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Workforce Planning: A Definition

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What is workforce planning?

What is Workforce Planning?

The need for workforce planning has increased in response to the rapidly changing post Covid-19 world.

Workforce planning has been around since the Napoleonic era. However past models of workforce planning have often been overly complicated and difficult to work out.

Workforce planning is not all about forecasting the future it should also be an exercise in Organisational Development.

Read on to learn more about this fascinating topic.

Why your workforce plan should guide all HR decisions

Watch the video to understand what workforce planning is and what it is not, and the best way to go about a strategic workforce planning process.

Watch the next video in this series here:

Part 3 – Creating Strategy and Role Clarity

And watch the previous video here:

Part 1 – Workforce Planning: What is the New Normal?

And if you know of anyone who would benefit from this video, please share it with them.

Video Transcript

The best approach to workforce planning

Hi, Andrew from SACS and welcome to video number two in our six-video sequence on workforce planning for the new normal.

In this video, we’ll be talking about what is workforce planning?

In the following one we’ll be talking about strategy and role clarity.

We’ll be showing you the SACS model of workforce planning and working through an example in the fourth one.

In the fifth one we’ll be talking about leadership of workforce planning.

And in the sixth one, we’ll be talking about the type of person who copes with challenging time.

The new normal appears to be a normal which is going to be challenging. The old normal was pretty much the same in many ways.

But let’s talk, in that video, well it’s showing you some examples of the types of psychological characteristics that cause people to be resilient.

What exactly is workforce planning?

In this particular one, we’re talking about workforce planning and we’re going in this sequence of videos to use a practical scenario.

An organisation, which we’ll call XYZ Corporation, a relatively small organisation, health services organisation with 350 people. Much demand for its services.

And by the way, this is a truth across the world, as everybody is very focused on wellbeing these days, the demand for counselling services psychology services, support services, EAP services has certainly exploded.

And anybody who’s tried to get the services of a psychologist or a psychiatrist or a counsellor in recent times will know that it’s not an easy thing to do.

XYZ Corporation is experiencing this growth. Their customers are asking for e-health solutions, they don’t want to attend clinics where possible.

And the board and the exec decide that they want to embrace a new strategy.

So margins are tight and so better ways of doing business are necessary. Less office space, more e-health delivery.

They will need to provide their staff with the technology to do this and new commercial models, budgets and performance frameworks will need to be built in order to assess the success of all of this.

This is not an imaginary thing because companies all around the world are dealing exactly with these issues right now the concept of how we’ll deliver work.

The fact customers want services delivered in a slightly different way or even a markedly different way.

And this will have impact on the workforce that XYZ Corporation will need to develop and to acquire in order to be able to deliver services in this way.

A common workforce planning myth

So just to give you a brief history of workforce planning there are a number of myths in workforce planning.

And the first myth is that workforce planning is new.

It’s been around for a very long time. And workforce planning has been used by the military as far back as the Napoleonic era.

Napoleon Bonaparte used to plan the grand army by virtue of recruiting from certain places deciding what types of people he needed in that army, what geographical locations they should come from.

Napoleon believed that certain people from certain parts of the French Empire were more suited to certain types of warfare like cavalry versus infantry those kinds of things, that’s workforce planning.

And it is said that even in ancient Egypt the pharaohs used to plan the workforces of the future to build pyramids but also to be in their armies by virtue of developing settlements and in effect planning the number of people that would ultimately come from those settlements as they grew up and came into service.

A decline in workforce planning

The interesting thing about it is that in the 50s workforce plans for fortune 500 companies were just the norm, 80% of them had them.

Now, it’s less than 40%.

So workforce planning in a sense has dropped off in terms of the absolute number of organisations who have workforce plans but it’s increasing again right now in response to a rapidly changing world.

So to talk about why workforce planning dwindled in popularity, the models often in previous years were very complicated and hard to work out.

They tried to predict too precisely, this is a scientific concept called spurious accuracy.

In other words, in our organisation, we’re going to need 10.42 accountants in six years time. We’ve got four right now.

Well, that’s spurious accuracy.

So it’s better if you predict in chunks and I’ll explain to you, in later parts of this video sequence, how to do that.

They tended to be too long term. Often they tried to forecast for 10 years plus.

And certainly research indicates that if you’re going to try and make a forecast about some thing as nebulous or as rapidly developing as a workforce or even about your organisational strategy, if you go much beyond two or three years, you’re kidding yourself.

Your effort will not be rewarded by the virtue of the accuracy that you’re able to achieve when you’re long term like that.

Workforce planning is not just about forecasting

And it’s often seen as a forecasting exercise.

Workforce planning is actually an “OD” exercise – an organisational development exercise.

It’s not about just predicting the workforce of the future, workforce planning takes your workforce management concepts and turns them from being reactive into being proactive, that’s a massive change.

And if it’s done well, it can result in significant benefits.

But workforce planning is not just about forecasting, it’s about changing how you do everything.

How you do the acquisition of your talent, how you do the management of your talent and how you do the development of your talent is radically different if you truly embrace workforce planning.

What a good workforce planning model looks like

So what should a workforce planning model be?

Well, it should determine how the workforce is going to deliver strategy.

I mean, if you’re going to sell the concept of workforce planning to a board or an executive team you have to put it in the terms of, okay here’s the strategy that you’ve committed to, this will help you to achieve the strategy.

So you’ve got to link the workforce plan to the strategy of the organisation and prove that it will assist in that way.

It should be as simple as possible, I mean, one of my pet hates about workforce planning models is that many of them are very complicated and hard to follow.

It should be as simple as it possibly can be.

It should make it clear what the components are and needs to be done at all stages.

I’m not a fan of conceptual models of workforce planning that outline the concepts of workforce planning.

A good workforce planning model should say, okay, we need to do this now, we need to do this now.

It should be functional in terms of informing practise, should guide action and it should be a storehouse for an organisation’s intellectual capital on workforce matters.

Let me explain what I mean by that.

A common workforce planning mistake

It’s a mistake, I think, to bolt a workforce plan onto an organisation’s way of doing things.

So for instance, some people will build a workforce plan that kind of jogs along beside the organisation, this is a mistake.

What you should do is that if you going to embrace workforce planning properly, you should keep all of your intellectual property about your recruitment practises, about your training and development practises, about your leadership development practises, about your succession planning, about your deployment, about your onboarding.

They should live in your workforce planning process.

So your workforce planning process kind of becomes almost a universe, an environment, if you want to put it that way, about how we manage our workforce.

Otherwise, if you make workforce planning a separate process that doesn’t integrate what you do, you run the risk of it just being like a poorly managed quality management process where it’s a costly thing to maintain in its own right.

If you’ve got to embrace it, you should embrace it totally and bring all your IP into the core of your workforce planning process.

It should take people management and put it at the core of strategy, highly proactive rather than reactive.

Human resources professionals should love workforce planning because it gives them a seat at the table of strategy and of proactiveness rather than being reactive and responsive to emerging issues.

So that’s an introduction to the concept of workforce planning.

In the next video, we’ll be talking about strategy and role clarity how to achieve that in order to make your workforce planning process more effective.

Please join me for the next video.

Watch the next video in this series to find out more about workforce planning for the new normal:

Part 3 – Creating Strategy and Role Clarity

And watch the previous video here:

Part 1 – Workforce Planning: What is the New Normal?

And if you’d like some help with Workforce planning for your organisation, contact us about our SACS Model of Workforce Planning.

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