Fundamental Elements of Strategic Workforce Planning


Thoughtfully Determine Workforce Requirements

Modern employers cannot afford to make workforce decisions that don’t account for broader organizational goals, current internal workforce demographics, and external market factors. Doing so drastically impairs their ability to navigate skill shortages, shifting competitive landscapes, and global economic uncertainty.

Strategic workforce planning, on the other hand, thoughtfully determines workforce requirements using detailed analyses of internal and external workforce data. It gives employers a highly detailed view of their workforce and challenges managers to think about getting work done in a new way. Adopting such a far-reaching mindset often can seem daunting for even the most sophisticated hiring manager. A few important considerations can instill your organization with the confidence it needs to turn its workforce into a strategic asset.

Know Where You Are…

Create a clear picture of your current workforce across all departments and locations by gathering data on in-house employees, contract workers, and third-party service providers. Data elements should include role-specific details and demographic information from human resource, procurement, and vendor management systems as well as hiring manager surveys. The repository for this data can be a simple Excel spreadsheet or a more powerful business intelligence platform. Either option will help you establish baseline workforce levels, develop worker profiles, and identify workforce trends.

…and Where You’re Going

Define your organization’s objectives, goals, and plans to determine how well your workforce strategy aligns with them. For example, if you plan on expanding into new territories or sectors, you should have sufficient skill set coverage in those areas. Or if you strive for employer-of-choice status, worker turnover and tenure metrics should reflect that. Looking at your workforce from this perspective puts you in a better position to make decisions that move you closer to achieving long-term priorities, as well as short-term needs.

Industry, geographic, and market-sensitive constraints further influence workforce strategies. Workforce planning efforts should include analyses of economic fluctuations, hiring/contracting trends, and employers of with similar talent needs in the markets where you operate. They should also consider regulatory or cultural factors that could influence the ability to deploy specific workforce strategies. Accounting for external demand influences helps organizations gain better context for workforce performance and set realistic expectations.

Get Everyone on the Same Page

Any initiative that spans your entire organization requires diligent change management efforts, starting with obtaining executive buy-in. Senior management demonstrating support for strategic workforce planning will make its influence more widespread, process design more effective, and data-gathering efforts less tedious. Workforce consultants like ManpowerGroup Solutions can help you create a business case that educates leaders on how and why to deploy a strategic workforce planning framework.

Engaged leadership can also guide the process of introducing new practices and findings throughout the organization. For example, a fast-growing biopharmaceutical company held workshops to encourage and equip operating managers and HR teams to take a fresh look at their workforce goals and options. Workshop participants included top management, the executive HR team, key HR leaders, and every member of their management committee. They discussed results from workforce analyses that showed the costs and challenges of maintaining a workforce strategy that failed to account for non-employee workers. Increasing awareness of these types of insights improves the likelihood that they lead to new behavior at all levels of the organization.

Adapt to Shifting Workforce Realities

Data-driven conversations help HR and procurement leaders unearth ideas for overcoming talent sourcing and management challenges. As the world of work evolves, strategic workforce planning offers organizations a quantifiable and flexible way to meet market, product, and customer expectations. Most importantly, your organization will stand ready to capitalize on changes in business cycles, the economy, the job market, and competitive pressures now and in the future.