Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Workforce Planning Not a Common Practice, IPMA-HR Study Finds

Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Workforce Planning Not a Common Practice, IPMA-HR Study Finds

Article excerpt

The IPMA-HR Benchmarking Committee has been providing human resources benchmark information and data metrics to IPMA-HR members on various topics--including recruitment, compensation, training, HR information technology, operations and demographics--since 1997. Most recently the committee issued a survey to 5,700 IPMA-HR members measuring the extent to which public agencies utilize a workforce plan and have a formalized workforce planning process in place. The results are analyzed here.

Workforce planning has long been an active HR strategy that has been discussed at professional conferences and within professional journals and publications. Since the late 1990s, HR professionals and decision makers have been aware of the need for formalized strategic planning of their workforces, especially given the pure demographics of the public service environment, at all levels. The inevitably changing workforce, driven by the steady exodus of baby boomer workers towards retirement, and converging many times with an increasing demand for public services, marked the generational HR management need for proper planning and development of thoughtful strategies in the areas of recruitment, retention and succession planning.

While the HR and leadership community recognized this need for proper planning, circumstances and limited resources have prevented some agencies from instituting a formal approach to workforce planning. However, there are many examples of success in this area, often driven and supported by government leadership outside of the traditional HR community. For example, at the federal level workforce planning-or human capital planning--is a major component of the President's Management Agenda; and in the State of Georgia, the state legislature embedded formalized workforce planning for agencies within state law.

As shown in the following summary of results of the 2004 IPMA-HR Workforce Planning Survey, many agencies have reported their data and successful strategies for developing a workforce plan and process. As telling as the reported data are, the lack of a higher response rate to the survey may also be an indicator that we've still not formally embraced workforce planning in many of our public agencies. However, the input received from this survey provides useful information for agencies of all sizes, with various degrees of resources available to commit to workforce planning. The journey towards recognized and formalized workforce planning has certainly begun, and will continue to evolve and take form.

Survey Results

In a recent survey of IPMA-HR members (conducted in January 2004) on their workforce planning activities, of the 97 people who responded only 36 respondents (37 percent) indicated that their organization has a workforce planning process--i.e. a process that includes defining staffing requirements (both staffing levels and competencies), identifying current staff availability, projecting future staff availability, and calculating specific differences between staffing supply and demand. Sixty-one respondents (63 percent) indicated their organization did not have a workforce planning process in place.

In an effort to explain the low response rate to the survey, a random sample of the 359 members who responded to the demographics section of the survey, but did not respond to the workforce planning questions, were contacted via telephone. They explained that they did not have a workforce plan or process in place, so did not respond to the workforce planning survey section.

These findings are really not surprising when reviewed in light of other studies in both the private and public sector. The U.S. General Accounting Office in two reports-"High-Risk Series: An Update," GAO-01-263 (January 2001) and "High-Risk Series: An Update," GAO-03-119 (January 2003)--identified strategic human capital management as a government-wide high-risk area after finding that the lack of attention to strategic human capital management had created a risk to the federal government's ability to serve the American public effectively. …

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