Why Don’t You Have a Strong Workforce Plan

Workforce planning is a process where the business identifies and addresses the gaps between its current workforce and its future needs. A strong workforce plan allows the business to:

  • Align workforce requirements directly to the business’s strategic and tactical business plans
  • Define both current workforce needs and future requirements
  • Identify skill gaps and develop strategies to fill them
  • Develop appropriate measurements to identify workforce success measures and the corresponding alignment of the workforce with organizational needs.
  • Identify and change the behaviors that act as barriers to effective workforce strategies and success.

So why don’t most businesses have a strong strategic workforce plan?

“…few HR Departments have the necessary skill to effectively promote, develop and execute an effective workforce strategy.”

A Human Resources Certification Institute study stated that “Forty-five percent of respondents reported that their organization is unprepared to meet the talent needs of the future, and another 35 percent said that they are not confident in their strategic workforce planning process. Forty percent said that business leaders do not adequately promote the importance of strategic workforce planning change initiatives. About one-quarter (26 percent) stated that their organization does not take effective action with the talent information they have.”  Further, it stated that few HR Departments have the necessary skill to effectively promote, develop and execute an effective workforce strategy.

As businesses look to develop successful strategies and brands to drive business success, the one overriding area that should be emphasized, but often is not, is the workforce.  All to often the workforce is viewed as a cost to be managed and contained, instead of the investment that will drive strategy execution, improved performance, profitability and shareholder value.  In other words, many businesses ignore the unduplicatable value of their workforce.

Good workforce planning can have a significant positive (profitable) impact on a business.  These can include:

  • Improving the companies brand
  • Improving recruiting and retention without resorting to gimmicks like “Employer of Choice” initiatives
  • Improve speed to market and other critical business cycles.
  • Improve organizational performance, productivity, profitability and shareholder value
  • Early problem identification and prevention

The basic steps to developing and executing a Workforce Plan are:

  • Develop a Business Strategic Plan
  • Identify the necessary Knowledge, Skills, Abilities, Experience, and Behaviors (KSAEB’s) necessary to execute the plan
  • Identify the gaps between your current workforce KSAEB’s and the needed ones
  • Fill/Correct the gap
  • Execute your strategic plan
  • Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control the process.
Having a plan is not the same as executing the plan

While the above process appears simple, the actual execution of that process is challenging, even for a well run and operated businesses.  This often requires skills that are not present within the business or within its HR function.  It will, in many instances require HR to abandon traditional belief systems and transform them into more productive, although complimentary, processes.  Commonly HR approaches the workforce as something to be treated with “sameness.”  Treating all employees the same regardless of their level of performance.  Further, HR focuses the bulk of its energies on improving low performers instead of supporting high performers.  Their measurements are transactional and focusing on easily managed activity such as turnover, time to fill, cost per hire and so forth.  Because the focus has been on cost containment, HR has not developed the skills to drive workforce excellence.

Commonly three challenges will be present in developing an effective Workforce Plan.  These are:

  • Management must change its thinking about the workforce; from something to be minimized to the primary source of business success.
  • Establishing new measurements that help management lead the workforce to success
  • Managers must use data about the workforce as a means of strategy execution

No business can ever achieve its strategic or operational goals without a high performing workforce.  Developing an effective result achieving Workforce Plan will help ensure that through the success of your workforce you will achieve success as a business.