People Matter Blog

People Matter Blog

Opinions expressed on this blog reflect the writer’s views and not the position of the Capgemini Group

Should Strategic Workforce Planning be owned by HR?

Strategic Workforce Planning is once again recognised as being a high priority in the recent report by HCI in partnership with Workday, yet almost half of the organisations state they are unprepared for their future talent needs. Similar results are found in a survey conducted by Visier earlier in 2014. In their study, 39% of companies do not regularly do workforce planning.

One reason for workforce planning efforts being unsuccessful could be a lack of clarity about allocation and understanding of responsibilities of the various stakeholders involved. In fact, an unclear ownership has been identified as one of the main challenges by Bersin & Associates already back in 2009.

In general terms, ownership of the workforce planning process and budget most often lies with HR as opposed to Operations or Finance, according to the aforementioned study by Visier. Whilst research by HCI and Aberdeen Group confirms this finding for Strategic Workforce Planning, near-term Operational Workforce Planning, to the contrary, typically sits with the line-of-business leaders and not HR according to Aberdeen Group’s report.

Since “Workforce Planning fails when it is viewed as an HR issue rather than a business issue”, as Madeline Laurano phrased it, I wonder if HR really is the best place for Strategic Workforce Planning. Would it not be better to follow the logical extrapolation that if Operational Workforce Planning is owned by line-of-business leaders, Strategic Workforce Planning should be owned by the overall business leaders – the Executive Team? I do not suggest they should be responsible for facilitating the process and involving the various stakeholder groups including operations managers and other support functions such as Finance, Risk, and Compliance. This can be still done by HR or, maybe better, a standalone team. What I do suggest is that the Executive Team should be accountable for Strategic Workforce Planning at the company level.

A similar line of reasoning is followed by Mollie Lombardo, the author of the aforementioned report by Aberdeen Group, in her guest blog where she argues that it would be similar to financial budgeting where the Finance department facilitates the process, but the business leaders are responsible for their business plans and investment decisions. Advanced Workforce Strategies’ Whitepaper further supports my suggestion by stating that “not involving CEOs, CFOs and Executives in the development of a workforce strategy” was one of the 12 deadly traps of strategic workforce planning. It does not seem to be such a revolutionary idea after all, since the Executive Team already owns or co-owns the process in 28 per cent of cases in the HCI study.

Regardless of whether HR owns of just facilitates the process, it is essential that those HR professionals involved really understand the business. This is a recognised capability gap, and one of the reasons why developing HR professionals into skilled business consultants who understand the business strategy and models is the second most urgent trend with in the 2014 UK Human Capital Trend Report.

So maybe a debate similar to the one about workforce analytics ownership that has been fuelled by Morten Kamp’s blogs is needed on whether Strategic Workforce Planning should or should not be owned by HR.

About the author

Employee Transformation Team
Employee Transformation Team
4 Comments Leave a comment
Digital workforce planning tools enable easier forecasting and scenario planning. Executives are interested in using this new capability to better understand the implications of strategy for workforce capability and costs. I'd say this makes it easier for HR to bring real, additional value into the Boardroom.
After working for 23 years in HR and workforce planning in healthcare I have a view that this must be owned by executive leads. I would go further and suggest that it requires expert leadership and in healthcare this means clinical leadership. This is not to denigrate HR who I work closely with and value their contribution but driving change through an organisation, and critically across organisations, requires cultural, professional and emotional buy-in if you are trying to achieve anything at scale. The more radical the greater the need for all of the above. Could this be achieved without HR is a different question and my answer to that would be no but without executive leadership the job would be almost impossible. Working with a local transformation programme I am delighted that workforce planning is viewed as critical to the success of the programme but do not underestimate how complex this is. The programme answer has been to bolster the clinical leadership and ensure executive responsibility and this has been agreed by all of the senior stakeholders across the healthcare system. I'm sure there is an interesting dissertation in there somewhere!
Interesting questions. Strategic Workforce Planning (SWP), at its optimum, is a proactive process of change management, equipping the organization with a workforce capable of successfully executing its strategic plan and long term vision. This approach to SWP requires assessing the strategic plan objectives and identifying the changes in the workforce (i.e. corporate culture, organization structure, KSAP’s, headcount) necessary to achieve these objectives and developing action plans to address these changes. In order to focus on these changes within the organization-wide workforce, it is necessary to leverage the organization’s existing infrastructure for workforce initiatives – workforce supply, acquisition, development and retention. These initiatives, along with their associated programs, are historically anchored in HR. Making HR the natural fit for leading and facilitating the SWP. Of course, it will be absolutely crucial that the other members of the executive team buy into and fully support the objectives and action plans that are the output of SWP. Their ongoing participation will be essential to implementation and execution of the SWP and, ultimately, the corporate strategic plan.
The issue raised can be debated from various angles, in my last 4 years’ experience in Organization Development, I saw many reasons why the responsibility for WFP (Workforce Planning) shall lies with line manager or Business Executive Heads, and also I saw many examples where OD shall lead the process with coordination with all stakeholders, It all depends on clear diagnosis on the status of the company we are talking about; i.e.: 1- What is the capability of Line Managers to do that? 2- Who keeps the whole picture in line with individual planning needs? 3- Does the company use balanced scorecard or any other template to align their strategy and objectives? 4- Has anyone done an Org Health Diagnosis to see the impact of old WFP effort on current status?! 5- What kind of platform that can facilitate internal movement as well as recruitment? I don’t think there is one magic answer to this question, although I believe OD can be a great start for any company if they feel their WFP practice needs major improvement,

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *.