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What is strategic workforce planning?

  • It is a vital business directive
  • An executive obligation 
  • It is about leadership which excels
  • A constantly changing process focused on the future and based on ensuring employee’s needs are in line with the employer’s needs

What does it require knowledge of?

  • Skills shortages
  • Hard-to-fill occupations
  • Assessment of risk 
  • Analysis of supply and demand gaps
  • Current and future training opportunities
  • Growth of your sector

Strategic Workforce Planning (variably known as Workforce Planning and SWP) is one of the most misunderstood business phrases currently in use. If you were to speak to any number of people in business and ask them to explain SWP, the responses you’d garner would vary between “It’s project management” and “Isn’t it something to do with financial headcount forecasts or recruitment?” and they’d be partially correct but in reality strategic workforce planning is something of each of those aspects and more. 

To put it very plainly, strategic workforce planning is the process of working out exactly what it is your business is trying to achieve and ensuring the workforce needed is there to do it. It utilises certain processes which are there to ensure that the future of your business is taken care of in terms of human capital…or the workforce.

In addition to that, it involves noting any gaps which might be present and providing your Human Resources team with a clear directive. Furthermore, strategic workforce planning includes building a future vision of workforce demand, thus ensuring your organisation against failure due to lack of personnel.

At the heart of strategic workforce planning lies a process which merges business management with people management and that entails strategic planning which is always in line with operational supply and demand in order to avoid talent shortages or indeed, surpluses at any given time of the year. Strategic workforce planning allows a company to achieve strategic objectives in terms of production, performance and profit.

Why it matters?

The more robust your people management strategy, the more chance you have of avoiding scenarios where you end up panic-hiring or layoffs. Well-implemented SWP allows your HR department to properly facilitate recruitment and retention of the workforce. As well as develop your workers skills in line with your company’s planned growth and development. Employee training is taken into account so that your team always has the necessary skills to keep your business thriving.

When your strategic workforce planning is done well, you will always be aware of who is soon to leave for maternity, who has or is soon to complete additional training or qualifications, who is coming to the end of a trial or who is soon to retire. Knowing these details can help your company to be prepared for the changes which your workforce will undergo at any given time.

Why recruitment agencies are integral to effective strategic workforce planning?

Accessing suitably qualified personnel is integral to effective strategic workforce planning but the hiring process can be extremely laborious and difficult. This is especially true for businesses which need to utilise extra staff regularly but on a temporary basis.

Times when business is brisk will always require more hands-on-deck and for smaller businesses, this is particularly tricky because they won’t always have the use of their own HR department. Larger businesses equally struggle due to the amount of paperwork and training needed for additional staff. The most talented Graduates are always in demand and it can become quite competitive at key times of the year.

A recruitment agency can pick up much of the extra labour when it comes to onboarding temporary staff, relieving your full-time team of that responsibility. Access to trained, qualified personnel as and when required is at the heart of well-executed strategic workforce planning. It’s also possible to access the same staff repeatedly, hiring them as and when needed, booking in advance and thus benefiting from their knowledge of your company and your knowledge of their past performance. 

The key to successful strategic workforce planning

There’s more than one element to a successful workforce planning initiative so we’ll break each element down into questions which you can ask regarding your business, present and future.

Who are we?: In terms of your business; this needs to be answered as clearly and succinctly as possible and is something all businesses ought to be able to answer easily by articulating the company vision and purpose. From this, we can move on to the next element.

Where are we going?: This involves understanding your future vision for the business and what the workforce will be required when it reaches that point. This is your ideal future for the business and to successfully answer this question fully,  you will need a good understanding of the future labour market and financial forecasts.

Where are we now?: This is about understanding your current workforce and studying its current capabilities. Are there gaps? Are there some departments where turnover is high? Why? Do you struggle to find people with the right qualifications and experience? If so, it might be time to consider your own in-house training. Do you have all you need in terms of the future and if not, how do you get it?

Where do we want to go? Identifying future business needs and possible business scenarios in addition to planning what capabilities your workforce needs to have.

From answering these questions you will effectively identify where your workforce has skills gaps and once they are known, you will be able to develop strategies to ensure that the gaps are filled in time to successfully achieve your business goals.

A recruitment agency can advise regarding temps, contractors and permanent staff in addition to supporting your new-found employees as you onboard them and train them should that be necessary. 

Contact the Aicila Group today to accelerate your company’s strategic workforce planning initiatives or if you are looking for industry experts to drive your recruiting process and find you the best talent in the market.

The Aicila Group can help you achieve the kind of results you’ve been hoping for.

Alicia Keenan is the Managing Director at the Aicila Group, a globally active and highly specialised animal health/nutrition and animal production recruitment and consulting company with HQ in Australia.

Connect with Alicia on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter.

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