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Crafting an Effective Strategic Workforce Plan

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The ability to develop and implement new business strategies and quickly adapt to changing circumstances will continue to be crucial to the survival and success of companies in the future. Strategic human resources planning is crucial for companies because it helps them determine the resources (human and other) they need to implement their corporate strategy and achieve their goals. According to Oxford Economics, 32% of companies have a clear vision for the workforce they want to build in three years.

It connects business and people strategies and is essential to reducing the risks posed by individuals and groups within an organization. It helps companies figure out how to use their human resources and what they need to do to recruit, hire, train and relocate their employees.

What is strategic workforce planning?

SWP is an acronym for Strategic Workforce Planning, a process that aims to align a company's human resources and organizational structure with its business goals. It examines what is needed from the workforce's perspective to build and maintain a competitive advantage, uncovers and tests assumptions, and highlights risks.

The focus is on the strategic organizational skills that a company must master to achieve its goals and the few big bets or bold moves required to achieve those skills. Understanding how the company's work will change is the critical link between strategy and identifying future capabilities.

It is critical to adopt a "future perspective" that includes the company's goals, measurable milestones along the way, and the immediate steps to be warned about, as well as the risks to be taken to create the conditions for success to create, identified. Using a forward-looking approach prevents companies from falling into the common trap of simply extrapolating from one day to the next, which can leave them unprepared for major strategic changes.

In addition, companies must consider the following parameters when planning human resources.

  • Correct form (important skills & succession management)
  • Right size (lower friction losses, no vacancies and no overstaffing)
  • Correct costs (manageable effort, cost efficiency)
  • Proper agility (flexible, resilient and agile)

Strategic personnel planning model

Strategic workforce planning is a model that asks a series of questions to determine future workforce needs, aligned with the company's strategy:

  • What resources are needed to implement this approach?
  • What are our internal resources?
  • What does the external labor market look like?
  • What is the difference?
  • Where are the critical risks?
  • How will we close the gaps?
  • How will we evaluate the effectiveness of the plan?

Some examples of SWP activities include acquiring new skills, creating internal learning plans or talent pipelines to create them, creating transition pathways to retrain and redeploy workers in areas of declining demand, and improving employee retention and engagement.

When strategically planning human resources, the type of work should also be considered. Can it be redesigned or automated to better meet the needs of the business?" "Should this work be done by an individual or by an organization?

It's also important to look beyond directly employed employees to identify opportunities for outsourcing, the use of temporary staff, or targeted acquisitions. Looking beyond the enterprise means assessing the impact of broader demographic trends as well as the ability of the education system to meet future needs.

Steps to successful strategic personnel planning

There are important steps for strategic planning; we have listed the most important tips below.

1.Human resource planning should take into account the long-term goals of the company

Two thirds of companies have no vision for the future of their workforce, which can lead to loss of productivity. The SWP therefore focused on the long-term corporate goals and aligned these with the talent management strategy, as this is a crucial part of workforce planning.

Check whether your talents meet short-term goals. How can your current employees achieve long-term goals? Check these metrics: engagement, natural attrition, retirements, skills, skills availability and training needs. Also think again about talent distribution. According to a McKinsey report, nearly two-thirds of companies have reassessed the number of people in every role and function in the company during the pandemic.

2.Analysis of current staffing levels

In fact, strategic workforce planning begins with current employees. So, when analyzing current workforce levels, ask the following questions.

What is the company's workforce? What type of employees and skills does the company already have?

Talent and people analytics can help with this. They provide information about the age, seniority, contract types and development of your workforce.

3.Determine where the future skills gaps will be

Once you've identified the skills and needs of your workforce, you can plan ahead to develop your managers. In terms of qualifications. A skills gap analysis provides insight into when employees will retire so you can begin filling their gaps. Will you use gig workers and move to project-based work? Do you prefer to train current staff?

4.Plan for different situations

The future is unpredictable. However, you can prepare for unexpected situations.

Take a supermarket cashier, for example. With the help of self-service checkouts, customers can scan and pay in supermarkets.

With strategic personnel planning you can prepare for:

  • A declining demand for cashiers
  • A possible increase in the retraining of employees for new jobs

5.Consider outsourcing if necessary

Strategic workforce planning is challenging, and many factors come into play when planning.

That's why you should seek external help. Enlist the help of a strategic workforce planning consultant. It will help you start planning and keep track. He will also give you tips on how to keep your workforce planning up to date.

6.Think about the company culture

Strategic human resources planning must take company culture into account. Corporate culture evolves as do the organization's employees and expertise. Plan how you want to influence the cultural development of the company and which core values you want to maintain.

7.Track and adjust

Once you've created and implemented your strategic workforce plan, the work isn't over. As we mentioned, the 21st century business environment is changing - technology, workforce and customers.

Therefore, adaptive workforce planning is necessary for a responsive workforce. Analyze your process to determine what needs to change. You can adapt your strategic HR strategy to keep pace with company change.

Advantages of strategic workforce planning

Below are some benefits of implementing strategic workforce planning:

  • The aim of the SWP is to improve the quality of discussion about what is required to achieve the company's future vision in terms of talent, people and organization. It's about uncovering assumptions, exploring options and identifying risks.
  • An effective SWP contributes to the productivity and overall performance of the company by taking into account both the size, form and competence of the workforce required to implement the company's plan, as well as its total cost (including direct employees and others).
  • The SWP examines the macro level to identify sticking points that determine the viability of various strategic options or even introduce new options. Once the plan is decided, it should not be a one-time affair. When used correctly, it can help identify and refine strategic decisions.
  • The SWP enables organizations to make strategic decisions about where to invest in people and highlights the dangers of not taking into account the limits of staffing levels and the measures required to attract, retain, develop and deploy staff become. It supports effective organization and work design.

Obstacles in implementing strategic human resources planning

Although organizations are increasingly recognizing the value of SWP, they often have difficulty putting it into practice. The biggest challenges in implementation were a process that was more operational than strategic, a lack of HR capacity and poor quality of HR data.

SWP works best when implemented as part of an integrated business planning process rather than as a separate HR activity, our research found. Many companies find success by not referring to SWP as “SWP.”

The terminology can be daunting to company stakeholders, and simply incorporating it into corporate planning requires key financial and corporate planning stakeholders, as well as company executives, to be involved from the start to control the process and its outcomes .

One reason companies have failed to implement SWP successfully is that they have tried to cover too many areas instead of focusing on a few business-critical elements or workforce segments. Some companies approach SWP with a project or issue-based approach, so that activities are focused on the most pressing business concerns.


SWP is a mentality and a formal methodology. It creates the conditions for managers to think carefully and methodically about the personnel needed to implement the strategy. It brings with it the habit of questioning assumptions and seeking evidence to make personnel decisions. SWP enables testing of future scenarios and assumptions using an evidence-based approach.

SWP is not an exact science. To explore uncertainty and design alternative futures, it must be combined with scenario planning. Strategic workforce planning needs to be integrated into the business planning process rather than being carried out as a separate process by HR. Strategic planning deals with the strategic capabilities required to implement the company's strategy. This could mean creating entirely new capabilities, significantly expanding an existing capability, or abandoning an existing capability.

Implementing Strategic Workforce Planning fosters agile, efficient talent management aligned with business objectives. Explore IceHrm for streamlined planning.

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