by Guest Blogger – Michelle Holland

There is a mysterious thing that appears in management books, it’s talked about by CEOs, General Managers attend conferences about it, and Human Resources keep bringing it up in every conversation….and yet it still seems to baffle many, confuse some and scare off the rest. That thing is called Workforce Planning.

We’ve all gone to the conferences where they explain why we need to plan our workforce.  It seems so logical and inspiring when the expert is talking.  We totally get it when we’re there.  We are completely committed. “This time I’m doing it!” we promise ourselves. Then we go back to our offices, get busy with the busy stuff we are all busy doing and Workforce Planning gets popped onto the, “I’ll do that later when I have time” shelf.

I have always wondered how this is possible and why Workforce Planning gets shelved, when business planning and budget planning is completed by hook or crook.

The answer that I’ve come to? The first answer is – it doesn’t get measured.  The old adage “what gets measured gets done” is so true in many businesses.  As a manager, you are measured against project completions, financial outputs and expenditures.   Your CEO expects a business plan to be produced annually or bi-annually.  Your CFO won’t approve spending without a budget.  Not all of us are great at financial or business planning…but we get it done. So how does this amazing feat happen? Well, one, because you have to (KPIs) and two, because there are generally dedicated experts to help you.  The CFO and Finance Manager usually have a team of very competent people who are there to help. Who once or twice a year pretty much down tools on their other priorities for “budget time”.   We’ve all been there.  We love ‘that’ time of the year.

Back to that Workforce Planning thing that’s on your shelf.  So you’ve done your budget and you’ve done your business plan.  Who’s doing the work that’s in your plan? Who’s spending the money that’s in your budget? Your staff, that’s who.

Wouldn’t it be great if you had as much support in Workforce Planning as you do in financial and business planning.  Imagine if HR said “no recruitment until you’ve planned effectively”. Effective and successful organisations don’t allow these business processes to be done separately.

Saying all of that, it’s people we’re dealing with in Workforce Planning, not dollars and cents.  People are so much more unpredictable than numbers.  This is the second answer for why it doesn’t get done…people stuff is hard.   So that brings us back to that shelf.

Naturally you are probably reading this thinking… Eureka! Human Resources, that’s who should be doing this! That’s who should be doing the Workforce Planning.  It’s people right, so it’s their job? Well, yes and no.  Many of my very favourite people are busy HR people working to make organisations great, so we don’t want to put the blame on them. Many of these HR people are so busy fighting the fires left behind by not planning, that they too have placed that Workforce Planning thing on the shelf.  So yes, HR are the right people to ‘guide’ the process and offer support. But sorry managers, it’s in your realm too…

So how do you start? What is stage one for Workforce Planning?

Your C-Suite need to be on board. And not just on board in the “yes, that’s important and we’ll do it one day” way.  On board in the “this is essential for us to be successful and therefore I’m making it my mission to have a Workforce Plan by next budgeting round” AND…“we are adding this as part of our annual business/budget process!” AND…“I’m allocating the necessary resources to get the first round done and the skills built in our organisation!!” way.  That’s the kind of ‘on board’ you need for Workforce Planning to be successful.

We all have great intentions, but you also need competency, understanding, time, resources, know how, tools and the will to get something done. If the skills are not readily available, there’s no shame in asking for help. We don’t think twice of asking a financial planner for help with managing our money.

So how do successful businesses do their Workforce Planning?

  • they make it as important as business and financial planning
  • they make it a measurement
  • they allocate the time and resources
  • they source and engage the expertise to make it happen
  • they start it and they finish it (that’s the really important bit)

So take that Workforce Planning thing off the shelf today.  Dust it off and get started – you’re only 6 steps away from a completed plan.

So once you have the C-Suite on board, what’s the next step in getting that Workforce Plan?  We’ll discuss that in the second instalment of this blog series…keep an eye out for “Workforce Planning….Crystal Ball Gazing?”.

Michelle Holland is an Associate at BRS and the Managing Director of Education Through Inspiration. Michelle is passionate about inspiring excellence and sustainable results for organisations, teams and individuals.