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How to plan your workforce in a social enterprise

As a social enterprise organisation, your primary goal is to create a positive social impact. However, to successfully achieve this goal, it is essential to have a well-planned and efficient workforce. One that not only aligns with the values and mission of your organisation but also plays a crucial role in driving your social mission forward.

Unlike other industries, social enterprise organisations face complex schedules that include pay premiums, night shifts, and the need to accommodate service users who require specific skills and capabilities. Workforce planning is far more complicated than merely filling positions and managing schedules. It involves careful consideration of the organisation’s overall goals and objectives and understanding each employee’s needs and skills.

What role does HR play in social enterprises?

We may be biased, but Human Resources (HR) is a critical component in the success of any organisation. The function is responsible for attracting, developing and retaining employees who drive the organisation towards its goals.

Fostering a culture of purpose, fairness, and collaboration, HR helps ensure the workforce is engaged and aligned with the organisation’s social mission while creating a positive work environment. A core part of this is ensuring that your workforce planning is aligned with your social enterprise’s goals and objectives.

Importance of workforce planning

According to the “State of the Adult Social Care Sector and Workforce in England” report, social care vacancy rates are at their highest on record, while the number of filled roles has fallen. The same report also predicts that by 2035, an additional 480,000 people will be needed in social care to meet demand, replacing the 28% of the workforce aged 55 or over who may retire in the next decade.

The social enterprise sector is currently grappling with a severe skills crisis – a situation that demands immediate attention if we are to continue making a positive impact. In this context, workforce planning emerges as a crucial tool. It enables organisations to identify critical roles, assess current and future skills gaps, and devise effective recruitment, training, and development strategies. Here’s why workforce planning is a non-negotiable in social enterprises:

Aligning your workforce with the social mission

One of the most significant advantages of social enterprises is their mission-driven nature. As such, the workforce they employ and assign to projects and subsequent shifts should also share this mission-driven mentality. This not only helps in creating a cohesive team but also ensures that all employees are committed to working towards the organisation’s social goals.

For HR, this means ensuring values-based recruitment, continuous alignment of employee goals and skills with the social mission, and regular communication of the organisation’s purpose. Such practices bridge the gap between personal and corporate values, enhancing employee engagement and organisational effectiveness.

Preventing staff burnout

A UK study measuring burnout among social care workers found that 91% of 1359 social care workers across the UK scored moderate to high in emotional exhaustion.

As HR professionals, it’s our responsibility to acknowledge the demanding nature of social enterprise work and take proactive steps to prevent burnout. This involves planning employee work schedules in ways that strike the right balance between work and personal life, thereby creating a positive and healthy work culture.

However, in an industry where schedules are complex, encompassing long hours, night shifts and even overnight stays, this can often be a challenge. Consider offering flexible work schedules to help employees manage their time better and reduce stress. This can include options like compressed workweeks, job sharing, or even split shifts. For more information on how to choose the right schedule for your unique business, we recommend reading our article Different types of shift schedules – which one is right for you?’

When scheduling your employees, assess where there are opportunities for professional development opportunities to enhance their skills and avoid added stress from being overburdened with responsibilities.

This can be especially helpful for filling those hard to fill shifts that require specific skills, capabilities and qualifications requested by the service users.

An often overlooked but highly recommended strategy also involves ensuring that there are open communication channels—whether through a communications channel or regular team meetings—for your employees to raise concerns and provide feedback on their workload so that you can address any potential burnout issues before they become severe. 

Reducing high turnover rates

Our HR Metrics that Impact 2023 report found that health and social care’s annual turnover is 19.22%, making it one of the top ten industries in the UK with the highest attrition.

Given the demanding and emotionally taxing nature of social enterprise work, high turnover rates are not surprising. However, they do have a significant negative impact on the organisation’s finances and employee morale and productivity. Therefore, it’s crucial to implement effective employee retention strategies to mitigate these effects. 

Workforce planning can help mitigate these negative effects. When undergoing workforce planning, ask yourself:

  • Are there clear pathways for employees to move up in the organisation?
  • Are there any workloads or management issues that may contribute to employee dissatisfaction?
  • Do your employees have the skills and resources they need to carry out their work effectively?

Workforce planning can help answer these questions, allowing you to make necessary changes and improve employee retention rates.

5 steps for social enterprise workforce planning

So, how do you plan your workforce in a social enterprise? Here are five essential steps to get started:

1. Analyse current workforce needs

What is your workforce’s current skill set? Are there any gaps in skills or qualifications that need to be addressed?

Reviewing workforce alignment gaps requires thoroughly assessing the current workforce against the organisation’s mission and strategic goals. This step will help you identify your capabilities and will aid in the next step of skills forecasting.

2. Forecast future workforce demands

Once you have your skills taxonomy and a good understanding of your current workforce needs forecast future workforce demands. This includes identifying upcoming projects or initiatives that may require additional staff or specific skill sets. It also involves considering any changes in the social enterprise landscape that could impact the organisation’s mission and goals.

Here, we advise integrating your workforce planning software with your project management tools to clearly understand demand and supply and the budget to apply pay premiums for those specialised roles and night shifts. This will help you accurately forecast staffing needs and identify gaps in skills or resources.

3. Evaluate job roles and responsibilities

Now you have identified the critical roles needed today and in the future, evaluate their responsibilities and duties. Are there any tasks that can be outsourced or automated? Can certain roles be combined to optimise efficiency? This step not only helps identify potential cost savings but also ensures that employees are effectively utilising their skills.

4. Develop staffing strategies

Based on the previous steps, develop strategies to address any skill gaps or workforce needs. This could include recruiting new staff, upskilling current employees, or outsourcing certain tasks.

To maintain your company culture, it is essential to consider the cost and potential impact on employee morale and productivity when developing these strategies.

5. Implement workforce planning initiatives

Finally, it’s time to put your workforce planning into action!

Implement the strategies developed in step 4, and regularly review and adjust them as needed, communicating any changes or new initiatives with your employees to maintain transparency and keep them engaged.

Your workforce is a vital asset to your social enterprise, and by effectively planning and managing it, you can ensure its success and sustainability.

How can elementsuite help?

At elementsuite, we understand the unique challenges that social enterprises face in managing their workforce. That is why we designed a workforce planning and HR software to streamline your workforce planning and management processes, making it easier for you to identify and address skill gaps, forecast staffing needs, and develop strategies for employee retention.

Our platform offers functionalities such as automated time tracking, data-driven decision-making insights, and tools to boost employee engagement. elementsuite also includes communication tools that enable open and transparent communication between employees and management, promoting a positive work culture where burnout is less likely to occur. And with the ability to apply rules on scheduling capabilities based on service user requirements and budgetary requirements, our software helps you optimise your staffing costs while maintaining high-quality care.

We believe that by providing social enterprises with the right tools and technology, we can help them create a more sustainable and successful organisation while prioritising the well-being of their employees. 

Contact us today to learn more about how elementsuite can support your social enterprise’s workforce planning needs.  

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