Building Strategic Workforce Planning Capabilities

November 27, 2023
Season 5, Episode 5

An overview of findings from The Hackett Group’s new research into “Building Strategic Workforce Planning (SWP) Capabilities and Beyond,” a performance study designed to understand the drivers of the SWP effectiveness, the impact on talent outcomes, and the strategies and practices employed to build effective SWP capabilities. With Senior Research Director Tony DiRomualdo and Global HR Executive Advisory Practice Leader Franco Girimonte.

Welcome to The Hackett Group’s “Business Excelleration Podcast,” where week after week we hear from experts on how to avoid obstacles, manage detours and celebrate milestones on the journey to world-class performance. This episode is hosted by Gary Baker, Global Communications director at The Hackett Group. Today’s episode will discuss the latest research on strategic workforce planning. Gary is joined by Tony DiRomualdo, senior director at The Hackett Group, and Franco Girimonte, Global HR Executive Advisory practice leader and principal at The Hackett Group.

Kicking things off, Tony and Franco share what strategic workforce planning is and why it is important to organizations. Strategic workforce planning is having the right people at the right place with the right skills at the right time with the right cost. There needs to be a framework and strategy in place where finance and business partners are part of those conversations. Part of the formula is defining what the current talents are and that can be found in the workforce profile that has information on every employee. When you combine talent supply and finance, then one can identify the gaps in talent, including too many people or too little. Turnover has downstream effects, and organizations that have these HR processes launched and smoothed out are able to do this on a more continuous basis and feed in new information. Organizations need to identify the changes in supplies of skills and become more of a rolling type of planning process. They need to continually update based on the dynamics of what is happening in the marketplace, and then they will have more capability to compete for talent. With population shortages, it is becoming more difficult to find and retain talent.

Next, they discuss their findings and benefits from the strategic workforce planning study. Forty percent of companies that they surveyed had immature strategic workforce planning or were just starting out. Strategic workforce planning requires some investment in attention and focus on the right people in the HR organization. The organizations that are mature in their strategic workforce planning are far more effective at key tasks and have more advanced capabilities. They are able to transport certain types of workforce or additional people. They also are more effective at identifying risks associated with attraction and retention of critical talent. This goes beyond head count and more into specific roles and skills, and looking more internally for the talent the company already has. They have a skills competency framework, and evaluate the skills and input them into the system. They anticipate and forecast how demand and supply might change. They also score higher on customer satisfaction, value, business satisfaction, better execution, etc.

Franco and Tony share the categories needed for strategic workforce planning, which includes foundational, intermediate and advanced capabilities. They state that these capabilities can’t all be implemented quickly, but need time to implement these correctly. Mature companies have a robust technology environment with systems producing data. They also have really good data governance with the analytics team to measure the insights from the data itself. They leverage this with the business and bring back talent requirements. They also have extensive reporting and sophisticated analytics capability that include what-if scenarios and implications. Based on these scenarios, they give insights to business partners, start to consult the business and advise them if they change directions. There is a single source that all stakeholders can access. They also bring teams together to share and understand what each other is doing. They also have business partners that feel comfortable using scenarios, models and insights every step of the way.

In addition, they discuss the role of HR business partners in strategic workforce planning. They need to get in alignment and engage in productive conversations around this. Business partners need to speak the language of the business and have enough skills, resources, and processes to implement this. They also need to be able to focus and have the attention to build these capabilities on a day-to-day basis. The key practices identified for mature companies around strategic workforce are governance or business leaders sharing responsibility for business workforce leaders. The HR business partners should be heavily involved, getting the business leaders also involved and finding out the talent demand. Maturity leaders are two times more likely to implement a standard strategic workforce planning process because they take this seriously. They have a similar process that looks standardized across the workforce and is integrated across the groups. They track data around skills and talent management space. Mature leaders have more effectiveness out of their tools – data visualization tools – and platforms that are important. They also identify the gaps in talent management and figure out how to integrate those insights moving forward. Finally, they share recommendations to build an effective workforce strategy. He recommends getting a baseline measure of what capabilities or elements that you have in place and identify the gaps. He also recommends identifying clear responsibilities, and business partners need to know how to take the outputs and use those to inform decisions and outcomes in roles. Lastly, they need to track performance, outcomes and measures of impact.

Time stamps:

  • 0:49 – Welcome to this episode hosted by Gary Baker.
  • 2:11 – The definition and importance of strategic workforce planning.
  • 7:59 – Benefits and findings from the study on strategic workforce planning.
  • 16:02 – Categories needed for mature and effective strategic workforce planning.
  • 22:42 – The role of HR business partners in strategic workforce planning.
  • 26:50 – Key practices mature organizations are employing around strategic workforce planning.
  • 31:02 – Recommendations to build an effective strategic workforce strategy.