Are you prepared?

Consider the benefits of workforce planning in your organisation

Have you ever wondered why some projects take much longer than anticipated? Perhaps your organisation has won new client work that has brought in multiple new projects and created a situation where everyone involved is overworked. Or have you been in a situation that involves a long- service employee who is due to retire and wonder who to approach with any issues arising from that situation? These are just two reasons why workforce planning exists.

Multiple benefits of workforce planning

Workforce planning involves many different aspects.

For one, it can involve headcount analysis every 12 months to meet the operational needs of the business. One of the things the analysis may look at is the age groups of the various employees. For example, there may be a number of long-service, loyal employees with decades of corporate and industry knowledge who may be retiring at or around the same time. This issue is both an operational as well as strategic one, from a workforce planning perspective.

Let’s take a look at Australia, for example, which faces an ageing population.

Baby Boomers – there are some 5.5 million Australians who turned 65 in 2012 according to Google public data. This represented about a quarter of the population at that time. Monitoring workforce data assists HR with forecasting the retirement numbers in their organisations.

Workforce planning would include implementing plans to move staff around different parts of the organisation in order for them to learn more about the business. It may also involve the development of mentoring or coaching programmes to facilitate learning and development and ensure that corporate knowledge is shared effectively.

A collaborative exercise in planning for the long term

Strategic workforce planning is about making plans for the long term and is best served by being linked to the organisational strategy, which would typically have clear objectives. For example, your organisational objective may be the development and implementation of a cyber security team within a 12 month period. Your organisation currently does not have such a team, and therefore, does not possess the necessary resources to meet the objective. Huge technological demands in your business environment is pushing this agenda. By implementing workforce planning effectively, you will be able to make the transition work smoothly without disturbing the operational performance of the organisation.

To do this, HR needs to partner with different parts of the organisation in order to assess the resources needed to implement the strategy. They would need to collaborate with IT, Finance and Assets, for example.

Once a plan is developed, resourcing plans can then be executed by the recruitment team. They may be looking at campaigns to attract the best talent or other supporting initiatives so that they can get a high quality team in place. In that sense, a workforce plan helps the different teams involved to mitigate risks, manage around challenges they anticipate and help keep everyone on track. This is why workforce planning is, in many ways, a collaborative exercise.

A tool to manage change

Workforce planning is also a tool to manage change that affects individuals and teams within your organisation. If your organisation has a new project, for example, that is estimated to require manpower from the current workforce, HR’s job will involve considering how this affects the business from an operational standpoint.

Which talent can be moved into new teams?
Will any talent movements create further gaps in the workforce?
Does the new project require special skills that your team does not currently have?
How will you search for the required expertise?
How can you shuffle your current workforce to fill the gaps?
You may benefit from a SWOT analysis to list your challenges and strengths.

Workforce planning is a fairly involved initiative. Like many things, it takes time to execute but it is hugely advantageous, despite these challenges, in helping you manage a smooth transition and deal with all the changes in your business environment. Workforce planning enables HR to measure the effectiveness of the changes, help you learn from your mistakes and understand better what works.

Take time to notice trends that can be managed or leveraged and consider workforce planning seriously as it is worth getting into.

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