The Mystery that is: Strategic Workforce Planning

As many of us enter the second half of the financial year, I’m sure all Managers are looking at their YTD results and trying to work out how they either maximise their current position against budget, or how do they bridge the gap between their actual v budget results. Unfortunately this thinking often gives rise to short term planning, because it is all about achieving the full year budget by 30 June.

However, there is another topic that can provide ongoing benefits to an organisation and that is Strategic Workforce Planning. Here are some thoughts on Strategic Workforce Planning for you to consider:

In today’s talent-based economy, the workforce itself is arguably the most important tangible asset of many organisations. Boards, CEOs and HR Directors will frequently declare that workforce planning and data- driven decision-making is a top priority for their organisations. Despite this, the workforce is often not carefully planned, measured or optimised and many organisations are not sufficiently aware of the current or future workforce and business risks that will limit execution of business strategy. While it is difficult to understand this apparent gap between intent and execution, it is likely that the lack of consistent objectives regarding the outputs of workforce planning and a lack of consistent process by which organisations conduct Strategic Workforce Planning (SWP) are primary contributors to the disparity.

The inconsistency in focus and execution and the obvious gap generally lies within the overall Business Strategy of an organisation. SWP should form a critical link between an organisation’s strategic objectives and their workforce. Too often unfortunately, workforce planning is limited to immediate needs of the business, leaving future planning for the future.

If organisations can switch this thinking, the results from implementing a SWP process can deliver significant bottom line improvements, with a more predictable outcome. It could also be argued that whichever organisations are able to integrate the process into their businesses first, will benefit similar to any other “first to market” organisations.

So what is this thing called Strategic Workforce Planning and how do we start the process?

Much of the initial focus for SWP and ongoing if it is to become part of your business culture centres around environment scanning. You and your management team need to be continually scanning your immediate issues within your business; your industry environment (Competitors, Regulations, Stakeholders, Customers) and the external environment (Society, Technology, Economic, Environment, Political). What you are looking for is trends and patterns that might be linked and provide you with insight.

It is with this insight that you will be able to broaden and challenge your thinking, as you start to develop possible scenarios of how your future workforce can be structured and what opportunities this might present your organisation. As you continue to test out the likely scenarios, a more obvious and workable option will emerge. At this point it is time to adopt a more formal process and document your plan that will include action plans, measurements and expected outcomes by stage. Of most importance is to lock in a system of review to ensure that the process becomes an ongoing process that forms a part of your organisational culture. So remember:

  1. Scan
  2. Explore
  3. Plan
  4. Act
  5. Review

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