When I first started to think about this question, the classic children’s book ‘Are you my mother?’ immediately came to mind.
Can’t you just picture it….a little lost strategic workforce plan roaming the halls of an organisation looking for its mother. No? Just me? Well, anyway — I want to find its mother!
Let’s first clarify what strategic workforce planning even is. Workforce planning ensures the right number of people with the right skills are employed in the right place, at the right time, to deliver an organization’s short- and long-term objectives.
But strategic workforce plans go beyond recruitment planning to fill talent gaps — they also include talent management, outsourcing, diversity and organizational changes needed to execute on strategic business priorities.
A strategic workforce plan is a form of asset management; the sum of actions taken to acquire, retain, develop, motivate, and deploy human capital to ensure the success of your business strategy.
So, who should be the mother of strategic workforce planning?
The traditional mother
Operational workforce planning has traditionally been owned by finance. Makes sense right? They have the cost of the workforce data, budgets, revenue projections. If it’s just a matter of some cost modelling to create a hiring plan, then finance makes perfect sense. But when we start to bring the strategic element into workforce planning, we’re no longer looking at the workforce at an operational level. We need insights about the people, performance and skills within the organisation. We need to combine the human element with the data element.
The modern mother
And who best to bring in the human element — HR.
I believe HR is best positioned to not only have the knowledge and capabilities to add this context into the planning process. They are also connected across the organisation to coordinate the inputs from the multiple contributors required to build a robust strategic workforce plan.
And that is the real key here: Just like raising a real baby, it takes a village. Active involvement from finance and business leaders is vital. Right up to CEO and CFO level — executive sponsorship is critical to ensure success… HR should already be well connected with both these stakeholders.
Functional managers should also be engaged, as they have deep knowledge about their respective workforce; in partnership with business HR. Does your business have data analysts? They should be involved too. And if not, what technology are you planning to implement to meet this need? Because regular workforce reports are useful, but you really need to utilize the power of predictive analytics to understand the potential impact of workforce strategies. Strategic workforce planning requires a smart balance of scenario planning, advanced analytics and good old-fashioned strategic insight.
Significant effort is needed to consolidate the input from all these players into a coherent workforce strategy that aligns with the strategy for the business. This isn’t a routine cost modelling task; something that can be tacked on to finance as a side project. It is a strategic initiative that requires an understanding of your people, your organisation and coordination across key stakeholders. And to me that should describe the strengths of your HR team.
I think we’ve found it: HR is the best mother for strategic workforce planning.
Does your HR team own strategic workforce planning already? If not, are they ready to take it on tomorrow?