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Libby Marks

10 Steps to an Effective Resourcing Strategy

A resourcing strategy equips your organization with the people and skills you need to succeed. Here’s how to write a resourcing strategy that secures the talent advantage for your project business.

If you want to smash your future plans out of the park, you need the right people swinging the bat. 

A resourcing strategy will help your business get the right people with the right skills into the right roles at the right time. It’s concerned with how you recruit, retain, upskill, and support staff - so your business is equipped with expert employees, bringing their A-game to everything they do.

Done well, a resourcing strategy gives your organization the advantage in the (now) global competition for top talent -  with a proactive approach to sourcing, securing, and utilizing the best people for the job.

It can help optimize remote and hybrid teams, accelerate recruitment processes, minimize disruption and project delays, improve client outcomes, increase employee wellbeing, open up opportunities, and generally boost your business and its bottom line. Phew… it really is worth doing.

What is a resourcing strategy?

A resourcing strategy is a medium to long-term planning document, which outlines how you’ll get the right number of appropriately skilled employees to meet your organization’s objectives. It’s about obtaining, retaining, and training staff - so you can deliver projects efficiently, and realize your revenue and growth goals.

resourcing strategy: obtain, retain, train

How resourcing strategy is evolving

Resourcing strategy is evolving in response to the shift in how we work, post-pandemic. The competition for resources is fiercer than ever now that top-tier talent can work for virtually any business in the world.

Plus the dawn of truly remote and async working means the employee experience looks very different compared to just three years ago. Digital employee experience (DEX) is a new frontier to conquer and previous perks - like free office snacks and an on-site gym - are being replaced by wellbeing initiatives for at-home workers.

If you don’t have a resourcing strategy, now’s the time to create one. And if you do have one, it’s time to check it’s still fit for purpose.

Digital marketing agency Venture Stream has been independently recognized as a ‘Great Place to Work’ thanks to a raft of strategic new measures, introduced to secure the talent advantage. Their CEO Victor Morgan explains. 

Traditional models in resourcing strategy and management treated the workforce like machines. Businesses now need to better embrace the intricacies of the human element to keep pace with emerging “future of work” trends.

At Venture Stream, we are rewriting the playbook of the who, what, where, and why of our own resourcing strategy. For the past year, we have operated under a progressive resourcing strategy featuring a four-day work week, hybrid office and WFH, and a blend of on-staff and freelance workforce.  Management and reporting have evolved to support our now permanent new way of working - leading to improvements in productivity and profitability - as well as wellbeing in our collective team.

Resourcing strategy vs recruitment strategy: What’s the difference?

Resourcing and recruitment strategies are often confused but the terms aren’t interchangeable. Recruitment strategy is about how you’re going to hire the people you need to succeed. It forms part of your resourcing strategy but is only one element. 

Resourcing strategy is the bigger picture of how your organization can meet its strategic objectives through its people. While that does include recruitment, it also looks at talent retention and development, employer brand, resource planning and utilization, and more. 

‘Recruitment is about selling a job to someone willing and able to do it. Resourcing is about looking at the long-term needs of the organization. It’s a far more holistic approach,’ says Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, professor of business psychology at UCL and Columbia University in HR Magazine.

What does a resourcing strategy include?

At the most basic level, a resourcing strategy should include information to answer these four questions:

  • Where are we heading?
  • What people/skills will we need?
  • Have we got them?
  • How do we get them? 

To get an example of a good resource management strategy, we've called in Laura Dean Smith, a Director of Resource Management at Clarivate. Here's how she described their strategy: 

Our strategy involves approaching most of the staffing from a global pool standpoint. The flexibility of that global pool is stricter in some areas and more flexible in other areas. When looking at the right person, right project, right time, the skills piece is really important to us. Each of our resources comes with very unique skills, and not every resource is going to be the right fit for every project. So just because someone has availability does not mean that they're the right person to be staffed to this project.

As far as our strategy goes, we do look at more of a global pool, we try to maximize the use of our internal resources. Before anything else, we exhaust all of our internal options. And then we can look externally. I have our external resource manager who does that, and she helps us manage that side. Even with the external resources, I gotta say, it's the same concept. No one group owns that contractor, we can put that contractor to help any of the groups that need support.

