Developing Your Own Workforce Strategy

It’s no secret that Iowa businesses are struggling under the weight of current workforce constraints. So how can your company mitigate the impact? Over the long run, an organization-wide workforce strategy that collaboratively optimizes attraction, retention, productivity, and automation can help.

This plan should be developed within the context of your regular strategic-planning cycle. Strategy expert Michael Porter stated that a company can outperform rivals only if it can establish a difference of value to customers that can be preserved over time. During the strategic planning process the leadership team identifies the company’s unique value to the market, what the market is willing to pay for that unique value, what the company defines as “success” (e.g., revenue and profit targets), and what competencies and resources the company needs to obtain to realize that success. Most manufacturers cannot secure the labor needed to fully deliver their unique value to customers. This presents a huge opportunity. Those companies that deliberately develop strategic competence around navigation of workforce challenges stand to enjoy a significant competitive advantage.

A company’s workforce strategy is its plan for developing that competency. It clearly articulates the company’s answer to the following questions: (a) How much labor (i.e., hours, knowledge, and skills) do we need to achieve the success measures outlined in our strategic plan? (b) How much labor do we currently have? (c) What will we do differently to close the gap and maintain results?

Although your human resources leader will play a key role throughout planning and implementation, it is imperative that the entire leadership team collaboratively develops the workforce strategy. This effort includes the identification and prioritization of strategic initiatives to close workforce gaps. At a high level, there are only three types of initiatives to choose from: (1) more effectively attract new employees; (2) retain more of your current employees; and/or (3) get more output from your current employees, through either increases in productivity or the adoption of labor-saving technologies.

For more information, contact Joy Donald at or 319-359-0206.