Strategic workforce planning enables smarter HR decisions

by 13 Aug 2009

Companies have made little progress in the area of strategic workforce planning, despite evidence that it can drastically help a firm decipher how to best invest in their work force and in which areas to trim back.

Strategic workforce planning, which links business strategy to HR strategy, is still a relatively new methodology which can take three to five years to implement. However, according to recent research by The Conference Board, a lot of companies have put the investment into this on hold because of the economic crisis.

“By providing a vital link between business strategy and workforce strategy, SWP can reframe the HR agenda,” says David Learmond, executive fellow at The Conference Board. “It provides a unifying context for decisions on reward strategies, learning approaches, diversity and inclusion issues, and many other related and important HR issues.”

The report, Implementing Strategic Work force Planning, features four case studies of companies that have successfully employed strategic workforce planning: IBM, Starbucks, Canada Post, and Australian Mining Industry.

However, according to the report, many companies make today’s difficult human capital decisions without the data and analytics that can best position their business for the future. This includes decisions including drastic cost-cutting measures such as slashing headcount, freezing, hiring and suspending training, all of which can cause long-term collateral damage.

“Strategic workforce planning helps companies look beyond short-term budget or headcount planning to examine organisational capacity issues,” says Mary Young, senior research associate, human capital, The Conference Board. “It also helps identify and manage human capital risks. Unlike older, more operational HR approaches, the primary beneficiary of SWP is the business.”


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