Over the next few months, we’ll be taking a close look at the concept of strategic workforce planning (SWP). This is an emerging area in HR and there’s a lot to learn. At the most basic level, this type of planning has always played a role in the employment sphere. For example, HR has traditionally been asked to participate in forecasting and planning to:

  • Make the most efficient use of existing human capital
  • Ensure that recruiting infrastructure and processes can replace key workers as needed
  • Project budget requirements for staffing
  • Provide evidence that learning & development are producing desired outcomes
  • Prepare for changes in workforce size or structure (downsizing, expansion, mergers, etc.)
  • Promote diversity within the workforce

The newer version of truly strategic planning takes a longer and broader view. For example, comprehensive succession planning doesn’t rely simply on recruiting efforts to fill vacancies once they occur. Instead, an ecosystem of hiring vendors may be developed at the same time that internal talent is groomed to take over leadership positions. This provides a much greater safety net so an employer doesn’t have to make rushed decisions about filling important positions. At the same time, analytics can be used to identify core workers who are at high risk for attrition so that retention tactics can be launched in time to preserve the employment relationship. This network of strategies can mitigate the uncertainty inherent in managing human capital in a rapidly evolving labor market.

Where to Learn More

The Human Capital Institute is busy facilitating a many workgroups and discussion forums on this topic. Basic membership is free, so I’d recommend registering to get access to some helpful resources. For example, the HCI published an interesting blog post last month about why HR so often falls short in strategic planning. The author posits that HR professionals are often too risk averse to make these decisions alone. There may need to be a sea change in attitudes, practices, and skills training before HR can fully step into its role as a strategic partner.

  • If you had the opportunity to begin SWP today, would you jump at it?
  • What types of consulting support would you find most helpful?
  • What business analysis tools would you need to make smart decisions?

Let’s talk in the comments.

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