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Five steps to ensuring senior team buy-in with workforce planning activity

In the second of two extracts from her book on Strategic Human Resource Management, HR director Karen Beaven outlines the roles of the leadership team and technology in workforce planning and offers five steps to ensure executive buy-in

Workforce planning

Workforce planning is a core component of any effective HR strategy and should be intrinsically linked to the overall company strategy and objectives. Any plan created will only ever be as good as the data that has been collated to inform it, and for that reason it is essential to combine data and analytics with insight from key stakeholders and decision makers within the organisation.

The most effective workforce plans are those that are created in collaboration with the leadership team and championed by them in both the process of collating the data that defines them and the action that results from them. Plans should be reviewed and adjusted regularly as new information comes to light arising from both internal and external sources. The plan should be considered a live document that moves and flexes in alignment with the objectives and performance of the organisation.

The role of the leadership team

The leadership team for the organisation should play an active role in the workforce planning process. They have a primary responsibility for outlining the objectives for the organisation and ensuring that these objectives are articulated well and communicated to all of the relevant stakeholders throughout the organisation. In addition they should also play an active role in championing workforce planning activity in order to secure buy-in from the wider organisation and therefore build trust in the process. Then, importantly, they need to instigate and support action deriving from the gap analysis and workforce plan, supporting this down through divisional level in order to ensure that action is taken quickly and work is prioritised where necessary.

Impact of technology

It can be suggested that the deployment of new technology in order to support workforce planning activities can enable organisations to access new levels of innovation and growth. In fact, it could be argued that it is now an essential factor in determining the success of the process, particularly with the evolution of changing ways of working such as gig work, virtual contracting and employment beyond retirement. It’s important to remember, though, that any technology deployed should be considered as a tool to facilitate the process as opposed to something that can effectively automate it without the requirement for human interaction.

In addition, it’s important to note the requirement for investment in technology and systems that can effectively provide HR teams with data and analytics to support the process. It will be very hard for HR to provide accurate budget and planning projections without reliable data available to them. It can often be the case that investment in this area is held back or delayed through prioritisation of systems enhancements that are perceived as being more immediately commercial; however, this can prove to be a costly mistake in the long term, particularly in scenarios where a competitor has established systems and processes that are more readily able to provide the intelligence required.

Toolkit Essentials: 5 steps to ensuring senior team buy-in with workforce planning activity

  1.   Involve senior leaders early on in the workforce planning process
  2.   Clearly articulate the benefits expected from effectively completing the process
  3.   Be prepared to articulate what will happen if workforce planning is not conducted on a regular basis
  4. Ditch the jargon. Ensure you articulate the process and benefits in commercial terms that are familiar to your business
  5.   Establish a mechanism for co-creation of the workforce planning process and plan.

Strategic Human Resource Management: An HR Professional’s Toolkit by Karen Beaven is available now. Read part one of this two parter here

Published 6 February 2019. This is an edited extract from Strategic Human Resource Management: An HR Professional’s Toolkit
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