Your Workforce: Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail

“Failing to plan is planning to fail” is a popular old adage, and it couldn’t be more true than when it comes to workforce planning. Even if you operate in a geography that has an ample number of people in the workforce, the chances of all of them having the right skills your organization needs are slim.

Organizations are realizing they need to take a two- pronged approach to building their talent pipeline internally and externally in order to keep up with future workforce needs. A preliminary analysis of Brandon Hall Group’s ongoing Workforce Management Benchmarking Survey shows that 53% of respondents cited the need to improve workforce analytics capabilities and 44% cited the need to build long-term workforce planning capabilities as top concerns for their organizations.

Half of the organizations in this study indicate that they either have no workforce planning in place, or they treat it as simply a near-term scheduling activity. Another 27% indicate that they view it as planning for headcount, and just 23% are planning based on anticipated skill needs for the future.

Of course, it’s important for organizations to plan on all of these levels – organizations need to make sure their operational staffing plans are in place, they need to plan for headcount growth, and they need to plan for building skills and capabilities. But balancing their view between these three very different time horizons can be difficult.

So what can organizations do to start put themselves on the right track and it comes to workforce planning? This’ll be a key topic that I’ll be publishing on in the coming months, but in the meantime, here are three ideas to think about:

  • Analytics and planning go hand-in-hand. In order to create an effective plan, organizations need a clear picture of what they have today, and a way to think critically about their plans for the future. Workforce analytics are a critical source for this information, allowing organizations to drill down into their data and understand the capabilities and characteristics of the top performers today, and perform gap analysis with where they need to be to support business strategy for tomorrow.
  • Make workforce planning a business issue. Guidance and expertise in the process of workforce planning – the tools and analytical insight – certainly belong to HR. But the actual ownership of the process and its outcomes needs to be in the business. The business must understand that part of the job of leadership is to ensure that they have the talent required to execute their business strategy. They need to be actively involved in understanding the skills and capabilities that must be developed or acquired externally, and coming up with plans to address them.
  • Start the conversation. Far too many organizations simply have hope that they will find the talent they need as they grow and evolve. But organizations need to start thinking and planning today – because we all know what can happen if you fail to plan.


Mollie Lombardi, Vice President of Workforce Management Practice
and Principal Analyst, Brandon Hall Group

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Mollie Lombardi