Workforce planning can make a significant contribution to the success of any company. HR Leader looks at how Westpac approaches the issue and details the makings of successful workforce planning programs
While workforce planning
has been around for a
number of years, all too
often it is seen as just
another HR initiative
because there are no hard links to business
plans or strategy. However, when HR estab
lishes a program based solely on business
needs, workforce planning can play a sig
nificant role in the future success of any
Westpac has met with considerable suc
cess in its workforce planning initiatives,
according to Anastasia Ioannou, head of
strategic workforce planning, metrics & sur
veys. Workforce planning is intrinsically
linked to business strategy at the bank, she
says, and remains a ‘living document’ to
ensure that “we continue to review our
workforce and make the right sourcing and
development decisions that reflect the
group’s mission, strategic plans and budget”.
Ioannou, who formerly served as man
ager of workforce planning at RailCorp,
says it’s important to have an ongoing dia
logue with the business about future plans.
This helps ensure that the company has the
appropriate workforce capabilities, per
formance and accountability to meet the
needs of business strategy, she says.
Breaking it down
There are eight key elements to Westpac’s
workforce planning model – each of which
revolves around eight key questions. Ioan
nou breaks down each question, and says
the first question is “who are we? … We
need to understand our business by articu
lating our vision, mission and purpose.”
The second question is “where are we head
ing?” It’s important to have an understanding
of the organisation’s strategic context, and
Ioannou says this can be achieved by defining
the future vision and the required workforce
against organisational direction, external
labour market and environmental factors.
The third question is “where are we
now?” and she says this is about knowing
your current workforce by analysing its
characteristics and capabilities.
The fourth question is “where do we
want to be?” “This can be achieved by iden
tifying future business needs scenarios and
workforce characteristics and capabilities,”
The next step is to analyse workforce
gaps by asking “what don’t we have?” and
once these gaps are identified, develop inte
grated business and HR strategies that map
out how the company will address the gaps
between current and future workforce needs.
The seventh element involves implementation. This
involves the question of “how do we make it happen?”
and subsequently investing in strategies and change man
agement processes to address workforce planning issues,
“Finally, we need to ask ourselves whether we’re on
track. This can be done by evaluating the effectiveness of
strategies to determine success of planned changes and
impact on business performance,” she states.
Workforce planning success
The key to the success of a workforce planning strategy is
in engaging and partnering with the business, Ioannou
says, and then linking the workforce plan to the business
plan, which can be achieved by mapping demand and sup
ply to the current and future business strategy.
Other elements that have contributed to the success of
the workforce planning process within Westpac include:
using an environmental scan to forecast long-term employ
ment needs by providing insight into possible opportuni
ties and risks, using the PEST analysis model (political
environmental, social and technological); identifying the
right metrics to keep leadership informed about key work
force issues, which can also serve as lead performance indi
cators; and targeting programs to specific employee groups
in order to maximise the return on investment of the pro
grams. “This includes retention, rewards and recognition,
employee engagement, training, mentoring and redeploy
ment programs, which are drivers towards a talent mind
set,” Ioannou explains.
The results of Westpac’s workforce planning program
can be demonstrated through several hard measures,
according to Ioannou, including increased cost-efficiency
in the areas of recruitment, training learning and devel
opment, evidence to demonstrate the link between pro
ductivity and financial performance, the development of
key workforce measures and graduate programs that meet
capability gaps and understanding the importance of data
integrity in the HRIS system.
Being workforce planning wise
Workforce planning takes time and requires dedicated resources - in other words, a competent team of workforce planners with great collaborative skills, according to Ioannou.
"Start by doing a simple but effective DNA map of the organisation and map out areas where there are 'burning platform issues'," she says. These may include particular areas where turnover is high, areas where there are critical skill gaps, persistent vacancies, high levels of absenteeism, ongoing loss of high performers or loss of employees with less than one-year tenure, and the skewing of workforce demographics such as age, gender or employment mode to one end of the spectrum.
She also recommends finding one champion within the business who will benefit from the program; "work with them to implement the process and together promote the process to the rest of the organisation", she recommends.
On a wider level, it's important to develop a set of key workforce planning metrics and embed these metrics into the executive and board reporting processes, she adds.
"I would also recommend that organisations use the workforce planning process to gain further insight into their workforce by understanding what makes employees tick or, in other words, how they 'think and feel and act' - all of which influence how engaged your employees are," she asserts.
"I think that linking the findings of the workforce planning process with the organisation's employee engagement, exit, on-boarding and culture surveys and other human resource metrics is the real value-add of the workforce planning process."
Westpac’s workforce planning lessons
“As with implementing any business process, there have been challenges, however we have learnt a lot along the way," says Anastasia Ioannou, head of strategic workforce planning, metrics & surveys for Westpac.
“My advice is to start by finding one champion who you can work with and who will assist you to promote the program within the business, rather than taking on the whole organisation. It also helps to keep abreast of what other organisations are doing in this space in order to promote best practice and continual learning.”
It is also important to involve the business. Ensure that the business owns the process, she says, and involve the recruitment, learning and development, HR information systems and organisational development teams, engage the business leaders upfront to articulate the current and future strategy and engage the business to map the current capabilities of the workforce and identify future capabilities.
Top tips for workforce planning
(By Julie Sloan, Director Workforce Planning Australia. www.workforceplanning.com.au)
There is a growing amount of international research and documentation that demonstrates the link between the application of Workforce Planning processes, targeted workforce development strategies and increased productivity. Businesses that have applied Workforce Planning to their business decision-making during the global financial crisis are now applying the same processes to better position themselves as competitors for the reducing labour market. It is now clear that if you are not developing Workforce Planning capabilities that enable you to produce the evidence (supply-gap analysis and risk assessment of supply) on which to base your workforce decisions, your organisation will be less competitive in the labour market.
Workforce planning is:
• a business imperative
• an executive responsibility
• about good governance and leadership
• a new discipline requiring new skills and capabilities
• a continuous future focused process concerned with aligning the needs of the employee with those of the business, and vice versa
Requires examination and understanding of:
• mission critical occupations
• skills shortage occupations
• hard to fill occupations
• globally advantaged, insulated and vulnerable occupations
• supply and demand gap analysis
• risk assessment of supply
• evidence-based and targeted workforce development strategies - recruitment, retention, growing or buying your workforce and job re-design.