as “read only” or “write only” to each database element. So the system might authorize employees in accounting to read information such as the employee’s address, phone number, Social Security number, and pension status. The HR director, on the other hand, could both read and write all items.