Relationship building is also a key component of our strategy. Each resource manager is familiar with the goals, plans, and skills of every individual in their charge. For instance, one senior Resource Manager oversees a pool of about 115 resources. She does know each and every one of them by name, and they know her, and she knows where where their different skills are. She might have to look some stuff up sometimes. But she has pages of documentation on these conversations with either them or their managers.

And then as far as some of our top priorities go, I would definitely say our priorities for a resource management team is making sure that the data that we are responsible for is accurate. And also that we are being transparent. And we are providing timely responses. Those are the three priorities that we have to support the business.

Some of the other metrics are really important. Resource breaks are one of them - making sure that we're staffing the roles and the hours that were sold at the start. If we don't, then that's a resource break. We're trying to minimize these breaks. Utilization, and then capacity and availability to have that supply and demand view, are all really important pieces for the business.

Forecasting accuracy plays a huge role in our success as well. I can't stress this enough, but resource managers can't do our job unless the forecasts are accurate. But it's also kind of a project manager's area of responsibility in our organization too. We're always trying to find that boundary of how much of the forecast accuracy we need and are responsible for compared to how much of that is the project managers responsibility and not part of resource management.

Why is a resourcing strategy important?

Resourcing strategy sets your business up for success. It provides a framework for analyzing your future resource needs and right-sizing your workforce for your project pipeline. This means you’re more able to act on opportunities, deliver bold strategic initiatives, and continue to meet client expectations. 

It’s also the basis for improving your resource utilization, by accurately matching resources to strategic and operational needs. If you’ve read our CEO Nicole’s article on the What, Why, and How of Resource Utilization, you’ll know that’s a huge step towards higher efficiency and profitability. 

But it’s also a virtuous circle in resourcing terms. If you have the right number and type of resources for your project pipeline, they’re less likely to be over-utilized. Overutilization can lead to burnout (something Forbes warns you can’t afford to see as inevitable), reduced productivity, and high staff turnover. The opposite of what you’re trying to achieve. 

Maintaining utilization at a steady 80-or-so percent keeps staff happy - neither too bored nor too busy - whilst delivering the best ROI for your staff spend.

How to build a resourcing strategy

1) Consider the strategic direction of the business 

A successful resourcing strategy very much depends on acting upon the goals and objectives of the business. We've spoken with Christine Robinson, former Director of Resource Management now turned consultant, and she has agreed it's the most important component.

If you get down to the core, successful resource management is not about resource management - it is about the organization and getting the organization positioned and strengthened to meet leadership's vision. So the very first thing that resource managers should be asking themselves in those moments is, what is the most important initiative right now from a leadership perspective? Maybe it's retention of talent, maybe it's productivity. Maybe it's retention of clients?

There's so many different factors that are influenced externally that the resource managers cannot control. So stop trying to control something that you can't control, right? Think about what is important to the organization. And don't just guess - ask leadership, show them that you are genuinely interested in and want to have an understanding of what is important to them.

And then, draw a clear line between what they're trying to achieve and how resource management will help them to achieve it. Because I promise you, there is a correlation, you just need to articulate it. If you don't articulate it, they're not going to do it for you.

So perhaps they tell you that retention of talent is the most important goal right now. What parts of the resource management process are you going to double down on to ensure that top talent can be retained? Maybe that's by assigning them to projects that are in line with their career aspirations? Or if the most important goal is productivity, great. How are your current methods working right now in terms of being able to predict the future, so to speak, in terms of pipeline and utilization and productivity? If they're not good, lay out a plan for how you're going to improve them paints a picture for leadership of what this could look like.

Your resourcing strategy should ladder up to the strategic objectives of the business, to help deliver them effectively. Capacity and capability planning are key concepts here. If you’re not familiar with them, read our Beginners’ Guide to Capacity Planning next.

2) Understand the implications of future work 

Research what’s on the agenda in the medium to long term - then use this information to forecast the future resource needs of the business. Will you need more skills, different skills, new job roles…? Data from past projects can help you forecast more accurately, by basing your estimate on previous resource requirements.

