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Strategic Workforce Planning: a must-have new year’s resolution

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The “silly season” of year-end functions, award ceremonies, and team gatherings has arrived! Everyone’s scrambling to give the perfect corporate gifts to clients and employees. That, or they’re fighting the activity battle between urgent to do lists and important to do lists. Among the chaos, do you think your strategic workforce planning is ready to kick into gear come January 2nd?

I’m taking a calculated guess that the answer is more of a “no”, or a “meh”, than a yes…

The cliche of “failing to plan is planning to fail” does have a twin brother: “failing to plan strategically guarantees failing to succeed operationally”. Luckily, we’re here to tell you how to get strategic workforce planning into place for the New Year.

Defining Strategic Workforce Planning

The concept of Strategic Workforce Planning revolves around the integration of business management and people management. This is all merged into a holistic, organisational process.

According to Accenture’s Insights Report, this entails strategical planning in line with operational supply and demand as to avoid talent shortages or surpluses during the course of the year.

In a nutshell: SWP means striking the perfect balance between a company’s resource requirements and employee deliverables (skills, experience, competence) to achieve strategic objectives in terms of production, performance and profit.

Why Strategic Workforce Planning Works

A strategic workforce plan is crucial to organisational longevity. This is true whether you are an SME with five employees or a multinational corporation with thousands of workers. These are the reasons why:

  1. Avoiding Surprises

The more efficient your people management strategy, the less likely you are to fall into the traps of panic hiring or impulsive layoffs.

  • Workforce planning provides Human Resources and Management Execs with the means to facilitate recruiting, retention, redeployment, leadership development and worker skills enhancement to boost company growth and performance.
  • With the correct SWP management, you’re always aware of who is going on holiday, who will be retiring, who is going on maternity leave, who is up for promotion, who is serving their notice period, new product launches, increased capacity requirements, expansion projects, and pending restructuring.
  1. Staying In Sync

All businesses are subject to cyclical periods of growth and retraction. These may cause havoc if they manifest unexpectedly and talent planning initiatives are lagging a few months behind.

  • An effective workforce planning strategy will help identify business cycles by recognising specific patterns or trends. This enables you to be nimble enough to react to them and course-correct the talent ship.
  • The people management strategy must be co-dependent on the business strategy to sync talent pipeline with growth spurts, pauses or contractions and lessen the negative impacts thereof.
  1. Accurately Predicting

Over-hiring or under-hiring are general pitfalls in the absence of a workforce planning strategy. When your SWP is utilising the correct tools, you won’t need to consult a crystal ball or gut feeling, because data will accurately predict potential scenarios, such as:

  • Estimating increases or reductions in company growth, production, and revenue.
  • Highlighting changes in talent needs resulting from growth or constriction periods by number of employees, positions required, and for what area in the company.
  • Projecting future vacancies and available talent in-house and assessing external talent supply in the marketplace.
  1. Smoke Detection & Prevention

Plan for the worst and hope for the best is the most practical approach in the disruptive nature of today’s business realm.

Sound workforce planning practices contribute to effective problem identification, long before the ball drops and chaos erupts.

  • With a sufficient “smoke detection” HR system in place, minor problems can be dealt with, before they turn into catastrophes.
  • Talent gap analysis, which forms part of an SWP, assists in preventing issues of skills shortages or competency voids.
  • Organisational development planning, another critical component of SWP, prevents employee disengagement. This reduces staff turnover because employees are continually groomed for internal opportunities that match their capabilities and career prospects.
  1. Carpe Diem

Any workforce planning strategy worth its salt simplifies admin-intensive processes and provides sufficient lead time for HR to briskly take advantage of opportunities in the talent landscape.

  • If HR staff are in constant firefighting guise, forced into reactive mode, they may overlook talent sourcing opportunities.
  • Efficient management of HR resources (thanks to your SWP) will free up time for HR to build passive candidate pipelines. This will improve the company’s candidate experience and establish a strong employer brand within job seeker communities.

Think Before You Leap!

Implementing new workforce planning mechanisms may become a deadly feat if you throw the baby out with the bathwater in an attempt to start the New Year afresh. Any ideas of innovation, improvement and advancement without properly hashing out the details are doomed for failure.

Most people are inherently resistant to change. Your first consideration should be to work with what you’ve got before scouting for those new kids on the block. Otherwise, you may just be spending your time doing exit interviews and desperation hiring by January 31st.

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