Expand Your Aperture Further: “Green” Strategic Workforce Planning

This is the fifth in a series of eight blog posts that focus on Strategic Workforce Planning.

First of all, congratulations on getting this far on the Green Strategic Workforce Planning process. There are several steps involved and it takes dedication and commitment to see this through in order to craft a powerful, impact-focused plan for the future.

Step 4, Broaden Your Aperture Further, is where we start to connect the dots between the information you’ve collected -- (see Step 2: Broaden Your Aperture and Step 3: Looking for Hidden Patterns) -- and your Business Need (see Step 1: Frame Your Project).

Start by going back to Step 1: Frame Your Project.

How does the analysis of the STEEP trends and data you’ve gathered in Step 3: Looking for Hidden Patterns relate to Step 1: Frame Your Project, where you focused on your Business Need?

Here are some ways you can start to assemble the data in alignment with your Business Need so you can make sense of it.

An observation and a recommendation: This part of the process can seem tedious ...and it can also generate the most value for you if you’re open to playing with it.

My advice is if you find yourself starting to fall asleep as you read below, find a colleague who loves working with data (e.g., ask your data analytics team for help) and let them guide you through the review and analysis.

You will still need to stay in the driver’s seat, staying focused on the Business Need, and they can help make the experience more streamlined and effective.

On to assembling the data and making sense of it:

  • Organize your data. It’s easy to collect a bunch of emails and reports in a folder, but the power lies in finding a way to gather the information and organize it.

  • Excel spreadsheets and Word files that compile data into one overall document are fine, but they have huge limitations when it comes to analyzing that data and making sense of it. It’s like building a castle with a spork. You may get there, but it will be incremental and slow, and the spork may not do everything you need when it comes to building the kinds of turrets that give you horizon-level perspectives.

  • Tools like Tableau, Microsoft BI and others (refer to Sharon Machlis’ article for good suggestions) are useful for visualizing data.

  • Some other good tools for quantitative analysis are here and the link also provides some excellent qualitative tools too.

  • Additional qualitative tools that you may want to check out include Provalis Research Text Analytics Software, Quirkos, Dedoose, and Raven’s Eye (see more here).

  • Standardize your data. You want to standardize your data. For example, are states in your survey data spelled out (New York vs. NY)? Are percentages all rounded off or included to the first decimal point? These kinds of nuances are important for being sure you are able to work most easily with the information you’ve collected. A few good tools for doing this are Data Wrangler and Trifacta (Source: “22 Free Tools for Data Analysis and Visualization,” by Sharon Machlis with ComputerWorld).

  • Code your data. This is especially valuable for qualitative data like interview notes. Identify common themes from industry literature or academic literature, or both. Establish a core set of themes and use these to group or code your data. This way you can easily run reports to pull out insights that repeat themselves over time (establish patterns) or identify insights that stand out (possible emerging trends).

  • Go back to Step 1: Frame Your Project and clarify the questions you are asking. Revisit what you are doing, why you are doing it, and the key questions you are asking. Review, refine, and adjust. Take advantage of the time you’ve spent away from the Business Need and take a fresh look at it. Ask others who have not been a part of the process for their take on what you are asking: consider establishing an advisory committee or team to guide you in the methodology and who know the business well enough to point out gaps to address. Peer review is a beautiful thing :) You likely will find you are pretty much on track, and the minor tweaks you make at this stage have the potential to make your Strategic Workforce Plan even more effective.

  • Triangulate your data. This is a standard approach in social science research and