Strategic workforce planning (SWP) is a crucial process that helps organizations align their human capital with long-term business objectives. While many companies recognize the importance of SWP, they may be uncertain about the time required to implement this process for the first time. In this blog post, we’ll explore the factors that influence the timeframe for initial strategic workforce planning and provide insights into what organizations can expect along the way.
1. Assessing the Current State
The first step in the SWP process is to assess the current state of the organization’s workforce, including skills, competencies, and demographic information. This stage involves gathering data from various sources, such as HR systems, performance evaluations, and employee surveys. The time required for this stage can of course vary significantly depending on the size of the organization, the availability and quality of data, and the level of detail required for the analysis. However on average, once data privacy is cleared, it takes a few weeks to track what’s needed and start forecasting the workforce (the Supply part of SWP).
2. Identifying Future Workforce Needs
Once the current state has been assessed, then comes the Demand side of the process. Organizations must identify their future workforce needs by considering factors such as business objectives, market trends, and technological advancements. This stage typically involves close collaboration between HR professionals, line managers, and executive leadership, as well as consultations with external experts and industry peers. Depending on the complexity of the organization and its industry, this phase is actually the trickiest the first time around and can take several months. In a Run phase, this lead time is bound to be reduced as SWP becomes increasingly continuous.
3. Developing Workforce Strategies
With a clear understanding of the current workforce and future needs, organizations can begin developing strategies to bridge the gap between the two. This phase involves creating actionable plans to address identified skills gaps, recruit and retain talent, and develop the workforce to meet long-term objectives. The time required for this stage depends on the organization’s ability to make decisions and reach consensus. If the right stakeholders and sponsors have been involved from day one, it can be pretty immediate.
4. Implementing Workforce Strategies
Once the workforce strategies have been developed, organizations must put them into action. This stage involves executing initiatives such as recruitment campaigns, training and development programs, and organizational restructuring. Implementation can take anywhere from several months to a few years, with ongoing monitoring and adjustments as needed.
5. Monitoring and Evaluation
Strategic workforce planning is not a one-time event but rather an ongoing process that requires continuous monitoring and evaluation. Organizations must regularly review the effectiveness of their workforce strategies, making adjustments as needed to respond to changing business conditions, workforce demographics, and other factors. This phase is ongoing and should be integrated into the organization’s regular business planning cycles.
The time required to perform strategic workforce planning for the first time can vary significantly depending on the organization’s size, industry, and complexity, as well as the quality of data and stakeholder involvement. For a population of 5,000 headcount, the entire process can take anywhere from 6 weeks to 3 months.
It is essential for organizations to be patient and committed to the SWP journey, understanding that the process may involve iterative adjustments and continuous learning.
By investing time and resources into strategic workforce planning, organizations can build a strong foundation for long-term success. Although the initial implementation may require significant effort, the benefits of a well-executed SWP process—such as improved talent acquisition and retention, enhanced workforce agility, and alignment with business objectives—will more than justify the investment.
As organizations embark on their first strategic workforce planning journey, it is crucial to remain focused on the end goal: building a skilled, adaptable workforce that is well-positioned to drive the organization toward its long-term objectives. By embracing the process and dedicating the necessary time and resources, companies can unlock the full potential of their workforce and confidently navigate the challenges and opportunities of the ever-evolving business landscape.