What is workforce planning?

Over recent weeks I have found myself heavily engaged in keynote speeches and panel discussions: PAFOW, CIPD and HRTechX to name a few. Common to all of them is the question “what is workforce planning?”

The Seven Rights

Fundamentally workforce planning is about ensuring an organisation has the Right Capability to achieve their business objectives. More important is how that capability connects across six additional dimensions:

Right Shape. The right mix of capabilities across the business.

Right Size. The right numbers and level of capacity.

Right Location. At the right location, both geographically (country, region and office/plant) and structurally (function, team).

Right Time. At the time that is needed to deliver value.

Right Cost. The right price point that provides value for money, in relation to external markets, internal benchmarks and value generation.

Right Risk. At the right level of risk in relation to your business (eg variability of demand, sustainability of resource and speed to competency).

The Three Horizons

The application of those seven rights is in direct relation to the timeframes you operate within. The balance will be different in relation to the right capability for tomorrow morning than it would be when considering the right capability for the next five years. I frame those timeframes as three distinct ‘horizons’:

Horizon One – Resource Planning (or resource management) is the activity taking place within the current year and is focused on how to deploy people to fill the gaps that result from natural workforce evolution (eg absence and turnover). At a basic level, this is done by supervisors all over the world and typically results in a rota or schedule.

Horizon Two – Operational Workforce Planning is focused on the next year and looks at the workforce that is needed to accomplish the strategy. In the majority of organisations with low maturity in workforce planning, this exercise is led by the finance function as part of an annual budgetary process.

Horizon Three – Strategic Workforce Planning is concerned with multiple years and is concerned with the people needed to accomplish the long-term business strategy.

Considering those seven rights within the context of the three horizons is the basic framework to consider the workforce that is needed now and in the future.  In a future article I will cover how this intersects with my Agile Workforce Planning methodology.

Adam Gibson is a global leader in Workforce Planning, creator of the Agile Workforce Planning methodology and a popular keynote speaker.  Having successfully implemented and transformed workforce planning and people analytics in businesses across both the public and private sector, he advises company executives in creating a sustainable workforce that increases productivity and reduces cost.  He is the Executive Director of Strategic Workforce Planning at Capita, a multinational company of 70,000 staff, and he is at the forefront of efforts to simplify the business and strengthen their market position.  In addition, Adam is the Director of Agile Workforce Planning Ltd and the Strategic Partner of the Cabinet Office in Workforce Planning

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