It’s Time To Be Strategic About Your Workforce

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Be Strategic About YOUR Workforce and Positively Improve YOUR Business Outcomes

Strategic workforce planning is a concept that HR and business leaders alike intuitively know is important but struggle to operationalise.

Most organisations are still pre-occupied with managing headcount and budget, yet better opportunities beckon. The Boston Consulting Group found evidence to suggest a rapidly growing skill, accessibility and cultural workforce mismatch for countries and organisations. This has major implications for the capacity of organisations and countries to find, source and manage highly skilled and committed staff. One of their prescriptions for addressing this global crisis is that ‘…Every company, but also every country, needs a people strategy, and to act on it immediately…’

A strategic workforce plan is the best way to develop a workforce strategy that will deliver practical outcomes for a business. It requires a genuine combination of strategy, operations and HR—it is not a function of HR alone. Its development and implementation transcend individual silos and disciplines. Done well a strategic workforce plan is the basis for an aligned, evidence based program for creating unique HR strategies. Done poorly, it can suck resources & time into the failed HR initiative vortex.

I have three guidelines to help organisations and practitioners put the ‘strategy’ into workforce planning:

  1. Strategy is a mechanism to determine how to compete differently. When thinking about workforce strategy we need to give life to Michael Porter’s views that ‘strategy is about making choices, trade-offs; it is about deliberately choosing to be different’. Segmenting both of your market and your workforce is at the heart of competing differently.
  2. Strategy works with complexity. Being strategic is about understanding the workforce as a complex system. It involves being very clear about how your actions will effect workforce structure and behaviour that will combine to deliver value to the business and your customers.
  3. Strategy is a business responsibility. Being strategic about your workforce involves more than HR. HR might facilitate the approach but the accountability and responsibility for connecting the workforce strategy to the organisation’s business model falls to line managers.

Being prepared is better than being surprised. In a volatile and rapidly changing world, your workforce is arguably your most significant asset. It makes sense to think strategically about this asset and ensure that collectively, your people are aligned and unified with your organisation’s purpose. Strategic workforce planning provides a structured methodology to ensure that alignment, while being flexible enough to be customised for the size of your company. Following these three guidelines will help you start on the road to better organisational performance. In following posts I will elaborate on the strategic workforce planning discipline in order to help you achieve more for your organisation.

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