Workforce planning needs strategy, alignment to add value

Gary LaneMany businesses understand the need for workforce planning, but, like so many processes that define modern business management today, just as many struggle to effectively apply it. The first step is to adopt a change in mindshift, says Gary Lane, CEO of next generation software specialist firm NxGN, and then link the workforce plan to the operational and production drivers.

Lane describes workforce planning as an integrated planning process that breaks down the business silos between production, finance and human resource. It is not about a chosen technology, he says.

“It involves a different way of thinking around workforce planning that starts right from the strategic planning level to ensure the pipeline of the rights skills will be available at the right time to meet the business strategy and then at an operational planning level to link the production planning with the workforce requirements,” Lane explains.

This is not the traditional approach of ensuring that all roles are filled, but rather understanding the appropriate business drivers that determine the workforce requirements.

“This requires an understanding of business modelling and what operational and production drivers control workforce numbers.  So in summary implementation of workforce planning is about breaking down business silos, integrating strategic and operational workforce planning and importantly linking the workforce plan to the operational and production drivers,” says Lane. 

Preparation is required 

Although leadership at NxGN acknowledge the concept of business modelling and linking operational and production drivers of workforce requirements is relatively new, they do warn of the consequences of not having a workforce plan.

“Most companies do have a workforce plan but I have found that generally this is based on defined roles and an organisational structure.  Without a workforce plan that is based on the operational and production plan drivers there is very little chance that the organisation will actually meet its production planning targets,” says Lane.

Another challenge to workforce planning and implementation is the unique skill requirements and the shortage of available skilled resources.  “The business strategic objectives will require certain roles and skills into the future. Taking into account promotions, retirements, normal attrition and the training and experience time requirements of new appointments does the human resources department have a long-term recruitment plan that ensures that the right skills are available and trained at the right time,” Lane continues.

He asserts that taking a more strategic view in order to ensure the right skills are available is an ongoing market trend, and one that also focuses on the workforce plan being linked to the operational and production drivers.  “Importantly this then allows proper workforce planning optimisation by understanding the levers that management can control to achieve the efficiencies required to remain competitive. This is about business modelling, scenario planning and options analysis to test different operational assumptions to arrive at the best production and workforce plan that meets the business strategic objectives within the current market conditions,” Lane continues.