Strategic Workforce Planning: what are the challenges for organisations?

Strategic Workforce Planning is still an activity that is not well mastered by Human Resources Departments, even though it represents a real necessity for organizations and a great opportunity for HR departments. It is a real necessity for organizations and a great opportunity for HR departments.

HR Strategy

Strategic Workforce Planning


Functional HRIS Consultant

What is Strategic Workforce Planning?

Strategic Workforce Planning (SWP) is a method of projecting jobs, skills and associated costs over the long term once a need has been identified and without legal constraints. Depending on the maturity of the company, it is possible to apply it on a defined perimeter (BU/department, team impacted by a project) or for the whole organization if necessary. Thanks to this method, it is possible to set up action plans allowing the accompaniment of the employees towards new competences. In order to succeed in the long term, it is necessary to consider the 3 axes structuring the SWP:

  • Analysis of the workforce available within the organization to track changes through history and available data. It is a matter of characterizing the competencies of employees, departments and partners. This analysis allows the company to identify the skills it has at a given moment. The challenge for the Human Resources Department is to ensure accurate forward-looking management of available resources and to ensure that the right skills are available at the right time and in the right place to meet strategic challenges.

  • The projection of future staffing and skills through foresight. Foresight is a methodology for analyzing possible and desirable futures. This involves questioning the (possible and desired) changes in terms of workforce (quantitative), jobs and skills needed tomorrow in order to have the right resources at the right time (qualitative). Indeed, it is essential to question the emerging competencies emanating from the future jobs that are fundamental to the proper functioning of the organization (strategic jobs). The forecasting of jobs and skills will make it possible to identify the jobs that are likely to evolve or disappear (critical jobs).

  • Highlighting the gap between the current situation and the future ambition. This HR action allows the development of strategic plans defining the needs in skills and puts the HR function as a real strategic partner. This analysis also allows implement a plan to optimize HR development processes (training, mobility, recruitment, talent management, upskilling, reskilling, cross-skilling, etc.) to enable the organization to converge towards its future target. The HR function includes supporting employees in the evolution of business processes and talent management. A comprehensible reading grid for all employees will be developed to optimize the evolution of career paths within the organization and facilitate communication.


What are the differences between SWP and PPIM (formerly GPEC)?

The Strategic Workforce Planning process is deployed in the corporate organization. This powerful tool is used to mobilize strategic issues by including the human and financial aspects. The SWP allows to analyze the strategic objectives, to anticipate the stakes and to plan the quantitative and qualitative HR needs at the global level (collective) and according to the projected turnover. It can focus only on specific areas, targeted according to the business transformation needs (geographical, functional). It is not legally binding, so by nature it remains a more agile tool. The SWP is a strategic tool for anticipating human capital at the service of global strategy and business challenges.

Job and career management (GEPP, formerly GPEC) is an HR approach that optimizes knowledge of jobs and talent management. This process consists of applying consistent measures and monitoring their evolution. PPIM tools are primarily focused at the individual level. Thus, Strategic Workforce Planning, which takes place upstream, allows for the implementation at the individual level. Quantitative projections, on the other hand, are limited, which makes it difficult to anticipate short- and long-term business issues.

The SWP approach addresses needs as complex as PPIM. It offers broader perspectives, especially on the human side. Its use brings added value, thanks to methods centered on the various activities of the company.


What are the challenges of Strategic Workforce Planning for an optimal organization?

The introduction of the SWP into a company’s organization raises some questions. Some sensitive jobs may change or disappear. The digital transformation has already replaced some jobs by machines via the automation of certain tasks or the implementation of self-service to consumers (automatic checkouts, mobile applications, robot, industrial revolution …). This requires a reorganization of human capital to ensure that we evolve in a high-performance organization. It is a question of acting upstream on the development of the skills of employees who work in a sensitive trade to find them a new job. Emerging professions need to be anticipated by strategic plans for the future. The HR function must therefore plan career paths and training for employees who will have to reorient themselves.

  • The ability to correctly identify the company’s current skills and jobs.
  • The prospective of tomorrow’s jobs for the company via sectorial analyses and the measurement of automatable tasks.
  • Structured management to close the gap between current and future resources (skills development, recruitment, mobility, promotions and talent management).
  • Assistance in arbitrating economic investments with regard to skills development (e.g. POEC / POEIC).
  • The strategic partnership between the HR, Finance and Operations departments.
  • Regular monitoring of the evolution of the human resources and workforce (quantitative aspect) in conjunction with the organization’s financial/management control for relevant workforce management.

How do you get the right resources to the right place at the right time?

In a context where changes follow one another, it is necessary to use tools that adapt to the rapid evolution of the market. In addition, given the acceleration of technological developments, the HR challenges are significant. This requires anticipating organizational changes and available resources, while considering emerging skills and professions. In order to become an essential strategic partner in the organization’s strategy, it is necessary to anticipate its human capital. The SWP allows the definition of strategic objectives by taking advantage of future developments.

Organizational issues encompass various elements, such as:

  • the management of staff and associated salaries in the short, medium and long term to guarantee the management of human and financial resources;
  • anticipating resource needs (qualitative and quantitative) to optimize HR policies and provide the necessary resources (jobs, skills) in a proactive manner;
  • developing sustainable strategic plans to adapt to changing directions;
  • objective and quantified analysis of strategic choices by placing organizational issues and human capital at the center of concerns;
  • the coordination of thoughts translated into concrete organizational objectives (staff, jobs, skills);
  • the involvement of the finance and IT departments in steering the process to ensure the reliability of existing data (headcount, salaries).

Conclusion on the challenges of Strategic Workforce Planning

In conclusion, it’s about understanding current and future skill needs, planning for the acquisition and development of those skills, and putting workforce management processes in place to ensure you have the right people in the right jobs at the right time.

The SWP is therefore an agile approach, allowing the HR function to become an essential strategic partner in building a strategy for the organization.

At SQORUS, we work with our clients on a variety of issues, including strategic human resources planning. Do not hesitate to contact us to discuss this with our experts.

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