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Roundtable: Evolving talent with strategic workforce planning

November 28, 2023

WilsonHCG’s latest roundtable was co-hosted by Humanly and held a hive of busy talent acquisition (TA) leaders who navigated a honeycomb of ideas, myths and reasons around strategic workforce planning (SWP). The event was led by Mark Edgar, chief people officer of Wajax, and co-host of Future FoHRward. He led a vibrant discussion.

More than meets the eye

What we heard: Articulating SWP as a concept is far simpler than its execution. Despite
the term’s ubiquitous use, workforce planning suffers from a lack of a universal definition,
leading to differing practices and outcomes.

What we understood: A strategic workforce plan goes beyond traditional hiring tactics to encompass a comprehensive blueprint for future-proofing an organization’s workforce. For
long-term success, TA leaders must tie these efforts back to achieving business goals.

What is required: True strategic planning requires an intricate balance of foresight, adaptability and alignment with overarching business objectives. It demands a shift from the
dated 1967 perspective of merely placing the right people in the right positions, to a more holistic approach that considers the dynamic interplay of skills, corporate culture and evolving market demands.

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No longer a blueprint — but a catalyst

What we heard: At best, SWP functions as a valuable tool to draw leaders together, helping them speak the same language. At worst (even if poorly executed), workforce planning functions as a catalyst to think, brainstorm and imagine what’s possible.

What we understood: The greater the volume of open jobs, the less evolved the
planning phase is. Balancing planning and execution are key to effective workforce planning
that informs business strategy rather than weighing it down.

What is required: While some organizations have all the right people, processes and platforms
to execute and manage an effective
strategy, it’s obvious most have a “just-in-time” approach and are stuck in the HR planning stage. Understanding the level of planning is vital. Whether it’s
sophisticated planning or a hybrid approach to overall strategy, TA leaders must ensure their plans are fit for purpose. 

"Do or do not, there is no try." Every bit counts

What we heard: Everyone is scrambling to do more with less — and this increased pressure
means recruiters feel reduced to “filling jobs” just to hold onto their own. Prioritizing SWP, as a
result, is a steep challenge for many talent teams.

What we understood: Time and money commitments around SWP results in a significant
commercial advantage. Insights around where existing talent is sitting, along with skills registers, drive informed decisions for locating great candidates and attracting them at the right time.

What is required: A thoughtful roadmap on where your organization is and where it’s going elevates your employee value proposition (EVP) to new heights. Bite-size efforts over time,
including alignment between SLTs, managers and recruiters around roles of people in
the business, their contributions and how upskilling or hiring result in business KPIs has
powerful impacts in the near and long term.


Read more: The 5 whys of employment branding

Think outside the hive

What we heard: Workforce planning does not exist in a vacuum. External influences, such as
talent trends and economic conditions, have a profound effect on SWP and should always be considered when formulating a strategy.

What we understood: The right people, in the right place at the right time drive business-impacting results. Support functions are equally important to revenue-driving roles, so a holistic approach that factors in the dynamic interplay of skills, corporate culture and
evolving market demands is crucial.

What is required: Talent defines the value of businesses, and effective SWP props up and
informs business strategies. An active, engaged workforce creates a culture of belonging that attracts key talent.

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About Paul Dodd

Paul Dodd is the head of Canadian engagement for WilsonHCG. Paul helps organizations, across a spectrum of sizes and industries, realize their unique talent needs by combining global knowledge with specialized Canadian expertise. He is a recognized thought leader with more than 20 years of practical experience. Under Paul's leadership, WilsonHCG has developed a range of customized, strategic recruitment solutions that shorten the recruitment life cycle while driving value for for each client. Paul continues to push for greater innovation in recruitment solutions development, while emphasizing the need for customer service and comprehensive support.