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Libby Marks

The Difference Between Reactive & Proactive Resourcing

Don’t let reactive resourcing risk your projects’ success. Follow our expert tips to get proactive about your people - and business prospects.

The way you approach your resourcing - be it reactive or proactive - can make a huge difference for your business. In this guide, we'll explain the two and how far they can get you. 

Proactive vs reactive resource management: What’s the difference?

Proactive resourcing is strategic and forward-looking, compared to reactive resourcing, which responds to problems as they occur. 

Proactive resourcing is a strategic approach to staffing your professional services firm. It’s about actively managing resources to achieve specific organizational objectives.

You use historical data, current knowledge, and future plans to anticipate resource demand - and create a resourcing strategy to meet that demand effectively. It aims to avoid the problems and costs associated with over- and under-staffing, plus develop your workforce for the future. 

Reactive resourcing is a more immediate, short-term approach to staffing. It addresses problems as they arise and aims to resolve them in a quick and efficient manner. Recruitment may be last minute and allocations ad hoc rather than strategic.

There can be a disconnect between organizational objectives and how people are recruited, managed, and allocated. In some organizations, reactive resourcing isn’t so much a strategy as something that happens when things go wrong - a form of firefighting. Businesses in this scenario are most at risk. 

In practice, although reactive resourcing might seem less desirable, organizations need to be good at both. Proactive resourcing is strategic and forward-looking. But reactive resource management is important too, ensuring resource challenges are dealt with efficiently. 

Features of proactive resource management

  • Strategic focus - Aligning resources and resourcing strategy with the long-term goals of the organization, to help achieve business objectives and growth. 
  • Capacity planning - Forecasting likely demand and opportunities, both in terms of resource capacity and capability building, to ensure the business has the resources it needs to deliver.
  • Resource management - Strategic deployment of resources to optimize delivery, reduce bottlenecks,  improve utilization rates, and build-in agility.
  • Strategic recruitment - Planning how to identify and acquire the talent required for business success, at the right time and cost to the business.
  • Development and retention - Developing and supporting staff to deliver great work - including upskilling to bridge any skills gaps, and aligning allocations to career aspirations.

Features of reactive resource management

  • Operational focus - Resolving immediate operational issues, rather than focusing on long-term optimization.
  • Troubleshooting - Effectively resolving problems, such as resource clashes, rather than planning ways to avoid them in the first place. 
  • Reactive recruitment - Filling vacancies as they arise, aiming to do so effectively and minimize disruption to operations.
  • On-demand resource allocation - Allocating resources based on the most urgent and immediate needs, rather than strategically (for example, to upskill or encourage higher engagement).

7 tips for proactive resource management 

Align resourcing to strategy

Get to know your organization's objectives for the coming year. What are senior management hoping to achieve and how can resourcing strategy help? Are they looking to cut costs? Do they want to expand? Double down on specific types of projects? All of this information can help you proactively align resourcing to strategy. For example, if there is an efficiency agenda, you can look for ways to improve resource utilization rates and redeploy under-utilized resources. 

Set relevant resourcing KPIs

Setting and measuring performance against KPIs helps you make sure everything is going to plan. There are specific resource management KPIs - such as measuring utilization rate - and KPIs associated with wider business objectives. For example, we mentioned cost efficiency above. Here, you might set a KPI that measures progress towards that goal, such as lowering the cost of using short-term contractors, thanks to improved utilization of existing resources.

In our recent webinar, What We've Learned from 1,000 Conversations with Resource Managers, Nicole Tiefensee, co-founder of Runn and COO, highlighted: 

In high-performing organizations, there is a lot of alignment. Throughout the business, there are clear business goals that everyone understands. And there’s visibility and clarity over work priorities. If we're just purely looking at [staffing] from an efficiency point of view, efficiency is very much a productivity metric. And, as I always tell my teams here, you can very efficiently do the wrong things.

Centralize your resource intelligence

Resource intelligence is information you need about your people in order to deploy and develop them appropriately. Their role, skills, experience, interests, aspirations. Having access to this information makes it easier to align people with perfect opportunities. Work that engages, challenges, and upskills them - to excel in their role and better support your business objectives. A central resource library that is integrated with project planning and task allocation software will be especially beneficial. 

Look ahead 

Part of strategic staffing is forecasting demand and assessing your capacity and capabilities. Capacity planning helps focus the mind on the future and aids proactive resource planning. For example, if senior leaders know they wish to pursue opportunities in an adjacent sector, the current corporate skillset might not be a good match. Addressing this lets you plan how to acquire the skills you’ll need - through upskilling, reskilling, and timely recruitment - so you’re ready to pivot when the opportunity arises. 

In our webinar, Resourcing for Success, Christine Robinson, former Baker Tilly Director of Resource Management now turned consultant explains:

You never want to be in a situation where there's an iceberg in the distance and you didn't see it coming. Even if you just have the most basic information around scheduling into the future - maybe it's three months, maybe it's three weeks - having that insight and making decisions based on that information is going to help.

Look back

Reviewing past performance makes future forecasts more accurate - which means fewer avoidable issues. Gather the team to discuss what went well and what could be improved - such as barriers to progress or staffing struggles. Also, check data from your resource management platform. Was there a variance between predicted and actual hours? Use this information to forecast more accurately next time round and create more exact project resourcing predictions.

Test scenarios

Another way to look ahead - and get ahead - is scenario planning. Scenario planning means mapping out a particular project - or combination of projects - to understand the implications for resourcing. Will you have sufficient staff, with the right skills? Are there opportunities to use particular projects as learning opportunities? Is one scenario more strategically valuable? Or profitable? This means you’re not just aligning people with strategy, but the projects you onboard too. 

Automate the admin, elevate the human

Resource management takes time and effort. There’s the human side - getting to know people and their goals, aligning this to strategy - and there’s the administrative side - looking at data, running reports, monitoring KPIs etc. A project resourcing tool makes the admin side faster and more accurate, so you can focus more on the human element. A tool like Runn combines all aspects of proactive resource management into one easy-to-use, automated system - to free you for more value-adding activities.

Christine Robinson also noted: 

It's really difficult - and somewhat unreasonable - to expect resource management to flourish when not provided with the right tools in their arsenal. If you want resource management to be truly strategic, your resource managers can't spend all of their time entering data and doing administrative tasks when a resource management tool could do it.

You need something that's going to be able to position resource managers to get information efficiently, accurately. Ideally, it’ll be something that captures the information that's important to your business - maybe that's skill sets, maybe that's certifications, maybe that's proficiency level. It has to cover schedules and all of the different dynamic pieces that relate to people’s working hours. For example, if you have some people on a flexible work arrangement, or only working 80% of the time, you need a system that is going to be able to capture that information for you.

Try Runn - the proactive resourcing platform

If you can see the benefit of more proactive resourcing in your business, we want to help. We’ve enabled hundreds of organizations like yours to perfect how they manage their people and projects - for higher productivity and a happier team. 

Discover how Runn supports faster, better resource management below - then sign up for your free 14-day trial with only your email address (no credit card or commitment needed).

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