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It's a sad fact that human resources (HR) is, perhaps more likely than any other department, forced to repeatedly justify its worth to the wider organisation. Other departments see HR as being insulated from the commercial aims of the organisation, causing discontent between HR and the organisation at large.

Although this conclusion is mostly undeserved, HR teams do need to contribute to the organisation's overall objectives, necessitating alignment between HR practices and the organisation's goals.

This process is known as "Strategic Workforce Planning," and in this article, we will outline how HR teams can utilise strategic workforce planning to ensure close alignment between the HR team and the employing organisation as a whole.

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What is Strategic Workforce Planning?

Strategic workforce planning is the bridge that connects an organisation's business strategy with its workforce needs. This process involves a comprehensive understanding of the company's goals, followed by a thorough analysis of the current workforce profile. It's about understanding the capabilities, skills, and competencies of your workforce and aligning them with your organisation's objectives. The aim is to ensure that you have the right people, with the right skills, in the right roles, at the right time.

After assessing the current scenario, strategic workforce planning forecasts future workforce needs. This projection incorporates the anticipated skills, roles, and capabilities that will be essential to drive the business forward. But it's not just about forecasting - it's about bridging the gap between the present and the future. Identifying the gaps in skills and roles between the current workforce profile and future needs, and developing strategies to fill these gaps, is a pivotal part of this process.

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If you would prefer to watch a video, here is Ben Schwencke talking about strategic workforce planning:

Why does strategic workforce planning matter? The reasons are manifold. It helps companies stay agile in a volatile business environment, mitigates the risk of talent shortages, increases productivity, and ultimately, fuels business growth. By ensuring your workforce is engaged, motivated, and fully equipped to perform their roles, strategic workforce planning serves as the foundation for a successful business strategy.

Incorporating psychometric assessments into your strategic workforce planning can add another layer of insight. These tools allow you to understand the strengths, weaknesses, and potential of your existing employees and prospective hires. Psychometrics can provide valuable data, empowering you to make informed decisions about training, development, and recruitment, and allowing you to optimise your talent acquisition strategy.

"Psychometrics can provide valuable data, empowering you to make informed decisions about training, development, and recruitment, and allowing you to optimise your talent acquisition strategy."

- Ben Schwencke

As we delve deeper into the world of strategic workforce planning, we'll explore how psychometrics can be your secret weapon in this endeavour. We're looking forward to equipping you with the insights you need to optimise your talent acquisition and build a team that's ready to conquer whatever business challenges lie ahead.

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Step 1: Outline your key business objectives

First and foremost, we must always outline our key business objectives. Understanding where your organisation is headed and what it aims to achieve forms the cornerstone of effective strategic workforce planning. Without clear objectives, it's akin to setting sail without a destination in mind, risking a lack of direction in the vast ocean of possibilities. Choosing which objectives to prioritise can often be a challenging task, especially in a fast-paced business environment filled with competing priorities.

The process begins with identifying your strategic priorities - be they expanding into new markets, developing innovative products, enhancing customer satisfaction, or improving operational efficiency.

Once these priorities have been identified, they should be ranked according to their importance to the business. This ranking should take into consideration factors such as the potential impact on the business, required resources, and the feasibility of achieving the objective. While all objectives carry their importance, not all can be pursued simultaneously, and prioritising them aids in the efficient and effective focus of resources and efforts.

The formalisation of these goals and objectives is a critical aspect for several reasons. Firstly, it provides a clear vision for your organisation, ensuring everyone is aware of what the organisation is striving towards. This shared vision helps align efforts across different teams and departments, promoting a cohesive approach towards the achievement of the objectives. Secondly, formal goals and objectives act as a benchmark against which progress can be measured. They allow for an assessment of whether the organisation's efforts are bringing it closer to its objectives and facilitate the identification of any required adjustments. Thirdly, they promote accountability by setting clear expectations for what the organisation aims to achieve, thus enabling teams and individuals to be held accountable for their contributions towards these objectives.

Before making any changes to the workforce, these changes must be in alignment with the business objectives. For instance, if the objective is to expand into a new market, it may be necessary to hire new employees with the skills and experience relevant to that market. Conversely, if the objective is to improve operational efficiency, retraining existing employees or streamlining processes might be the path to follow.

Ultimately, outlining key business objectives is a critical first step in strategic workforce planning. It provides direction, promotes alignment, and ensures that any changes to the workforce are supportive of the organisation's strategic priorities. Hence, before embarking on the strategic workforce planning journey, it is crucial to have a well-defined compass - your key business objectives - in hand.

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Step 2: Evaluate your existing workforce

Begin by conducting a thorough analysis of your current workforce, capturing a comprehensive picture of the skills, knowledge, and abilities your employees bring to the table. Take into consideration factors like the roles they currently occupy, their level of experience, performance history, and their potential for growth and development within the organisation. This thorough understanding will provide a solid base from which to identify gaps, predict future needs, and design a blueprint for talent acquisition and development.

A key component of this evaluation is the use of psychometric assessments. These tools offer valuable insights into an individual's behavioural traits, abilities, and potential, which go beyond what can be gleaned from resumes or interviews alone. By leveraging psychometrics, you can gain a deeper understanding of your workforce, enhancing your ability to align your talent with your strategic objectives.

