Havering Case Study

Havering Case Study

April 09, 2024
Talent Manager at the London Borough of Havering, Dan DeBuc, tells us about his Foresight experience in his own words.

Introduction from Foresight

The London Borough of Havering are a local council in East London, with around 3000 employees - 450 of which are hiring managers – with the recruitment team making around 500-600 hires a year. With the council facing huge budget pressures, and finding the Local Government Authority’s approach to workforce planning falling short, Foresight was introduced to provide a clearer picture of the future of their workforce. We’ve implemented our Workforce Planning Framework with as little resource and time investment as possible, due to an already stretched HR team.

So Dan – why the focus in Workforce Planning recently?

At Havering we believe that workforce planning should be owned by our managers / leaders of people and not be known as an HR initiative, with the burden on HR to collect all the data. With the number of managers that we have within the organisation it is impossible to do this manually. We partnered with Foresight as we wanted to create workforce plans with each manager using a digital exercise that is quick and easy. As we don’t see workforce planning as a ‘one and done’ exercise, but rather a fluid, week to week, month to month evolving thing, the data clearly needs to be refreshed regularly. We have chosen to do this every quarter.

Why does Workforce Planning get knocked down everyones agenda, year after year?

People think it’s really complicated and takes a lot of time. If you’re a line manager, HRBP or work in TA you’re already so busy so Workforce Planning feels like a big task. Where do we start? How do we approach it? It can be overwhelming I think.
However, if you truly want to deliver on your organisational goals then you need a plan in place for your key resource - which is your people. The thing I would say is it shouldn’t be difficult to get started.

And had you tried anything yourself before working with Foresight?

Like many local authorities we have tried to do workforce planning before, we’d engaged the LGA (Local Government Authority) which provide workforce planning support but unfortunately, it’s a big excel driven framework that takes loads of time, it doesn’t target all the levels within the organisation we wanted to, and involves a lot of in person workshops – which is extremely time zapping! Plus, ultimately, it’s a one and done approach. It didn’t give an organisation that changes as fast as we do the opportunity to review, edit, refresh on an ongoing basis that Foresight gives us.

Talk us through your process at Havering:

First, we sat down as an HR team with the Foresight team and selfishly decided what information we wanted to know from our managers that would help us drive the biggest impact in the shortest amount of time. We then engaged every line manager via the platform, to take part in a 10-15 minute exercise whereby we asked them very simple questions about their team. We kept it simple to start off with knowing that we can evolve over time. Our questions to managers were about things like recruitment needs, retirements, maternity / paternity leavers, adoption leave, sabbaticals. This allowed us to have all our known FUTURE recruitment needs in one plan, provided by every manager. This in turn allows for much more proactive recruitment delivery and greater business continuity. We also asked them about flight risks which allows us to support the manager to retain key talent, saving us huge amounts of money in the process. We use all of our data at business unit and organisational level to help create tailored workforce plans for whoever needs it.

What was it like getting your manager data for the first time?

It was exciting, suddenly we’ve got all this information now which allows us as an HR function to really have more targeted conversations and join up all the dots around the different teams involved. It has allowed us to be more aligned on who is involved in respect to which piece of data. So, I’d sum it up as exciting yet daunting, but also once we got the data it was reaffirming that this was the right approach.

What kind of things have you and the team been able to do with your data?

We’ve done quite a bit already. One example would be some of the quick wins with managers. It has flushed out quite a few instances of managers needing to raise a flexible working request for someone in their team. As a result, we worked with the Foresight team to build a simple automated process that gets guidance to managers immediately on what the process is for Flex working. This might just sound like 1 admin task removed but the bigger impact is less work for the manager and, we will have retained what might have been a flight risk in their team due to a manager not acting quickly enough. Multiply this scenario by 20-30 times and suddenly across 1 data point of flexible working requests we’ve saved quite a bit of time, money and effort already. Then multiply this across all the questions asked and data obtained and we’re getting a big return.

Was it hard getting colleagues on board?

