Simply put, Strategic Workforce Planning (SWP) is about getting the right number of people with the right skills, in the right place at the right time and for the right cost.

There are a number of recognised methodologies and toolkits which exist to guide organisations through the implementation of SWP.

To be effective, there are key success factors to consider.

SWP must be:

  • Aligned tightly to strategic priorities
  • Owned by the business, facilitated by HR/Strategy/Risk and supported by Finance
  • Underpinned by workforce analytics – quantitative, qualitative and anecdotal data
  • Supported by a robust change management methodology

Worrying responses

When Berwick Talent Solutions recently asked 225 senior HR and talent acquisition professionals around the world how they viewed SWP, the responses were worrying. Just 4% of businesses, the survey showed, have fully embedded SWP into their organisations.

The purpose – and value – of SWP cannot be overstated. Its overarching aim is to define and optimise the workforce in order to execute the organisation’s strategy – today, and in the future.

Indeed, there has never been a more critical moment for organisations – wherever they are and in whichever arena they operate – to adopt a robust and proactive SWP programme.

VUCA world

We are living in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world. Businesses are trying to make sense of the constantly changing challenges brought on by the political, economic, societal and environmental change.

Implementing SWP can help businesses to mitigate risk, see around corners and prepare for uncertain futures. So executing a robust SWP methodology should be high on the corporate agenda, right?

Compelling case studies

The fact that only 4% of survey respondents reported that they have formally embedded SWP in their businesses should surely be of concern. The minority who have successfully managed to implement it have compelling case studies of its efficacy.

The full report illustrates how select businesses across the retail, infrastructure and public sectors have boosted profitability, transformed capability and gained a competitive advantage through strategic workforce planning.

When one considers that participation in the survey came from a wide range of businesses, from start-ups and SMEs to multinational corporations spanning 20 industry sectors, this is no isolated ‘blip’ in an otherwise SWP-enabled world.

Attracting (and keeping) talent

The biggest headache for HRDs and CPOs continues to be talent acquisition and retention, and the implementation of SWP could genuinely help to counter this. While formal adoption is scarce, there is a far higher degree of conceptual buy-in.

60% of those who responded recognised the intrinsic value of SWP. More than 75% of respondents cited a lack of time, resource and capability as the greatest challenges to implementing SWP. Only 10% have looked to engage external consultancy to support their efforts.

A pilot project to demonstrate ‘proof of concept’ would be perhaps the best way for organisations to build the case internally pending a wider-scale rollout.

Facing up to disruption

Looking ahead, digital disruption shows the biggest growth in terms of anticipated versus current challenges. Any ‘futuring’ activity around the workforce must consider the automation of roles and wider adoption of AI.

A case in point is a multinational delivery services business that identified its ‘courier’ role as being both ‘strategic’ and ‘pivotal’. This is likely to be profoundly disrupted by the transformation of last-mile delivery by the rise of drones and ‘robovan’ technology.

Critically, SWP should be a vital part of your business’s activity. Ignore it at your peril.

Berwick Talent Solutions delivers project and volume recruitment campaigns for mid-senior management level and specialist roles, and critical talent intelligence via its market mapping and pipeline projects. Its projects are driven by business growth, change or transition, and often, but not exclusively, by factors such as expansion, M&A, relocation, a new site opening or a new product launch. It operates across the commercial, not-for-profit and public sectors, and mirrors the Berwick Partners and Odgers Berndtson functional and sector specialisms.

Kate Parker

Kate Parker is Head of Berwick Talent Solutions. She has over 20 years’ experience in the recruitment industry across a variety of sectors, and a wealth of experience of delivering national and int...



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