Overcoming barriers to strategic workforce planning
Sue Brooks , January 28, 2015
Strategic workforce planning (SWP) is arguably more important than ever before. The skills required of the workforce are constantly adapting, and there are widespread skills shortages. Therefore, the ability to effectively pipeline internal and external talent over the coming years becomes critical.
There are currently few clear cut examples of organisations implementing truly impactful SWP. According to a survey by Hay Group, just 34% of organisations believe that HR is making a significant contribution to the business. However, an ever-increasing body of evidence proves that effective people management has a direct impact on core organisational outcomes, such as productivity and profitability.
So what’s preventing HR teams from developing effective SWP?
Definition of SWP
In many cases, professionals struggle to distinguish between resource planning and strategic workforce planning. SWP is not just about numbers, it is an integration of human capital planning and broader business strategies. In essence, it requires the alignment of skills, roles and people needs to meet short- and long-term company objectives.
It’s important to point out that strategic workforce planning lays the groundwork for organisations to really maximise the ROI of people, while also creating a flexible talent plan that enables them to respond swiftly to the changing economy.
Clearly SWP is a critical element of corporate and HR plans. So how can professionals develop a suitable strategy for their company?
Creating a roadmap to success
As with any truly successful people plan, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. When done well, SWP will be tailored by industry, company and even business unit. However, there is a framework that can be used as a foundation:
Create a vision: It’s impossible to create a relevant, strategic, workforce plan that meets the needs of the organisation without a clear and consistent vision as to what success looks like. HR professionals need to drive the creation of this before any progress can be made.
Engage stakeholders: Given that SWP needs to be aligned with business plans, stakeholders across the company need to be included in the decision-making process, and brought in as champions. Highly tailored communications that demonstrate the connection between SWP and bottom line figures need to be initiated with key functions, including finance, support and management teams.
Start simple: SWP does not require complex systems or calculations, but it does need deliberate scenario planning. Identify key roles that need to be built into the plan and consistently gather intelligence on any shifts in the marketplace, workforce or business strategy that could impact relevant talent pools.
Define your deliverables: It’s important to be clear up front with all stakeholders and departments as to the deliverables required of them. Remember SWP cannot be achieved by the HR team alone. Outlining everyone’s role from the start will drive productive conversations regarding the direction of the business.
Identify the right internal support: Building on the above, it’s crucial to identify the right talent internally to support the plan. Consider what skills you really need to assist the development of SWP – for example, strong analytic capabilities, project management skills and financial experts can all be useful.
Leverage data: This includes internal and external market intelligence. The information will inform any changes to the strategic workforce plan, and is particularly vital given the constantly changing economy we operate in.
Iterate: Finally, remember that SWP is a continuous process that must evolve with the business. As such, constant feedback on, reviews of and adaptions to the plan will need to be made.
While many HR teams may be facing an increase in workload and a decrease in resources, it’s vital that strategic workforce planning is addressed in the very near future. Implementing an effective SWP in 2015 is one way that HR can demonstrate its significance. By following the above steps to align the workforce with strategic business objectives, HR teams can visibly contribute to the long-term success of their organisations.
Sue Brooks is chief innovation officer at global RPO and talent management firm Cielo