Magazine article Talent Development

3 Keys to Closing: Workforce Planning Gaps

Magazine article Talent Development

3 Keys to Closing: Workforce Planning Gaps

Article excerpt

To be successful in closing skills gaps, workforce planners need to close the gap between plan creation and results realization. Many workforce plans are implemented haphazardly or are simply left sitting on the shelf. Thus, workforce planners are in need of a systematic approach to ensure their plans come to fruition.

APQC has researched how to successfully execute workforce plans and found that there are three keys to success: people, process, and technology.


The first essential to successful workforce plan implementation is having the right people involved. This starts with having leaders who authorize the time necessary for workforce planning and ensure accountability for results. APQC's research of top performers shows that implementation truly begins when leaders demonstrate the importance of workforce planning and follow through to results. Executive support sends a powerful message that workforce planning is a core business activity worthy of time and effort.

For example, at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency, management initiated a shift to a more strategic, long-term workforce planning approach. Like many federal agencies, the Farm Service Agency traditionally had focused on retirement rates and succession planning, but management wanted a new approach to assess a broader array of workforce risks and inform a wider range of human capital decisions. To reinforce this directive, the management team tracks each division's performance on the human capital initiatives that arise out of strategic workforce planning.

To execute plans and realize results, you must get from start to finish.

Similarly, it was the CEO of MITRE Corporation who initiated an effort to improve workforce planning. The CEO prompted the company's seven research and development centers to share expertise and create a standardized, strategic approach. As a result, the chief HR officer had the support and funding to create a chief workforce economist position, supported by analysts, and task them with centralizing workforce planning.

In addition to leadership support, having a core workforce planning team also is important. Plan implementation is facilitated by ensuring workforce planning teams have qualified members, time dedicated to execute the process, and performance goals and incentives for closing skills gaps. Top performers have small teams with the optimum combination of workforce planning training, implementation experience, and skills (such as analytical capabilities). This qualified and dedicated support means the process does not get dropped when challenges or distractions arise.

For example, Phillips 66 has a workforce planning and analytics center of excellence with a director and two analytics advisers. Similarly, the U.S. Geological Survey has a workforce planning team that includes a workforce planning program manager, a workforce data and analysis program manager, and a program analyst.

Business unit leader involvement also is critical to plan implementation. Giving business unit leaders significant responsibility in plan creation and implementation ensures a vested interest in seeing plans carried to fruition. Among top performers, business units are heavily involved in workforce planning. Consequently, they understand how workforce plans will benefit their units' performance and thus have a strong incentive--as well as the connections, expertise, and authority--to follow through until results are achieved.

For example, plan creation at Kaiser Permanente's Northern California region is a collaborative activity where executives provide strategic direction, frontline managers explain how work occurs, and HR leaders offer feedback on forecast assumptions and facilitate discussions with HR subject matter experts. The business units are primarily responsible for implementing the workforce plan, with the workforce planning team providing support such as preparing cost benefits analyses and assessing potential investments. …

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