Academic journal article The Public Manager

Bringing Strategic Plans to Life through Workforce Plans

Academic journal article The Public Manager

Bringing Strategic Plans to Life through Workforce Plans

Article excerpt

Workforce planning is a critical component to achieving the human capital outcomes that result in organizational success.

How will strategic plans become real? Throughout the federal government, strategic plans have been prepared based on careful analysis of the agency's mission priorities. Measurement systems have been established to determine whether the plans achieve the desired outputs and outcomes. These activities are clearly important, but they will be little more than lifeless paper or computer files unless the right people are hired, developed, and motivated to do the work that is needed to achieve the strategic goals. A robust workforce planning process is a tool that can ensure that the right people are at the right place at the right time to achieve strategic goals.

What's the big deal? How is human resources management different in the early years of the 21st century? Many agencies have developed workforce plans for years. These plans described hiring priorities to get the necessary work done, given a finite resource pool. Often the trigger was pulled to implement these plans once the budget numbers were known. This typically occurs during the second quarter of the fiscal year. When the workforce supply was growing relative to demand, and the pace of change in the way work was accomplished was comparatively slow, this approach was usually sufficient. Times have changed. Labor surpluses and slow change do not come close to describing the work world in the United States in the year 2000. Some of the significant challenges facing agencies today include:

* The talent pool for many occupations is shallow, and getting more so. Despite increased participation of women in the workforce, and greater attention to recruiting outside the United States, there is a labor shortage compared to a few years ago. Unemployment is at a 30year low. Demographic projections for the next five to seven years indicate that the labor shortage will continue. Further, there are extreme shortages in technology-related occupations where there is nearly zero unemployment among qualified job seekers. But there are also shortages in other occupations. Increasingly job applicants have multiple choices.

It is a seller's market. Employers must market the work, development opportunities, and excitement, and then move quickly with job offers that are tailored to the interests of the individual to attract high-quality talent.

* The life cycle of knowledge required to accomplish many jobs has become ever shorter as new concepts and technology are introduced more frequently. This has increased pressure to renew workforce competency through training/retraining or recruitment of new personnel. Competency requirements must be anticipated and acted on proactively to avoid serious lags in achieving strategic goals. The private sector increasingly states that workforce knowledge is a key competitive issue. The public is not likely to accept less than a public sector workforce with up-to-date competencies, nor should it.

* Agencies have to concern themselves with retention strategies to ensure that their best employees do not seek out greener pastures in this booming job market. An especially significant fact is that the workforce has aged. The average age of the workforce in most agencies is over 45 years, and increasing. Due to hiring freezes and downsizing, many agencies have relatively few employees under the age of 30. When the boomers start to retire, there will be a major exodus of knowledge that will leave a tremendous void unless plans are developed to create some bench strength in key jobs and occupations or entice older employees to stay on the job. The private sector has begun actively to encourage older workers to stay by providing increased flexibility to work part-time, or to perform projects where their wisdom and organizational knowledge, gained through years of experience, are especially valuable. …

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