That being said, resource management can be very dynamic and unpredictable. Christine speaks to that: 

The ability to be comfortable with the unknown is paramount for a resource manager. If you're the type of individual who really enjoys having a mapped out layout of exactly how your day is going to go, and you become very flustered if one piece is out of place, this is probably not the field for you! Successful Resource Managers need to be able to roll with the punches. It's not to say that we don't get stressed out or challenged. But being able to pivot as the business needs, that's key to success.

3) Conduct a situational / gap analysis

Map your current resource and skill landscape - and identify any gaps that need to be filled. Remember to consult HR on any staff available for/requiring redeployment. Understanding who you’ve got vs who you need is the crux of strategic resourcing. If you have resource planning software - 👊 - you’re going to find this step so much easier.

4) Plan for recruitment

Who do you need to recruit and how will you do it? What are the best places to advertise different roles to maximize relevant applications? What’s the best way to interview and assess skills? How can you minimize attrition between acceptance and onboarding? What is the timeframe for recruitment and which contract types will best serve the needs of the business - fixed term, permanent, full-time, part-time, or apprenticeships?  

5) Plan for retention

How will you retain the talent you already have - especially your most valuable players in hard-to-fill or high-demand roles? What can you offer to optimize staff loyalty in an increasingly competitive talent market (one characterized by high demand and global remote opportunities in many industries)?

In the perfect world, strategic resource management makes sure you assign people to projects they are interested in and passionate about. But what if you can't offer an ideal opportunity every time? Christine offered a response below:

I would love to say that in every business we have the opportunity to deliver on everyone's career aspirations, exactly when they want them. But that's not the case, right? We have to meet business needs. So sometimes it's about really being able to have a conversation with that person and say, “Look, I heard you. I know that this is the space that you really want to work in. And I have that in mind, I'm going to make sure that I look for that opportunity for you. Right now, that's not available, this is what's available,” and explain to them the broader context of what happens to be going on from a business perspective. Nobody likes to be shuffled around without seeing the reason behind it. So part of it is tying changes to their future career goals.

6) Plan for talent development  

Which skills gaps can you address in-house through training and what does that look like? Is your Learning and Development offer fit for the future direction of the business? How will you deliver L&P initiatives in remote, hybrid, or async environments?

The most integral and basic best practice is having a keen and acute understanding of what the pulse of the organization is, what is driving people right now, what they are looking for, in terms of diversity of experience or the evolution of where they are in their career. Resource management is so much less difficult when you've established that groundwork of genuinely connecting with someone, having their perspective be heard. - Christine Robinson

7) Plan for succession 

Which resources are due to leave the workforce? Do you need to replace them or could you reallocate budget to more in-demand skills? If they need replacing, how will you ensure a seamless transition and minimize disruption? How will you make sure valuable business intel doesn’t leave the business when they do? 

8) Assess and develop your employer brand 

What’s your employee value proposition? How can you become an employer of choice in your sector - so you’re never short of applications? What do employees ‘get’ in exchange for their ‘give’? How well does your business deliver on its promise? Is your employee experience consistent for all employees, regardless of where or how they work? Does your internal culture match your external brand?

9) Consider tools and processes to support the strategy

There are lots of software tools that can be used to streamline resourcing processes. Resource management software provides vital insights into resource utilization, skills gaps, and capacity. Christine believes 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, truly strategic, your resource managers can't spend all of their time entering data and doing tasks that are simply administrative when a tool could do it.

You need something that's going to be able to position resource managers to get information efficiently, accurately. Ideally, something that can speak to other systems within your organization, so you're not having to work off of out of date data. 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. Certainly, has to cover schedules, and all of the different dynamic pieces that relate to people’s working hours: if you have some people on a flexible work arrangement, or only working 80% of the time, well, you need a system that is going to be able to capture that information for you.

Get a tool that can meet you where you are - not only in terms of the capability that you need from it from an organizational standpoint, but also where your organization is in its maturity path, and in terms of what data is even available in your organization. I've seen leaders and resource managers alike fall in love with the idea of a shiny new tool that is going to solve the world and all the problems.

