Workforce Planning

Supply and Demand of Talent
Workforce planning is ultimately about linking HR strategies to business objectives. HR practitioners will understand this, though not all of them are given the opportunity by business leaders to really make those connections. While most firms will have a reasonable grip on the composition of their current workforce, the value of workforce planning is in really being able to map current knowledge, skills and competencies against those that will be needed in the future to deliver new products or services. The real value in effective workforce planning is cost. Identifying current talent that can be developed for future need, is far less expensive than losing that talent through lack of career development and having to hire fresh in the future. Knowing who you can redeploy, transfer, promote or second gives an organisation great agility and far less dependency on the external market for future talent needs.

The Big Picture
Moving to an inclusive, long term approach to workforce planning requires a truly holistic understanding linking all influencing factors. Internal and external considerations need to be made alongside mid to long term business objectives. Scenario modelling which uses solid and accurate data should be used to adapt changing assumptions for different desired results. Managing Human Capital is particularly important as organisations seek to take advantage of improving economic conditions. Miscalculation, which results in over staffing or under resourcing, can quickly erode gains being made elsewhere. While talent can be the largest expenditure for many organisations, it can also be the least optimised part of the firm.

Choose your Approach
There are a number of approaches to workforce planning, but the three most commonly used models are discussed below. Workforce Led, which looks at current workforce and roles and forecasts these and the characteristics of roles along with the number of people required to fill them at a future point. Workload Led which focuses on the amount and type of work the company anticipates handling at a future point in time and uses this data to forecast the number of people and skill types that will be needed to perform that work. Competency Led identifies the competency frameworks that are demanded against the firms strategic goals. This approach assumes that the first two have already been considered and blends in the different types of competencies that will be required for business goals to be achieved.

Follow the Plan
Whichever path you choose, there are five core steps to developing a workforce plan. Before you commence, it is critical that you have the complete buy in of all stakeholders and that they understand the significance of the activity. In general, your data will come from HR metrics and/ or the Finance function. Once the latter can see the cost and risk mitigation values of workforce planning, they generally become supporting activists. Firstly, breakout the firms strategic plan and identify the implications for work functions. Secondly, analyse the roles to be performed and the headcount levels in each case, building a full workforce outlook. Thirdly, analyse the current workforce and identify where the gaps are. Fourthly, develop priorities and solutions being careful to include succession planning and other aspects to talent management in your considerations. Finally, implement the plan with key milestones and evaluation points identified. Keeping the plan alive in the minds of other leaders faced with other challenges is critical. Holding line managers accountable for delivery of talent management initiatives and having their own performance measured against delivery of these, is essential.