February 09, 2022
February 09, 2022
Contributor: Zhenli Lin
With effective coordination and greater transparency, you can overcome the limitations of business-unit level workforce plans and better support your organization in advancing its strategic priorities.
Most organizations now realize that a holistic overview of skills in an organization-wide workforce plan will enable them to deploy employees across business units (BUs) more effectively, especially when a mismatch in talent demand and supply needs to be urgently addressed. However, most organizations are making workforce plans at a BU level and often struggle to bring them together in a strategic workforce plan for the organization. Instead of thinking about workforce plans at an organization or BU level as two distinct options, identify the steps and activities that should be conducted at a BU level. Then focus on how these inputs may be used to inform plans made at an organization level.
Download now: How to Build a Business Case for Strategic Workforce Planning
To better understand how an organization-level workforce plan can be conducted with inputs from BU-level workforce planning, a closer look at the activities involved in each step of the process is necessary. The activities involved in workforce planning can be broadly categorized as designing and execution.
The first four steps in the strategic workforce planning process involve designing activities. The inclusion of stakeholders within a BU differs depending on the activity, some of which are conducted at both the BU and organization levels.
As part of preparation for the strategic workforce planning process, identify:
To overcome time constraints and yet continue to actively shape future hiring needs, American Red Cross uses a prioritization framework to identify BUs with high growth rates and high alignment with organization’s priorities as critical BUs. American Red Cross prioritizes deeper talent planning conversations for critical BUs but still takes a light-touch approach with its other BUs. Those with similar resource constraints can take inspiration from this prioritization approach to identify critical BUs to partner and invest in.
Three main activities are performed as part of understanding the business strategy: setting business objectives, analyzing internal and external labor markets and assessing talent needs. In these activities, a bidirectional flow of information takes place between the key stakeholders overseeing workforce planning on an organization level and those within the individual BUs. Key stakeholders overseeing workforce planning on an organization level usually include the head of talent management and business leaders in top management. In contrast, workforce planning within individual BUs usually involves the HR business partners (HRBPs) and business leaders of the specific business segment.
To obtain a more accurate insight into skills needs, Lloyds Banking Group assembled a cross-HR skills team that collaborates with the business on skills planning.
The cross-HR skills team includes representatives from all relevant HR subfunctions such as total rewards, talent management, recruiting and L&D.
When setting business objectives:
When analyzing external labor markets:
When analyzing internal labor market:
When assessing talent needs:
You will need to use the results of the internal and external labor markets analysis in Step 2 to diagnose risks of executing a workforce strategy. A key activity here is to align talent needs with business objectives. This involves:
When drafting a workforce plan to address talent risks:
Execution activities are mostly conducted at the BU level but involve collaboration with stakeholders throughout the organization. In executing a workforce plan, set clear triggers for when a plan needs reevaluation and assign ownership for trigger identification.
Before you can effectively execute the organization’s workforce plan, you need to:
The Australian Financial Security Authority splits the responsibility for updating workforce plans between HR and business leaders based on their existing expertise. This way, each party works on updates where it can have the greatest impact. The split is made such that HR is responsible for identifying labor market triggers, while business leaders are responsible for identifying business triggers, which they already track for business strategy purposes.
To know if a reevaluation is needed, it's imperative to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the workforce plan. BU leaders should set up regular check-ins with HRBPs to review the BU’s workforce plan against objectives. The head of talent management should do the same with BU leaders to evaluate the effectiveness of the workforce plan and determine if an adjustment to the plan is needed.
Conducting workforce planning at an organizational level can indeed be challenging. However, it is not an insurmountable task.
To foster success, work closely with other stakeholders in the organization, especially the BU HR leaders who can collectively contribute to the creation of an effective workforce plan at an organizational level.
With effective coordination and greater transparency, workforce planning at an organizational level can overcome the limitations of BU-level workforce plans and better support the organization in advancing toward its strategic priorities.
This article originally appeared in HR Leaders Monthly in October 2021. Download the full issue here.
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Recommended resources for Gartner clients*:
HR Leaders Monthly: October 2021
How to Resource Workforce Planning
How to Conduct Organizational Workforce Planning With Business Unit Planning Inputs
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*Note that some documents may not be available to all Gartner clients.