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Workforce planning is about getting data right

Whilst the pressure may be on to collect as much data as possible, the paper advises stepping back to identify the important business problems and working backwards to decide what information HR needs to plan organisational resources. 

A new guide to workforce planning from the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) claims that the process too often fails because of poor execution. The remedy, according to the author, Peter Reilly, is to keep it as simple and focused as possible. In particular, HR should be sparing in data gathering, but ensure that those data are consistently defined and accurate. Specific techniques can then be applied to highlight difficulties or offer solutions, such as career mapping or scenario planning.

The author draws on IES’s 45 years of research, training and consultancy experience in workforce planning to offer guidance to HR practitioners for improving the process, and gives ten practical tips to guide them through it. The paper aims to help those who are starting out on workforce planning and those with more experience who would benefit from some advice, to review current workforce planning processes and identify pinch points.

Author Peter Reilly described how important it was to demonstrate the value of workforce planning to sceptical audiences, saying, “HR should be close enough to the business to know the principal challenges in matching workforce supply to work demand. It should then be able to identify the means by which gaps are closed or surpluses dealt with.”

“We wrote the guide because so often HR complains that its workforce planning is ineffective and business leaders complain that HR processes are too cumbersome. Both groups have unrealistic expectations that workforce planning will solve all their resourcing problems, ignoring the benefits of identifying and thinking through the workforce challenges.”

‘Workforce planning: a framework for thinking about your own approach’ is the second in a new series of concise papers for busy HR professionals and line managers. The HR Essentials series offers concise, accessible advice based on in-depth research, extensive consulting experience and ongoing conversations with leading practitioners.

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