Now, there are some really nice tools out there that do some pretty cool things. And I am a huge supporter of investing in your own toolbox. But what I would say is a word of caution. You can't just get a tool and you know, kind of go off to the races and expect everything to work. You need continuous iteration. The tool is just a base. You need leadership buy-in, continuous improvement, constant check-ins. You need to understand your people, and understand the direction of the business. That's what's needed to drive a really successful resource management function.

Hint: Why Resource Planning in Excel Isn't Sustainable

10) Put it into practice

A resourcing strategy is a living document - one that you should put into action. Create a work plan based on the strategy that assigns timescales, owners, and expected outcomes to each activity. Review progress regularly and review your strategy every year after the overarching organizational strategy is set. 

What makes a successful resourcing strategy

Articulating the value proposition for resource management

Making sure you have a value proposition for resource management is extremely important. This way, it's easier to secure leadership buy-in and make the team understand why resource management is paramount. Christine made a few great points here:

In terms of securing leadership buy-in, I would say that the first step would be to establish trust and really work on cultivating the relationship. But that only takes you so far, right? You need to be able to articulate the value proposition of what resource management is. It's not staffing, it's not scheduling, quite frankly; those are the least strategic parts. They are pieces of the components that make up what resource management is. But really, it's that strategic opportunity to understand how the organization plans to evolve and what your organizational goals are.
I believe that many organizations have missed the boat to effectively communicate the value proposition of resource management. It's great if you have leaders who understand where resource management fits in, but failing to explain to the individuals who will interact with resource managers is a significant oversight. For instance, let's consider the importance of comprehending the complete person and their life circumstances in your organization. If it's vital to support individuals in achieving their developmental goals, it makes sense for resource managers to be informed and engaged.

Health-checking your employer brand

Read reviews of your business on third-party platforms like Indeed. Conduct exit interviews with staff when they leave. Ask current employees for the good, the bad, and the ugly about your business. If you have brand values, make sure you embody these in the employee experience to attract and retain value-aligned, committed colleagues. Communicate what you stand for and why people would want to work for you. 

Developing a pool of potential candidates

Sometimes recruitment is reactive and you need to fill a post fast. So develop a pool of ‘warm’ prospects who you could onboard quickly.  Keep in touch with past interviewees who might be perfect for future roles. Implement a referral scheme to reward staff who recommend you to new recruits. And looking even further ahead, partner with local schools and universities to build your brand with the next generation.

Matching your selection process to skills 

There’s nothing worse than applying for a job that will never need you to give a presentation… but being asked to present to the interview panel. Ditch the one-size-fits-all selection process in favor of a flexible approach that assesses applicants on the skills they’ll actually need. Use competency-based interviews and practical tests of the skills they need on the job. 

Challenging bias and championing diversity

As well as the ethical imperative to create a diverse and inclusive workplace, countless studies show more diverse organizations are more innovative and successful. Build EDI into your resourcing plan - such as delivering unconscious bias training to your recruitment panels, seeking guidance on how to create fair recruitment processes, and committing to creating an inclusive culture at every level of your organization. 

Using insights from your resource planning software

If you’re already using resource planning software, you’re ahead of the game. You can use it to easily derive insights to inform your resourcing strategy. Look at current utilization rates to spot over and underutilized resources and skills, to inform future recruitment and skills development.  

Just being a great place to work 🙂

If there’s one way to ensure staff stick around - and applicants flock to you - it’s by being an amazing employer. In a candidate’s market, it’s you that needs to make a good impression and hope to be chosen - not the other way around. You need to commit to great compensation, meaningful benefits, and work-life balance. Beyond that, you need to trust and respect your team, challenge and develop them, and protect their well-being at work. 

Resourcing strategy is essential and evolving. So now’s a great time to review how your organization secures talent advantage.

Runn resource management software makes it quicker and easier to delve into data about your workforce. So you can

  • Spot skill gaps and trends in demand
  • Plan capacity for maximum return
  • Recruit the right people at the right time
  • Decide L&P programs to upskill your staff
  • Scenario plan for optimum utilization
  • Protect your people from burnout
  • Encourage staff loyalty and development

You’ll be better equipped to achieve your growth and revenue objectives . And more likely to retain the talented team you’ve worked so hard to build.

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