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Survey: UK Firms Unprepared for Coming Workforce Shifts

Clare Hopping

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A new report says British firms aren’t doing enough Strategic Workforce Planning and therefore failing to adapt to a changing business world. Could your company be making the same mistakes?

Strategic Workforce Planning (SWP), a structured approach to bringing in the best talent, keeping them, and using their development to cut costs and improve productivity, is a universally accepted part of the in-house HR department’s core purpose.

However, according the Corporate Research Forum’s Workforce Strategy: Audit Survey Report, UK firms have a long way to go in terms of improving these plans and ensuring that they’re implemented. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development agrees, suggesting that there’s a “knowing-doing” gap preventing executives from making the most of their SWP activities.

Survey Results

CRF’s report suggests that the responsibility for SWP lies not only within the HR silo, but also with the whole executive team. By tying the HR planning process to wider business objectives, it’s possible to more accurately predict upcoming peaks and troughs in workflow. Furthermore, these plans should be “living,” meaning they’re updated and referred to regularly, not just written and abandoned.

The survey found that most organisations lack this understanding and are failing to write effective plans. Those plans that were written were found to be piecemeal and failed to consider the bigger picture.

The study suggests that HR teams are poor at proactive tasks like succession planning, forecasting, and understanding workforce risk. All this adds up to workforce planning, and when it’s done inadequately, it takes away (rather than adds) value from the business.

Best Practice

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Luckily, help is at hand! Global Professional Services provider KPMG has a handy ten-step guide to effective SWP. It suggests a three-phase approach starting with Preparation, moving to Action, and ending with Incorporation. The ten steps are as follows:

1. Review your organisation’s strategy
2. Research the internal labour market
3. Access (existing) supply and planned (demand) resource pool
4. Identify future demands/needs and gaps/excesses
5. Model the workforce against hypotheses
6. Define workforce requirements
7. Develop resourcing strategy with the business
8. Develop resourcing plan and engage with the business
9. Implement and measure
10. Integrate with other planning processes

If lengthy best practice processes are more than you have time for, consider using a simpler framework:

Audit: What is the current situation?
Objectives: What are the business’ plans?
Tactics: What does HR need to do?
Monitor: Compile results and measure effectiveness

By completing the four stages listed here, it’s possible to pull together a document that can serve as the starting point of your plan, a plan that will never actually be finished, just regularly updated. This living document could also mark the start of a major shift from reactively hiring on demand to proactively adding strategic input to your recruitment process.

Why Is SWP So Important?

[Insert: ]Mind the gap; clogsilk/flickr]

Just as any other department would, it’s essential that your HR team plans for the future based on the business’ current needs, objectives, and budgets. Just as their colleagues in charge of purchases track global supply and pricing of key goods and services, the hiring managers must keep watch on the availability and cost of the best talent.

Demographic changes are also already having a huge effect on the whole dynamic – the workforce is ageing while the new millennial graduates arrive with entirely different skill sets. In most cases, this kind of change is a good thing, but it can also cause issues with training on legacy systems.

HR teams must also keep an eye on the number of graduates entering the candidate pool who have sufficient training and skills desirable to the business. Too often, gaps go unnoticed between the competencies of the applicants and a company’s needs, and aren’t minded until the problem turns serious. A good Strategic Workforce Planner would pick up on this in time to take preventative – not remedial – action.

Take some time today to look into your team’s Strategic Workforce Planning process, and as always, make sure your recruitment team is playing a part in the strategic direction of your company.

Clare Hopping

Clare Hopping has been involved in the recruitment of both full-time employees and freelance staff for ten years. She specialises in recruiting staff via social media and digital platforms.