6 Pitfalls to Workforce Planning – The Second Pitfall

We’ve talked about the mistake some organizations make by Expecting HR to own Workforce Planning.

Today, let’s talk about Pitfall No.2: Missing the BIG Picture (which also implies that an organization must agree as to what the “big picture” is).

The goal of Workforce Planning is to have a ready, future workforce of capable people, and the flexibility to adjust for and retrain employees to deliver those capabilities when changes occur in the business strategy. As previously mentioned, workforce planning is a strategic business initiative so it’s highly unlikely that an organizational subset can successfully engage a workforce plan if the entire complement and senior executives are not fully onboard and engaged as well. Successes derived from good Workforce Planning will be realized only from a solid, top-down, all-inclusive approach. Without full engagement (and vision), there are too many interferences from higher echelons, that can spoil even the best planning efforts at the unit level.

The first step in seeing the Big Picture, comes from Peter Sperry, who brought to light an observation regarding surordinate units that sometimes focus on their own needs without considering the issues that face their parent organization.

For Workforce Planning to be successful, the parent organization must define its goals by taking into account their strategic business needs. The inference here is that “the parent organization” must be the highest level in an organization that is fully responsible for defining, executing, and evaluating the results of their efforts to achieve their mission. In the Federal government, the parent organization might be located at the State, Regional, or National level, depending on delegations of authority. In the private sector, an organization that’s mono- or mini-faceted (meaning it has one or only a few locations) will probably find its parent group at the highest level of the company; in a larger private sector business (like GM, UPS, Lockheed-Martin, etc.), the parent group might be found at the regional or State level. To put it in a nutshell, the parent organization will be found at the highest level of senior executives with whom the buck stops!

The Big Picture also requires defining the timeframe an organization should work with when forecasting strategic workforce needs; this depends on how long the strategists believe they need to source and fully train employees for their future needs. Typically, experts say this is between two and five years but there are always exceptions and one should pay attention to their unique technical training needs when establishing this timeline.

Finally, the Big Picture should also include making educated “guesses” about changes the organization might expect beyond their forecasted training and development timeframe. If an organization foresees new technologies in the offing, perhaps those that don’t even exist today, this should be taken into consideration when defining future, strategic workforce needs.

Related Article: 6 Pitfalls to Workforce Planning – In the Beginning

[source: “Workforce Planning Pitfalls” a Whitepaper]

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Andrew Krzmarzick

Thanks for writing this series, Doris. What would you say about the “Big Picture” that exists outside your organization – environmental factors that are directly related or tangential to your industry that could have an impact on the ability to recruit talent…or maybe trends that are already being seen that will have an impact on your organization eventually?