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Talent acquisition: stay ahead with strategic workforce planning

What’s strategic workforce planning?

It’s the Holy Grail in recruitment and HR: basically, the key to predicting future talent acquisition requirements and identifying gaps before they arise. It’s about having the planning in place to react and respond, ensuring the smooth running of a business.

Get that cracked, and you’ll be able to confidently and calmly help to deliver your organisation’s objectives. It sounds simple, however as HR professionals know, strategic workplace planning involves a vast and incredibly diverse range of tasks, in order to recruit well and maintain momentum. Without good strategic planning, businesses could be caught out, with no capability or infrastructure to keep up with external events and stay competitive.

This is where strategic workforce planning comes in. The CIPD defines SWP as getting the right number of people, with the right skills, in the right place, at the right time.

To put it in its most simple terms, SWP is an action plan. It’s an on-going assessment of your organisation’s workforce, to ensure your business runs smoothly and meets its long-term goals. A good SWP approach should, in theory, work across any business, in any industry. And it should incorporate the following, using expertise from across the business:

- People planning

An on-going assessment of past employee experiences will identify any potential issues that can arise within a company. How positive and negative events have played out in the past will provide a knowledge which, when combined with a firm grasp on any changes in culture and legislation, can create a template that covers off all HR issues on a personal, human level. This ensures that the status quo and smooth running of the business is maintained at all times, by preventing problems before they even arise.

- Financial planning

Knowing your workforce and the individual expectations within it is key. External business trends and changes need to be closely monitored alongside international, national and local trading patterns, so that potential cost changes are always expected. Keeping an eye on the figures helps the HR team to think about their role in a productive and cost-effective way.

- Position planning

A clear pipeline of roles and opportunities should always be working well into the future. Individual needs should be acknowledged and employment changes prepared for - the rise in flexible working and the increase in homeworkers needs to be at the forefront of staff planning, for example. SWP should incorporate information from all review processes and include qualitative information through effective mentoring and management. Demonstrating a clear strategic approach to a team and an individual’s career path helps develop a happier workforce, which is more likely to work to its full potential.

- PR planning

Reputation management has never been so important. Social media has added a new dimension to a company’s communication strategy, and that dimension involves a two-way conversation rather than a one-way stream of marketing messages. All this needs to be closely managed and monitored, as it will have a direct impact on how your business is viewed – by existing and potential customers, investors and employees. Successful businesses are increasingly promoting their internal culture as well as their external brand and strong SWP will contribute to this.

The rise of data and AI

Central to successful SWP is the way it uses data, identifying trends and patterns in order to predict what might be around the corner. However HR approaches workforce planning, it is essential that the wider business recognises its importance and is fully on board. It needs to be bound up within the key strategic business goals. The use of data within SWP means you can keep a close eye on your set KPIs to track improvement, while also predicting future goals in order to continually move your SWP forward.

The impact of data and its use in SWP is starting to be recognised - HR data programmes are having a much bigger impact on the wider business picture, as Deloitte’s Global Human Capital trends 2016 states: ‘In 2016, 51 percent of companies are now correlating business impact to HR programs, up from 38 percent in 2015. 44 percent are now using workforce data to predict business performance, up from 29 percent last year.’

This increase is largely thanks to the way workplace planning uses the data it has at its disposal and is directly linked to the rise in technology and AI. Where at one time, a calculator, a good head for numbers and patience for manual data input was sufficient, the rise of technology has moved the process on quite some way.

Human intelligence is vital in creating the infrastructure to store employee data, analyse it and then translate that data and use the information it gives us, but the growth of technology is undoubtedly helping HR teams to become more strategic. AI makes the process more efficient, as it can examine mass amounts of information – without bias – and can analyse more complex data, while reducing basic admin. This helps the HR team to create scenarios that can more effectively predict future outcomes. We’re now in a position to look further down the line and incorporate SWP into the bigger business picture much more effectively.

By doing this, an HR team moves from its historically reactive, isolated position to an assertive, proactive one, playing a more integral role in the success of a business.

Faced with a flat economy and volatile world, businesses must be able to forecast human capital requirements immediately in order to stay focused on their core business objectives. The growth of AI in HR’s SWP process is doing this by enabling, informing and enriching the planning and decision-making process - thereby facilitating an ongoing focus on the future of the wider business.

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