Strategic workforce planning

2019-06-01 Business No comment

Strategic workforce planning is the process of matching labor demand and supply over a foreseeable period of time. The organization conducts workforce planning based on quantitative activities such as personnel planning and employee analysis, and uses this data as part of a qualitative decision to support and implement an organization's strategy.

Workforce planning enables organizations to better cope with the challenges of a rapidly changing economy. By using business strategies to align demand changes with existing and future human capital supply, organizations optimize their workforce to achieve business goals, increase market share and increase employee engagement.

When developing a strategic workforce plan, external and internal operational environments need to be considered, ie, business or market level and enterprise level strategies. This will ensure a good balance between strategy-based demand forecasting – strategic priorities and smart supply channels – workforce priorities. In addition to considering strategic and workforce priorities, we also need to consider resource and process capabilities, ie process priorities as input to the workforce or resource plan.

Recently, we met with senior staff responsible for Singapore's large-scale strategic workforce planning. After explaining our point of view, someone replied: "But if the nature of work is not a process, how do you plan?"

According to our experience, there is always a process. The series of tasks that need to be performed is the process of determining the type and profile of the capabilities of the required workforce. If these tasks cannot be listed, then labor planning is an illusion. We can't plan something that we don't understand.

No plan is completely accurate and the workforce plan needs to be reviewed and updated on a regular basis to ensure that the methods and strategies deployed to achieve the plan are effective and meet changes in demand and supply.

Workforce planning is not a one-way street, starting with strategy and ending with labor supply. It is an iteration of strategy, process and workforce priorities. Strategies may change due to the availability of new operating methods, and many service providers focus on the web. Processes may vary due to the ability to increase workforce, and can be seen in many organizations, based on the increased communication channels of employees, as well as benefits for employees and customers.

If you don't know the task you want to plan your workforce, then your workforce planning is an opportunity!

The following sections show some of the strategic workforce planning practices that can help solve some of the major issues:

strategic focus

Expecting an accident

It is a wise choice to work on a stable business, to produce the same type of product or service every year, and to increase the amount each year. In this type of company, the customer and employee satisfaction are constantly measured to identify the need for potential adjustments to the employee. The antenna can see the role of the competitor, and the market research knows exactly what will happen next. Unfortunately, this type of organization is not common.

Often, internal or external factors can disrupt the ideal world. Can we prepare for everything? No, we can't. However, we can try to prepare for a more likely situation. A series of "hypothesis…" questions and corresponding answers will help to make the workforce plan more robust.

“What if we usually leave this year after the bonus is paid?” is a fairly simple example. Some organizations even start recruiting and selecting before they receive their resignation letter. They need to do this because the notice period is usually shorter than the recruitment cycle plus the settlement period.

“If we win this rather large project, do we need a lot of extra engineers?” is a common problem for construction companies. How do they deal with the big changes that often occur in the workforce? This seems to be a mix of proper planning and gambling.

In most cases, having the right HR metrics and running the appropriate analytics often helps to avoid surprises. If you do this, you will find, for example, that most employees with similar ages and similar skills join at the same time as the unit is established, and you won't be surprised that all of them will leave at about the same time.

Frequently measuring customer and employee satisfaction may provide additional information for future employee planning considerations.

Focus on core competitiveness

Workforce planning should focus on the content of business activities. Trading support activities such as finance, IT or human resource processes may be candidates for outsourcing by many organizations. By doing so, the programs for these activities are the responsibility of experts who may have more volume, better IT support and a more capable workforce to keep this process efficient and efficient.

However, hasty actions can lead to process disruptions, employee or even customer complaints and higher costs. Outsourcing is a major change that requires careful preparation. Therefore, proper labor planning for these fairly traded activities is easier than starting outsourcing.

Process priority

Planning the labor force of trading activities

If the task is placed in a well-structured and stable process, the quality of the prediction is very high. Industrial processes in manufacturing or assembly lines show this characteristic. Similarly, service processes such as bank loan approvals or any HR department claims processing are often well structured and transactional. If the process does not change drastically, the quality of the prediction is quite high.

It seems easy to predict the labor required for this process. If the demand increases and the process remains more or less the same, the prediction accuracy after cross-multiplication will be high. However, this makes the increase in labor proportional to demand, that is, it will never become more effective and never become smarter.

Only by reducing the processing time, that is, by changing the way work is done, can the correlation between demand [Takt Time] and labor [FTEneeded] be linearly related. Business process reengineering and methods such as Lean and Six Sigma are often used to achieve this goal – with significant success.

Planning for non-trading activities

"But every day we deal with different applications; no two applications are the same" is a common response when employees from less trading environments are asked to describe what they do. It seems that people who are suitable for the environment are planned, and in these environments, a series of different tasks with significantly small repetitiveness are impossible.

But? It is clear that a large part of the non-transactional process is not repeatable, showing a certain degree of pattern, ie structure – only on a larger scale. For example, customer requests to approve certain device imports are completely different from Monday to Friday. Even from January to February, there is no evidence that this cycle will repeat. However, the percentage results for simple, moderately complex and complex applications are repeatable, and the attendant is the time it takes to get the job done.

It must be taken into account that demand changes in this environment are much higher and must be planned. At the same time, research shows that the task's working model is different from pure trading tasks, and is partly driven by the environment and the types of employees working on this type of non-transaction.

