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Human Resources Planning - It's More Than Filling Vacancies For The Next Few Months

Aug 17, 2007
Constant planning is what most business people do so they are ready for changing circumstances.

Is human resource planning or workforce planning up there with the budget? Possibly not. Quite often, with workforce planning, it will be treated as another budget line item and not taken much further.

The reality is, if it is to be done properly, there are long lead times and it should be a regular feature of any manager's role.

Workforce planning for many people is just about looking at new jobs coming up and how they might fill the vacancies. For those less fortunate, it may be about how they lose surplus staff.

However, to do it effectively requires a little more forward vision coupled with a rigorous approach to ensure you have captured all the information possible - and that will never be enough!

A few of the steps you may wish to include are listed below.

Strategic Plans
Revisit your plans for the business and look at each objective and strategy from a workforce perspective. Do you have the people to carry out the plans? Do you have enough of them? Do they have the experience, are their conditions appropriate? Do they have the right competencies? (a combination of knowledge, skills, aptitude and motivation)

Are they going to stay with you to see the plans through? When do you need to start recruiting? Is there enough in the budget? New people may cost more.

Succession Plans
Have you reviewed your succession plans - not just for immediate replacements but looking ahead at future needs and recruiting accordingly?

Maybe when you recruit your next Accounts Clerk you should be looking for your future Financial Controller. Immediate replacements are a must as anyone may leave your business for a number reasons and some of them may cause a sudden departure. What happens if several people leave at the same time?

Building some depth in your talent pool is good insurance. Often it is better to have a surplus of talent and lose people due to lack of opportunity rather than have people suffer because of overwork, stress and uncertainty caused by too few resources. Do you have development plans to bring people up to the level your business needs?

Employment Conditions
Are employment contracts and general conditions appropriate for any new people being sought? Do you need full time or part time people? Will you be able to attract full time people?

Flexible work arrangements often work well for all parties - make sure you have policies and procedures that allow you to do this.

Can you attract new people with new skills? Has the market moved since you last took on new people? Will they integrate into existing salary structures? Do you need a blend of fixed and variable pay? Do you offer the right benefits? Young people are not particularly enthusiastic about superannuation but older people may be obsessed by it.

Do you have a recruitment process that includes a range of techniques for identifying the new skills and competencies required? Do you know where to look for people now that we're in a full employment market? Are all line managers skilled in recruiting? Do they "recruit" constantly, even when you may not have current vacancies?

Training and Development
If you are recruiting new people there will probably be a need to carry out some sort of training - even if it is just induction training to give your new investment the best possible start. Have you looked at the possibility of developing your existing people for the new jobs?

Often we find unexpected talent in our own ranks - people who are waiting to be given an opportunity. On going growth of staff is necessary and part of this is planned training and development. They expect it and will seek it elsewhere if you don't provide it.

Defining the Jobs
Are jobs defined in terms of the results they are going to produce and how they are going to be measured?

This process will help you design your organization and avoid the mistake of continuing with positions just because you've always had them.

Defining what has to be done is part of it. Defining how is equally important. This is why you need to revisit the core competencies of the business and check that they are what you need for the future.

Whilst the current values and culture is a good starting point for this, Generation Y may not want to work for a business that has been built solely around baby boomers.

Performance Management
Once jobs are designed and people recruited, will you be able to manage them? Do your managers have the required skills? Do you have a performance management process?

Are you prepared to listen to employees and make changes as a result of their feedback? Are you linking this information back into your workforce planning?

There are many aspects to planning for your people however if you start with these key factors and work on the action points that will come out of them, you will be well on the way to building your future workforce to deliver your business plan and proving valuable insurance against those unexpected events that always sneak up on us.

In today's tight labour market it is especially critical that as business leaders we can present our workforce plans as confidently as we present our strategic and operations plans. They are integral to our long term business success.
About the Author
Paul Phillips is a Director of Horizon Management Group; a specialist human resource management consulting firm. He has over 30 years experience in HR and, while based in Australia, has worked in a number of overseas locations. www.horizonmg.com
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