Why your workforce is the life or death of your business

| June 14, 2019

Businesses have never had more complexity or variables to juggle in making sure that they can execute their key objectives. The “constant change syndrome” businesses face from digitisation, regulation, demographic change, innovation, and competition can distract businesses from what really matters, the workforce.

While there is so much buzz about new business apps, AI for business, and even predictive analytics that can help your business grow, whether your business actually exists in five years depends on your people.

The workforce is one of largest costs for businesses, and if leveraged correctly it can be the biggest asset. After all, what is a business if not its workforce?

Luckily, there is a winning approach for businesses to accurately plan for the future workforce.

Strategic Workforce Planning (SWP)

SWP has been around for some time now, yet is rarely properly utilised to drive decision making. Ask five different people what SWP is to them and you will end up with seven different answers. Responses may range from rostering, project management, and recruitment pipelining to financial headcount forecasting.

At its core, SWP is the translation of business strategy into workforce implications, in a quantitative way. This means working out what your business is trying to achieve and making sure it has the workforce it needs to do it.

For example, SWP can identify gaps and overlaps in your workforce so business owners know when they don’t have the right type employees and skills, the incorrect workforce mix, or when unnecessary costs such as excessive overtime or absenteeism are causing financial impact.

SWP has many positive applications for a business, and if used correctly, it drives clarity on how to transform for the future.

Translating business strategy and Scenario planning

Getting a business strategy bedded down can be incredibly difficult. Often, we settle on focusing on the near term or have a vague vision for the future. SWP can translate and flesh out business strategyto build a future view of workforce demand.

The other big strength of SWP done right is that you have a dynamic, visual understanding of your plan and possible alternatives. Using scenario modelling in planning for the future, you can understand and see that change so you are not flying blind. In this world of constant and accelerating change, adaptability and agility is crucial, and scenario planning achieves that.

Take the case of Royal Dutch Shell Group of companies. Their system of scenario planning is acknowledged to be one of the best strategic planning systems used today and has been credited for turning around its business performance. At Shell, planning for the future is done through scenarios, which not only enables superior decision making, but also facilitates alignment between management teams who are all interpreting things through their own lens.

Implementing SWP

SWP takes organisations out of the past and present and gets them looking to the future, shifting them from being reactive to proactive. This brings insight, focus and alignment to management teams who are usually perceiving issues differently and uses the common denominator of the workforce to do so. This delivers the clarity needed by leaders to understand the nuance of company strategy.

When looking at implementing SWP in your business, you need to make sure you it will provide a wide range of benefits, not just a minimal surface read. True SWP will generate quantifiable commercial value by giving analysis on talent retention, workforce capability, aligning supply and demand, help you understand the skills and capabilities of your workforce and make sure you have the right workforce in the right place and the right time, both now and into the future.

SWP brings together an informed view of business strategy versus the workforce, integrating all elements in a dynamic and predictive construct to centre the conversation on strategy, planning and action. It is essential to the future of your business.