We know our managers are exceptionally busy but they’re busy in the here and now. We wanted them to stop and for the first time really think about what’s coming next, because thinking about that will help them in the here and now too. However, Managers haven’t done this before, so the other sell was that we needed a way to make it as simple and easy as possible for them. Not via a traditional theoretical exercise or even leaving them to their own devices. Through using Foresight, they are walked through a simple, quick, but effective exercise with lots of guidance and signposting to get them into the right space.
We believe getting managers to think about the future of their team actually helps them in the short, medium and long term. Making the process simple and easy to access, with simple questions to answer really landed well with our managers.

What about the wider HR team?

If felt very collaborative. We don’t have huge amounts of free time and resource within our function. There are a million things going on, but it felt very coordinated, aligned and very collaborative, like I said. Everyone was involved which then allowed everyone to own the data that was relevant for them. It has brought the HR team and department heads very close together. As we’re responsible for our own data sets, we can also do even more great stuff with the automations within Foresight to remove even more tasks from our HR team, by getting information to managers much quicker.

Has having this data created more work for you and the wider team?

No, it’s just made us more efficient and work in a smarter way. We’re no longer trying to find the data. The data comes to us, and we can then action and analyse it. It’s also removed a lot of time from our managers workload. We don’t ask them to spend half a day designing, creating, and maintaining a workforce plan. It’s now done in 10 mins every quarter.

Could you focus on this because the organisation was going through a quiet period?

Absolutely not. There has been so much going on! New target operating models, changes at all levels, things that could easily put the brakes on projects like this. As a local authority we were also under huge budget pressures, a section 114 that effectively means we’ve run out of money. However, we wanted to progress for one main reason, this is the “right” thing to do. If we want to be a successful, efficient, high performing organisation this is where is starts. If we can’t get people to plan, then we’ll never succeed doing the things we want to do.

What was the implementation and launch of Foresight like?

It was so easy! We were done in 3 months start to finish. Not long at all, it was so the right thing to do. Short term pain for long term gain but there was no short-term pain!
It’s a project that we can look back on and be really proud of. It’s now embedded into our BAU. From top to bottom everyone is very engaged.

How did you go about the change management aspect of a project like this?

We’ve created an easy way for managers to tell us what’s going in their team, and keep it refreshed, then action their data. It didn’t need a huge education piece; we didn’t need to bring managers in and train them up. It was almost change management by stealth. Sometimes you can make things bigger than they need to be. This is one of them. We kept managers informed with a clear comms plan but kept the process simple.

What other data did you receive from managers that was interesting?

Managers started to tell us in their droves about learning and development requirements for them but also for their teams. This data will prove pivotal in us moving towards the skills base that we as an organisation need for the future. Suddenly we now have a lens across the organisation on not just what a department needs, but also each individual manager and team. So, we can now administer a laser targeted approach to our L&OD requirements. Again, this is all automated within the platform; instantaneously guiding managers into our new Learning Management System to the relevant modules without the need for another task from HR. So, it showed that managers felt listened to as they received an instant response. Plus, the content in the LMS can be created to match the learning needs of the employee base.
Our data has also driven up our ability to offer apprenticeships dramatically, as we now know what learning requirements we have, we can link that seamlessly into to what apprenticeships we can offer. We’ve had more enquiries about apprenticeships in the last two weeks since having the data than we did for the whole of last year. We have a big goal of becoming a learning organisation and this puts us firmly on that pathway.
Another massive benefit is we also want to be become a data driven, decision making organisation and this approach has allowed us in HR to be that without a lot of effort. It’s all done for us, and we can focus on making the decisions rather than the process and data capture.
Another interesting data point is that we have quite a long tenure within our workforce but what that creates is the potential for knowledge transfer risk. For example, Bob might retire soon, and Bob has info in his head that we need to know about, well now we can stop Bob leaving with organisational critical knowledge in his head, ensuring that their knowledge is transferred well in advance of them leaving.

What would you say to people thinking this isn’t the right time to start Workforce Planning?

Regardless of what’s going on in your organisation there will be data that you’re missing out on and will ultimately cost you. Just because you’re going through a restructure for example, you still might have internal or external hiring needs. There might be flight risks. There might be maternity leavers. Take out the business unit that is going through a restructure if needs be, but there really isn’t an excuse anymore not to do workforce planning.

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