"Once you've analysed your workforce's current capabilities, it's important to look at your organisational structure."

- Ben Schwencke

How are roles distributed across departments and teams? Is there a balance of skills and abilities within these units, and does this balance support your key business objectives? The answers to these questions can shed light on whether your current workforce and organisational structure are well suited to meet your business objectives, or if adjustments are necessary.

With the evaluation complete, you will have a clear understanding of your workforce's strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for growth. This understanding is a valuable asset when planning future workforce needs, as it enables you to address gaps proactively and strategize effectively. It helps you ensure that any changes or decisions regarding your workforce are made with an informed perspective and in alignment with your business objectives.

In essence, evaluating your existing workforce is a step that provides you with the information necessary to make strategic decisions about talent acquisition, retention, and development. It's a step that paves the way for effective workforce planning that supports the achievement of your key business objectives.

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Step 3: Forecast future requirements

With a clear understanding of your key business objectives and a comprehensive evaluation of your existing workforce, the next stage in strategic workforce planning is forecasting future requirements. This process involves projecting the skills, capabilities, and roles that will be crucial for your organisation in the years to come. It's about anticipating change and preparing your workforce to navigate it effectively.

As markets evolve and technology advances, the skills and capabilities that your organisation will need to stay competitive are likely to change. For instance, the increasing digitalisation of businesses may require a higher level of digital literacy across all roles.

However, it's not just about forecasting the skills needed to keep up with market changes; it's also about anticipating the future needs of individual employees as they progress through their careers. This is where strategic job analysis comes into play. This method involves evaluating the skills and competencies that employees will need as they advance in their roles or move into new ones. By identifying these future requirements, you can create development plans that prepare your employees for their career progression and help them grow with your organisation.

For instance, an employee currently in a technical role might aspire to a leadership position in the future. Strategic job analysis could reveal that, in addition to their technical expertise, they will need to develop skills in areas like strategic decision-making, people management, and financial acumen. By identifying these future needs, you can provide the necessary training and development opportunities to prepare them for their desired role.

"In this step, it's crucial to foster open communication with your employees about their career aspirations and the skills they would like to develop. This not only helps you in your forecasting efforts but also builds a culture of transparency and engagement in your organisation."

- Ben Schwencke

Forecasting future requirements is a critical step in strategic workforce planning. By anticipating the skills needed to navigate market changes and preparing your employees for their career progression, you can ensure that your workforce is ready to face the future. Not only does this help your organisation stay competitive, but it also contributes to a positive and supportive work environment that values growth and development.

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Step 4: Implement your revised strategy

The final step in the strategic workforce planning process is implementing your revised strategy. Having outlined your business objectives, evaluated your existing workforce, and forecasted future requirements, you are now equipped with the necessary information to shape a workforce strategy that aligns with your organisation's goals. This is the stage where your planning translates into action, enabling you to optimise your talent acquisition and development practices.

A core part of implementing your strategy involves identifying, recruiting, and developing individuals with the skills, abilities, and characteristics that align with your organisational goals. It's here that the power of psychometric tests comes to the fore. Psychometric assessments offer an objective, reliable, and validated method of measuring these attributes. They can assess a wide range of areas, including cognitive abilities, behavioural traits, personality characteristics, and growth potential.

For instance, cognitive ability tests can help you identify individuals with the mental agility to adapt to new roles or changing market conditions. Personality assessments can give insights into an individual's traits, such as their propensity for teamwork or their leadership potential. Motivation assessments can help you understand what drives your employees, enabling you to create work environments that engage and inspire them.

By integrating psychometric assessments into your recruitment and development processes, you can ensure that your decisions are backed by robust data. This not only increases the likelihood of making successful hiring and development decisions but also enhances the transparency and fairness of your processes.

However, the implementation of your revised strategy doesn't stop at talent acquisition. It's also about developing and nurturing the talent you already have. This could involve providing training and development opportunities, creating career progression paths, or implementing retention strategies that align with your workforce's values and aspirations. Psychometric assessments can also be instrumental in these efforts, providing insights that help you tailor your strategies to the unique needs and potential of your employees.

Implementing your revised strategy is about taking action to align your workforce with your organisational goals. With the support of psychometric assessments, you can make data-driven decisions that optimise your talent acquisition and development practices. The result is a workforce that is not only equipped to meet your current needs but is also prepared to navigate the future, contributing to the long-term success of your organisation.

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One of the more common criticisms of HR is the perceived disconnect between the HR department and the wider organisation. HR is seen as pursuing its objectives and ignoring the fundamental goals set by the wider organisation. Strategic workforce planning represents the antithesis of this perspective, closely aligning HR with the organisation's wider objectives. This makes strategic workforce planning particularly important when championing the needs of the HR department, as it showcases HR's essential role within the organisation itself.

Given the importance of measuring key skills, traits, abilities, and characteristics that support the organisation's wider goals, HR teams must think carefully about choosing a psychometric testing provider. Test Partnership's range of cognitive, behavioural, and practical assessments are ideal for any organisation's strategic workforce plan, helping with both the internal analysis of employees and the external assessment of job candidates. For more information on our suite of assessments, please contact us directly or book a call with one of our business psychologists.

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