Because activities have more variability in the processing time required, it is more difficult to predict that employees are involved in fewer transactions [such as policy writing, complex application processing, or managing employee engagement]. However, in order to understand the actual behavior of people during office hours, it is worthwhile to collect the overall information, that is, the changes in demand over time and the order of work.

And, isn't it better if we have more structure in the so-called unstructured process? Go to Gemba and study how to get the job done. You will definitely learn something new, which usually leads to better planning and forecasting.


Benchmarking is a method of collecting best practices data from labor distribution. Even here, you need a number that supports Gemba access. If the underlying details are very different, the numbers can be grossly misleading. This can lead to incorrect assumptions about employee utilization, allocation, and ability.

Workforce priorities

Workforce planning and resources

Workforce planning needs to ensure that a certain level of workforce is available when needed. Resource configuration strategies include Build, Buy, and Borrow.

The 2010 Singapore Youth Olympic Games [YOG] provided the Young Olympic Games [YOG] with an innovative resource allocation strategy that uses a very different approach to employee procurement. The Youth Olympics' workforce planning is divided into five phases, the first phase is the preparation phase and the final phase is dissolution. These five stages require very different labor volumes and skills. In order to maintain low costs and still deliver extraordinary results, the workforce must be recruited, trained and deployed in a very flexible and reliable manner.

For Singapore's largest event, this was prepared by an organizing committee composed of more than 500 fixed-term contract employees [purchase strategies] who knew they would be unemployed in September 2010 [bounce strategy]. In addition, the game is provided by approximately 1,300 short-term regular staff [borrowing strategies: STARS is borrowed from Singapore's ministries, agencies and companies], and a large number of interns [establishing strategies] enter as new graduates and receive all the Youth Olympic Games. Related developments and more than 20,000 volunteers from all over the world who have received basic training.

After all, the Youth Olympic Games is a real example of a government.

Resource Strategy: Building

Today, talent management systems are more important than ever to meet the needs of future employees. Retaining your own employees and developing them is usually much cheaper than losing employees and repurchasing from the market and providing them with the inevitable development. Career planning systems increase the attractiveness of the workforce and help predict future movements. The systematic career planning includes regular professional dialogues between supervisors or mentors and employees to develop a personalized career path, which increases employee retention and simplifies employee planning considerations.

Resource Strategy: Borrowing

In some business environments as well as some public institutions or departments, resources are needed on a project basis – such as YOG – for a limited time. Take the government as an example. Large-scale engineering projects are not started at the same time, but have quite different models on the timeline. The peak labor demand for Project A of Institution A is different from the peak period B of Institution 2. However, the image of the required engineers is very similar. Therefore, it would seem like a good idea to first use some of these engineers for Project A and then for Project B.

Smart workforce planning for large conglomerates or these governments will include simultaneous projects so that labor demand is well balanced to some extent. This will reflect a macro perspective of a very powerful lean approach: a flexible workforce.

Young employees may even like this method of deploying on a project basis, which is very different from the environment.

Resource Strategy: Buy

Workforce planning needs to ensure that new employees are available when you need it. This means that workforce planning needs to meet the recruitment process and all its variables. If your business requires a certain number of new employees with special skills, then the recruitment process is very complicated.

Flexible recruitment strategies help meet the needs of different employees.

Workforce planning needs to include appropriate recruitment strategies to meet the performance requirements of the job. The ability to understand the recruitment process is key. Therefore, a strong set of indicators should be developed to enable short-term and long-term human resource analysis.

Workforce planning does not necessarily recruit full-time employees. Today's young workforce may want to enjoy more flexibility because of the career positioning around “lifestyle” or “independence/autonomy”. They may agree that contract employment works well for many organizations.

Flexible recruitment strategies help meet the needs of different employees, keep costs affordable, and may even be more suitable for the career aspirations of young employees.

Flexible workforce

Many organizations adopt a hierarchical structure from top to bottom, and employees focus on only certain tasks. Some work units deploy only one, two or three people, and they are equipped with a very narrow set of capabilities that allow them to focus on a job they do with high quality.

A very basic lean principle says that the smaller the unit that performs certain tasks, the less flexible the "system" is. If we can build the ability and thinking style for a flexible workforce, we can take an important step in process efficiency and not be a headache in workforce planning.

Work redesign

Planning for the dust of the workforce, the outdated process is not very wise. Workforce planning provides an opportunity and a responsibility to ask questions

“How will we do this job in a few years?”

“So what kind of workforce do we need to get the job done with the best results?”

“What kind of capabilities do we need to achieve this goal by then?”

Since almost all organizations – and especially government departments and agencies – are driven by cost-effective considerations, the answer to "we will do the same thing" won't get many supporters. So seize the opportunity to rethink how the work is done. After that, redesign the work to facilitate the process and employees. This result will provide a better foundation for your employee planning.

As a side effect, your employee retention may increase and your recruitment may benefit. Today's graduates don't want to work in yesterday's process environment. They are right.

in conclusion

Strategic workforce planning is a multifaceted approach designed to prepare for future workforce needs. It goes far beyond understanding strategies and assigning labor to them. Since no one can predict the future, the best manpower planning method is to cater to many different scenarios and build a powerful system to handle them.

This powerful system will help solve tasks and processes with fewer structures and fewer transactions. Efforts should be made to increase understanding of these tasks and to build some structures. This usually also pays for labor distribution and process efficiency.

Workforce planning should always be supported by job redesign and process excellence activities to ensure that staff planning the process is updated, rather than outdated processes.

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