Strategic Workforce Planning (SWP) is a framework for decision making that ensures your organization has the right people with the right skills available for the key roles that will drive its business strategy both now and in the future. SWP enables your organization to proactively respond to a changing global workforce and the dynamics that drive it.
SWP is best seen as a dimension of strategic business planning, rather than simply a response to it. For example, the availability of certain types of employees in the future could dictate or alter a firm’s strategy. In addition, SWP is not simply about the availability of employees possessing certain competencies for driving the business’ strategy. It is also about how the business will find, recruit, engage, retain, and develop them. Just because they exist doesn’t mean your company will be competitive in attracting and retaining them.
SWP is increasingly reliant on sophisticated analytics to understand both the firm’s future talent needs as well as to model where and how this talent can be sourced, retained, and engaged.
Regardless of the sophistication of a company’s current data analytics capability or even the sophistication of its strategic planning process, it will face the need to be more strategic in its thinking about matching its workforce to its strategic goals and the differentiating capabilities required to reach them.
Our 30 years of experience in helping scores of companies come to grips with the workforce and cultural implications of its business strategy has led us to the following five steps as a useful guide to this journey.
- Understand your business strategy, the differentiating capabilities required to implement it, and the pivotal roles in this locus of capabilities. This step involves a deep and thorough understanding of the firm’s business strategy since the workforce exists to implement that strategy.
- Identify future demands for talent. The challenge here is to “design” your organization and the jobs or roles that comprise it without regard to what you have today. Here, the application of sophisticated talent and succession management platforms can be enormously helpful. The questions you will encounter will be “What roles are most critical to success?” “What competencies are required to execute them?” “How many of these will we need?” “How will they interface with other roles?” “What will be the reporting structure?”
- Assess your current talent. The key questions here are “Who do we have?” and “Where and how do they fit in the future?” Redeploying your current workforce is an inescapably important part of filling your talent gaps. Some roles will be too specialized to “repurpose” your current employees. But, from the perspective of cost, organizational culture, and productivity, it is an essential ingredient.
- Develop a plan for closing the gaps. Focusing on the most critical roles and employee segments, you will need to consider the full range of possible sources, including (1) developing existing employees, (2) redeploying existing employees to new roles, (3) recruiting from outside the company, (4) contracting or outsourcing talent.
- Establish Strategic Workforce Planning as a continuous process. SWP, as a subset of Strategic Business Planning, is an ongoing process. The journey typically involves continuous learning and improvement as you become more sophisticated in both analysis and implementation. The temptation is to think of the major output as “The Plan” – the master document capturing your analysis and implementation strategies. This is a critical output, but the greatest challenges are in implementation and they touch many parts of the business.
Strategic Workforce Planning is best seen as a dimension of strategic business planning, rather than simply a response to it.