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The gathering pace of the UK vaccine rollout, alongside the unfurling of the Government roadmap, have given people hope that the end of stringent lockdown restrictions are firmly within sight. This will, inevitably, result in a gradual return to ‘normality’ over the coming months.

However, the ramifications of the pandemic will inevitably shape the long-term future of the working landscape and wider economy. This means that People/HR leaders and the organisations they operate within need to rethink and reset their management, performance and workforce strategies.

There’s no time like the present for People/HR teams to consider the implementation of strategic workforce planning as they strive to successfully recover and resume operations following the pandemic.

Maintaining business continuity under such uncertain commercial conditions is currently a priority, given that workloads might fluctuate according to restructuring requirements. Organisations therefore need to explore ways in which they can remain flexible, by ably adapting to new, and perhaps previously unexplored, challenges and pressures. They also need to consider the fact that they may have to increase capacity quickly, and at short notice, or urgently acquire new skills to cope with a sudden change in direction.

These are the reasons why businesses are turning their attention to developing a strategic workforce plan. Having the right people in the right place at the right time is a given basic critical element to the success of a business and having an operational workforce plan is a great place to start. In order to truly realise the benefits of workforce planning however, a workforce framework which is carefully aligned with the strategic goals of the business is where the real value lies.

We cover some of the key steps to consider when developing a strategic workforce plan below:

Strategic Analysis

Firstly, understanding the environment in which you are operating is critical. An environmental scan allows organisations to map out the risks and challenges it may face in relation to its market, workforce demographics, skills shortages, competitors, emerging industry trends and impact of technology.

Secondly, having a clear vision in place along with clear desired outcomes is essential. Is the vision realistic, are key stakeholders bought into the vision and is a clear strategy in place to deliver it? Strategic workforce planning is all about aligning a business strategy with workforce needs. Therefore, it’s vital that a clear vision of success is in place before attempting to create and implement a Strategic workforce plan.

Requirement (Forecast)

Understanding the roles that will allow a company to deliver upon its business strategy is key. Strategic and critical skills are most important to the success of an overarching plan, and a thorough understanding of what these skills are is crucial at this stage. Understanding demand in general across the business is necessary and companies often capture this information locally at an operational level. In order to create a true company-wide strategy for workforce planning, it’s vital that this information is shared centrally. Tactics such as forecasting, scenario planning and trend analysis play a key role here.

Talent and Availability Gaps

Once there is a good understanding of current and future demand, the next step is to establish where the skills gaps are and who is already within the business that can fill those gaps. Data is key at this stage and is where many organisations struggle. Omni can help organisations to look at the current data that is available in relation to an  existing workforce, external labour supply, capability and capacity gaps and  further metrics that allow for much greater insight into the talent availability and gaps for an  organisation.

Strategic Interventions

At this stage, it’s time to look at how a business can fill the gaps in its workforce. There are seven key interventions Omni use to carry out such analysis bound together by effective SWP reporting and tracking, the most common among them being:

  • Build – Developing talent within the organisation
  • Bridge – Redeployment to new roles inside or outside of the organisation
  • Buy – Hiring external talent into the organisation
  • Borrow – Accessing external talent such as contingent labour, outsourcing, partnerships and secondment.

Budget and timeframes will have an impact as to which of these strategic interventions are deployed. The seven interventions are also useful when looking at scenario planning. Under certain circumstances, a business may need to have a different ratio of strategic interventions depending on what they are and how they evolve. It is important to consider at this stage that any changes to the configuration of the workforce may also have an impact upon organisational design and its target operating model.

These four stages of SWP are all-encompassing and would generally be deployed as part of a company-wide Strategic workforce planning programme. However, it’s also worth highlighting that the methodology can be used on a small-scale basis for specific business units, or as part of a particular challenge which a business may face.

To find out more about Omni can help, please contact Paula Dutton, Strategic Workforce Planning Lead.