How do you define strategic workforce planning?


Many times workforce planning is misunderstood, undefined and seemingly too vast to relate to. It is popular to discuss but not widely accepted as necessary.  We want to open this discussion and help you to understand a definition that will hopefully guide your program and make it more effective and efficient.

Strategic workforce planning – is not head count driven, not tied to retirements, not owned by the central human resources function,  not a static platform used to track dozens or hundreds of data points you have accumulated as historical information on past hires, reorganizations and resignations.  In other words it is not tied to lagging indicators from the past.

Strategic workforce planning – is a holistic, business driven, competency focused, role based platform used in a dynamic methodology tied directly to the future needs of a business strategy.  It is owned by the business unit and reflects the leading indicators of trends on human capital needs as aligned to the business unit.  It is decentralized in structure and supported by but not owned by the center of excellence or corporate human resources function.

   “Strategic human capital management is a pervasive challenge facing the federal government. The widespread lack of attention to strategic human capital management in the past has created a fundamental weakness in the federal government’s ability to perform its missions economically, efficiently, and effectively.”      (GAO, 2003)

In the mainstream consulting organizations the definition has evolved as well.  For instance Price Water House Coopers definition is:

Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) sees business performance tied to workforce planning.

The evolution of workforce planning

“Workforce planning has evolved from an annual headcount activity to a strategic, predictive exercise. Companies are now scrutinizing data from various sources and applying predictive analytics in order to anticipate and plan for future needs. This can maximize retention, engagement and productivity. With PwC Saratoga, the world’s leading source of workforce measurement, we actively collaborate with you in order to draw insight from workforce data and improve your ROI in human capital. The result: fact-based, future-focused insights on which you can act.”

Anyone who has been part of a workforce planning program will testify, implementing and sustaining a program enterprise wide is difficult and often frustrating. The reality is there is a new normal and we wanted to address this need in a way any company or organization either private sector or governmental agency can become more competitive and strategic in aligning their human capital.  Workforce planning needs to be flexible decentralized and aligned according to a specific business model. Our belief is a “systems thinking” approach is the solution.

Systems thinking should be incorporated into the way a company defines workforce planning. By using a methodology that incorporates a way of viewing a complete set of variables that all tie to the business and measuring the program against a set of uniquely defined analytics it should stand to reason you are planning for success in the business.

Because the nature of business is dynamic, impacted by external and internal forces there needs to be a structure for planning that addresses the ongoing changes and is flexible to make sure many scenarios are considered.  We believe that taking a “systems thinking” approach is the solution.

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