What is a strategic workforce plan anyway?
Strategic workforce planning (SWP)...it sounds daunting. Most organizations want to have a strategic workforce plan, but few achieve it in totality. Some organizations do have an annual process, usually around budget planning that allows them to create a headcount demand. This (headcount demand) is certainly an important aspect of an SWP strategy, but is usually done with a focus on the near term, and the overall headcount plan affordability, and then most headcount plans stagnate at that point. If there is a succession planning aspect, it is typically focused on senior management level roles, and may or may not include the learning and development sub category which is so important to a successful succession planning strategy.
So what is an organization to do? First thing would be to understand this is not a process that will take shape in a short period of time, but one that will be dynamic. It will have both near and long-term views that include all levels and functions of your organization to create the type of workforce that aligns the skills and competencies required to support the ever changing business product/service offering roadmap. The plan should also include a solid suite of metrics, not for the sake of metrics, but driven by established business goals with a reporting cadence allowing for course correction as identified by data insights.
Years not months
A strategic workforce plan as mentioned, is developed over time, and looks out over an extended period of time, typically three (+) years. As the business identifies the forward looking strategic initiatives and looks at the product or service offering innovation roadmap, which includes the skills required to support the innovation and disruptive technologies or processes. The skills analysis should include:
What can not be accounted for internally, would then be transformed into an external talent acquisition plan. It would be very difficult to fit this all into one year.
- a review of internal resources that possess the desired skill set
- a list of high potentials
- review of potential redundant resources that can be retrained
- any planned mergers or acquisitions that may support the skill set requirement
The right people in the room
So you defined the SWP, you identified a timeframe, but who will do all this? The answer is a lot of people, a lot of different roles and a lot of different input. The business is certainly the driver as the strategic business initiatives are laid out. Finance would review business initiatives and validate the plan from the financial perspective, HR business partners would need to review the availability and potential of the required competency models against the internal resources and identify any gaps that may exist and bring in...yes you guessed it, additional groups. For example, you could include your talent management group to ensure appropriate supportive learning and development initiatives are in place.
Based upon skills required it’s critical that talent acquisition be made aware of the delta between what can be achieved internally versus what talent needs to be acquired externally. This complex planning requires a repository for your data as well as a tool or tools to track and report on the metrics. This is where your IT department will lend some important insight. Not only do the aforementioned groups need to focus on their individual roles in this effort, they also need to come together as a cross functional team to ensure the plan is updated as the business strategies change. It is critical to ensure your desired results are being achieved and that any modifications to the dynamic strategy will have the desired effect throughout the entire process and there is general consensus of the SWP’s adaptations.
Agile, not hostile
As the resource planning piece of the strategy comes together, one idea should remain constant -- that the sum of your talent will drive the company’s strategy and future. That sum talent should also be adaptable and easily moved within the company to achieve the desired results. Yes, the talent should be agile. This can often mean a shift from, “this is my talent, that has specific experience in a specific role,” to a base set of competencies that can be utilized throughout the company, within a multitude of internal organizations.
Enjoy the ride
After all the planning, cross functional team input, modifications, reporting, cultural shifts to an agile workforce...it is time to enjoy the fruits of the laborious process. Get the team together to review the metrics, make the recommendations, but above all else, do something that is most often forgotten...enjoy the ride. After all, you are shaping the future of your company, you are planning for the infusion of new ideas and talent and that is something that will last beyond your time at the company.