Strategic workforce planning: what you should consider before you begin

By Vidal Ferreira 

Strategic workforce planning: just another HR fad, or potentially a talent-enabler process to a successful business strategy delivery?

With Strategic Workforce Planning (SWP) all over the HR news for the past few years, one can easily dismiss it for the latest HR fad. But if you think of it however, as a process to ensure that the right levels of talent, with the right skills set, is delivered at the right time and place for the right investment to execute the business strategy, a different perspective might come to your mind. With that so nicely put, the business justification should sell itself, right?

Well, it ‘should‘ but despite the obvious outlined mandate, most business leaders are not quite convinced yet. Organisations are somewhat reluctant to embrace the concept, either due to lack of understanding of the impact SWP can leverage to an organisation, or simply wary over the magic-wand of HR and its known shortcomings.

Nevertheless, take the process ownership aside just for a moment and wonder:

What is SWP and why is it important?

SWP is a structured process that seeks to identify and address, based on the business strategy, potential talent gaps on the supply and demand equation for both, current and future business imperatives. It allows an organisation to peek around the corner, accounting for internal and external market shifts affecting its capabilities to deliver tactically and strategically.

In order to better illustrate organisation’s needs for a more systematic process when it comes to manpower planning. Allow me to share few ideas to help highlight the eminence for a decisive action by business leaders on such a pressing issue. This might clear a bit of the fog or make you feel like you’re driving blindfolded all together.

  • Aging workforce, causing labor imbalance and shortages globally;
  • Impact of the shift in demographics – generational demands in the workplace.
  • Pace of technology development – shaping shortages and surpluses rapidly;
  • Dynamic boom and bust economic scenarios, changing the competitive landscape;
  • Changes in political, legislative, social and environmental arenas;

Consider these few, among many other daunting people-related matters, with far more reaching consequences to businesses worldwide. For many of the current workforce challenges impacting small and large business globally, SWP was found to be a core solution.

Is SWP right for every organisation? The short answer is No.

In SWP it’s the one-size-fits-one approach. What works wonders for one industry or company might be disastrous for others. But if your organisation is highly reliant on manpower whose skills and capabilities have high market demand, and have long lead times to develop, taking many years at times. Then SWP should probably be a core business process for your organization.

The truth is that, a growing number of organisations are becoming more oriented and refined in their people planning processes. Many evolving from budget-headcount planning to strategic planning, in response to a fast-paced-ever-evolving labor market and seeking avidly quality-decision-making in talent planning.

The level of sophistication depends upon your organisation requirements, and how complex the industry and environment really is – it can go Fermat’s Enigma or a plain simple equation.

What is important to keep in mind, is that business alignment, segmentation and discipline are paramount to a successful SWP implementation – with that, you should be good to hit the strategic planning road.

I am speaking at the Workforce Planning and Analytics seminar in Dubai this Jan 27 -28 and hope to see you there.

We will also be discussing further on Strategic Workforce Planning in the weeks to come – stay tuned!


Vidal Ferreira is a Strategic Workforce Planning & Analytics Consultant with Saudi Aramco. He has over fifteen years of a diversified Human Resources experience with extensive international exposure across six continents. Having lived in over seven countries throughout his career, he is considered a truly global mindset professional.

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