Article: 21st Century Management

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January 18, 2017

Synchronising people and business priorities for strategic workforce planning


Our workplaces are being disrupted at an unprecedented pace. Keeping on top of trends has become a non-negotiable part of 21st century management.

In many ASEAN countries especially Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, organizations struggle with an aging workforce, a shortage of global skills, rapidly shifting demands from customers and employees, and growing pressures to be diverse and inclusive e.g. the Big Crew Change in the oil & gas and petrochemical industries, the reducing number of brick and mortar bank branches due to bank digitalization etc. Many organizations are functioning in a continuous change cycle, and hence business leaders need to be highly agile to manage modern workforces.

To respond to massive and rapid change, business leaders must be able to anticipate how changing strategies and business models will alter their organizations’ workforce needs. They can benefit greatly from effective strategic workforce planning.

Leaders must be able to anticipate how changing strategies will alter their organisations’ workforce . Click To Tweet

Strategic workforce planning is the practice of mapping an organization’s people strategy with its business strategy so they work in sync. This approach delivers two critical advantages: It helps business leaders understand whether they have or can obtain the workforce to execute their business strategy. It also assists HR leaders reorganize, shape, and deploy the workforce to deliver on their organization’s business objectives.

And when done well, strategic workforce planning helps to ensure that organizations have the right workforce today and tomorrow, at the right cost.

But strategic workforce planning is complex and can be difficult to execute well. A workforce does not behave in a linear fashion; it flows as people are promoted or transferred, take sabbaticals, resign, and retire. So, even once it’s clear how the future workforce needs to look like — in itself no easy task — mapping how to get there requires a deep understanding of the current workforce, sophisticated scenario planning, detailed HR analytics, and suitable modelling tools. Because business conditions change so swiftly, strategies also must be reviewed and updated regularly to account for opportunities and threats as they arise.


Using the ‘5 RightS’

Although many organizations struggle with this complexity, there are those who do it well. They have the right framework, tools, and processes and can accurately identify and establish the right workforce at the right cost to execute their business strategies. Korn

Ferry Hay Group’s strategic workforce planning framework, known as ‘5 RightS’, helps businesses translate their strategies into what they need from their future workforce within a framework of: right shape, right skills, right size, right site, and right spend.

To map an accurate vision of the future workforce, business leaders must understand how each of the five elements in the framework affects the workforce and, by extension, the business.

  • Right Size — getting the right amount of staff to reach your strategic goals efficiently and effectively in accordance with expected productivity level to ensure sustainable future workforce supply.
  • Right Skills — identifying gaps in your people’s desired future skills, so you can plan your workforce the right way to meet future business demand.
  • Right Shape — getting your structure right doesn’t just mean that everything will run smoothly. It’ll also help enable and motivate your people while taking balance with the more complex employment types, i.e. permanent, short-term contract and outsourcing to enhance flexibility and cost effectiveness.
  • Right Site — making sure you have the right people in the right places to deliver outcomes and services to customers as you continue to grow.
  • Right Spend — investing the right amounts and spending less on the wrong things to ensure effective return on human investment.

In a volatile business environment, business leaders need to plan for inevitable change so they can anticipate and deliver the workforce the organization will need. The business case for strategic workforce planning is already made. But the process is complex, and its complexity makes it hard to be implemented well. The 5 RightS — size, skills, shape, size, site and spend — provides a framework to translate the business objectives into a clear picture of the required future workforce; the first stage of strategic workforce planning.