The battle between long-term and short-term goals is one of the most fiercely fought in the organisational arena. In the blue corner, 83 percent of talent professionals agree they have a long-term talent acquisition plan tied directly into their strategic business plan. While in the red corner, business-as-usual seems to be getting in the way of implementation, with over 50 percent of organisations only planning ahead for six months or less.

It’s true that changes to business imperatives have never been more frenetic, but this makes it more important than ever to predict future talent needs and build a flexible workforce ready to meet the challenges of tomorrow. Strategic workforce planning (SWP) has never been so important.

Tackling the tension

Our recent survey revealed the stark reality for talent professionals trying to navigate the short-term / long-term tension. Eighty-two percent reported that when it comes to finding talent, it’s a challenge to meet current business needs while planning for long-term business goals.

The real insight comes from asking why this is so difficult – 57 percent said business leaders are only focused on the short term, and 22 percent said they don’t know what the long-term goals are, or what kind of talent will be needed. No wonder it’s hard to get the balance right.

Our survey showed that talent professionals recognise the importance of SWP in breaking this tension. Thirty-two percent of respondents named SWP as the number one tool for navigating these conflicting priorities. In particular, this means getting real about developing existing employees for the future and hiring now to meet future needs.

Our survey showed that talent professionals recognise the importance of SWP in breaking the tension between long and short-term hiring. Click To Tweet

Develop the future from within

Already, organisations are taking steps to avoid talent shortages by developing their current workforce to firm up their future pipeline. In fact, nearly two-thirds (61 percent) of survey respondents report investing more in upskilling existing talent than in recruiting talent from outside the business.

The key here is to ensure that development efforts are coordinated to support the future needs of the business – looking forward ten years – and informed by external market and political forces. A strategic workforce plan brings these two imperatives together by defining the ideal size of an organisation’s staff, identifying skill gaps within the current workforce, detailing a plan to fairly compensate and reward talent, and allocating investment properly to bring the plan to life.

Hire now for future needs

Just a few years ago, it would have been hard to imagine hiring a person to fill a role that doesn’t yet exist in the organisation. But it’s happening now. Organisations looking to build out software development and engineering, data and analytics, digital, and cloud capabilities in particular, are actively pipelining talent even though they don’t currently have open roles to match the candidates’ skills and experience.

There are real risks to this strategy that need to be carefully managed, especially where the existing infrastructure and culture can’t yet support the initiatives and development of such in-demand professionals. Where there’s a mismatch, new hires can quickly become disengaged and may leave the organisation before real progress has been made.

Assessing a candidate’s cultural fit as well as their role fit via success profiles helps to ensure that talent brought into the organisation can contribute from day one, rather than leaving them feeling as though they’re warming the bench. Used this way, these profiles add structure to future-focused hiring plans where previously that hiring focus was all about skills.

Assessing a candidate’s cultural fit as well as their role fit via success profiles helps to ensure that talent brought into the organisation can contribute from day one. Click To Tweet

In the end, the short-term / long-term tension isn’t really a battle between good and bad or bad and good. Organisations need to be agile enough to meet current talent demands while also looking to the future. But none of this just happens, the key is to plan.

Learn more about breaking the talent tension in your organisation, read: The art of hiring agility.

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About The Contributors

Tomas Salomao is a Principal for Korn Ferry Advisory, Australia. He specialises in talent strategy and work design. He works with business leaders to design, rethink and co-create organisational structures, implementing organisational changes and helping clients implement and align business strategy with their operating models and structure



Emily Szakacs is a general manager at Korn Ferry and leads the Product business across Australia and New Zealand. She has a background in talent and assessment working with large organisations in the resources, oil and gas and consumer sectors.

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