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

By Anissa BOUCHELLAH

Functional HRIS Consultant

What is Strategic Workforce Planning?

Strategic Workforce Planning(SWP) is a method of projecting jobs, skills and career paths over the long term once a need has been identified and without legal constraints. 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 successfully implement the SWP in the long term, it is necessary to consider the 3 axes structuring the SWP:

  • Analysis of the organization’s workforce 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 any given time. The challenge for the Human Resources Department is to ensure accurate forward-looking management of available resources and to ensure that it has the right skills, at the right time and in the right place, to meet the strategic challenges.
  • Highlighting the gap between the current situation and the future ambition. It is essential to question the emerging competencies emanating from future professions that are fundamental to the proper functioning of the organization. Moreover, we must ask ourselves which jobs are likely to evolve or disappear. This HR action allows the development of strategic plans defining the needs in skills. HRDs must offer personalized support, which allows for the appropriate development of skills, according to the expertise of the employees.
  • The optimization of HR development processes (training, mobility, recruitment, talent management, upskilling, reskilling, cross skilling…) will 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 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 element. The SWP allows to analyze the strategic objectives, to anticipate the stakes and to plan the quantitative and qualitative HR needs (workforce, competencies, organization of future jobs). 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 a global HR approach that optimizes knowledge of jobs and talent management. This process consists of applying consistent measures and monitoring their evolution. The PPIM tools are primarily focused on qualitative analysis. Quantitative projections are limited, which makes it difficult to anticipate short-term 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 professional and training paths 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).
  • 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 reflectionstranslated 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).

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

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