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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 it carries over to Strategic Workforce Planning as well, since you are likely using both qualitative and quantitative data to map your plan for the future. There are many good reasons for triangulating data, and the website Better Evaluation gives an excellent overview.

  • Some of the ways you can do this, as the Better Evaluation site notes (based on Derzin, 1973, p. 301), include theory triangulation, which involves using more than one theoretical scheme in interpreting data or a phenomenon that’s occurring, and methodological triangulation, whichinvolves using more than one option to gather data, such as interviews, observations, questionnaires, and documents.”

  • Here’s an example of methodological triangulation to illustrate this technique. In this case, the people analyzing the data looked at Perceptions (individual interviews, survey data), Validation (direct observations, specific studies, group consultations, trend analysis, and institutional or organizational data), and Documentation (document review and a meta-analysis of monitoring and evaluation data, such as performance review data). Together, these elements helped define a picture of what was occurring and established hints for future possible directions.

Three major areas of evaluative evidence used in the Global Environmental

Facility country program evaluations, as presented by Carugi, 2014.

NOTE: M&E = monitoring and evaluation.

I realize this step can be a heavy lift for some teams, as it’s starting to put a structure in place so you can compare apples and apples. But, it’s well worth the time investment because it will ensure the quality of data and its reliability for the future-forward planning you are seeking to do.

In our next blog post highlighting Step 5: Speed and Trajectory, we’ll look at the factor of time as a variable for your Green Strategic Workforce Plan.

A few questions to ponder:

  • What data analysis tools is your team currently using? Are any of these tools appropriate to consider for this initiative?

  • Who within your organization might be willing to serve as a trusted advisor for the Green Strategic Workforce Planning process?

ICYMI...Strategic Workforce Planning Series: 7 Steps for “Green” Strategic Workforce Planning Frame Your Project: “Green” Strategic Workforce Planning Broaden Your Aperture: “Green” Strategic Workforce Planning Looking for Patterns: “Green” Strategic Workforce Planning

Can we help with building the skills you need to advance greener outcomes?

Reach out to Beth Offenbacker, PhD, CPCC, ACC, at or via phone or text at 703-623-4811 to discuss if our Green Career, Executive/Leadership Coaching, Strategic Workforce Planning, Small Group Mentoring, Stakeholder Engagement, or Learning & Development services are right for you.

We work with professionals and organizations that have a sustainability focus in their work. All services are customized to your needs.

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