Why has the conversation on workforce planning risen recently and how is good SWFP becoming a business imperative?

Why now?

“People are the engines of innovation and revenue, and the culture you create defines how you do business. They’re the source of your company’s competitive edge.”

Amy Reichanadter, Is workforce planning the new secret weapon for finance?, CPO Adaptive Insights

We have all now seen numerous business articles which look to pin down what the world of work will be like in the wake of the pandemic. How do companies operate, or even benefit from more remote workforces, what leadership and which skills should we value now etc…If we combine this with the consistent truths and trends of the recent past i.e. Demographic changes in much of the western world, such as the ageing workforce, employers recognising the power now lies with the job-seeker, plus the rise of the contingent/freelance/ contract workforce, characterised by zero hours contracts and online agreements, organizations now need to rethink their approaches and business structure in relation to employment, management and training if they are to stay relevant.

The global re-set on how we view workforce practices has given us a one in a work lifetime opportunity to implement good workforce planning practice throughout the whole of an organization.

Despite many organisations acknowledging the importance of workforce planning, few seem to consciously divert purpose and energy into harnessing its capacity for beneficial change. It’s too expensive, or now is not the right time, is what we usually hear. Indeed, even those that practice strategic workforce planning (hereafter abbreviated to: SWFP) routinely are not evaluating their motives or methods for conducting such work thoroughly enough and risk condemning the process to a lengthily tick box exercise.

In fact only...

We believe that SWFP has indefinitely moved from an aspiration or “nice to have” business goal, to an essential for any business that wishes to succeed in the future. Amy Reichanadter writes that we "should care deeply about how and where people are deployed, how well skills and capabilities are aligned to the current and developing needs of the company, how closely capacity meets demand, and how prepared various business units and departments are to hire, on ramp, train, and cultivate employees as the business grows."

Strategic Workforce Planning has one main drawback, it is difficult to do in practice, requires coordination across multiple disciplines and strong leadership to helm it. It is not something that is solved with a large tech purchase, or general sweeping terminology, SWFP rewards careful, information-based scenario planning and analysis. Furthermore recently what CEOs and COOs need from HR in data competence, demands the information obtained through its' effective execution. Yet the effort is worth it and I hope to demonstrate a few of its benefits below…

SWFP advantages

Future proofing - Factually model a number of scenarios to anticipate and plan for change. Research tells us that organizations that use scenario planning, as is employed in good SWFP, are “2.4 times” more likely to succeed in a digital transformation process, for example. If we consider that “70% of digital transformations do not reach their goals”, this is significant.

Using SWFP ensures business leaders can recognise emerging challenges in the market, workforce and business. It facilitates strategic staffing and planning for future workforce requirements, i.e. gaps in your talent chain, as your organisation can identify staffing needs in a timely manner. For example, are labour costs expected to grow over time along with the business? Do you have employees that are planning to retire soon, and how will that affect the operations of the business? What’s the average attrition rate by department and do you need a process in place to maintain levels for workflow?

Optimises talent - Which employees possess the right skills based on your upcoming scenario? SWFP will help you determine which groups of employees deliver the highest ROI for the business and warrant greater investment in their training and development. For example, organizations that use SWFP see “10% better revenue per employee”, and “12%” better outcomes in “engagement, retention, and succession planning”.

Simultaneously, SWFP will outline what areas need extra resources to reach its full potential and contribute more to the business. i.e. identifying opportunities to retrain staff whose skills are at risk of becoming out of date? SWFP enables you to implement informed retention strategies as without the proper information “HR and managers can misuse raises, bonuses and/or promotions put in place to prevent resignations.

Know the heartbeat of your business - C-level & senior HR want to be confident and credible with company metrics. Internal and external talent data needs to be quantified, tracked, optimized and monitored in wider context. As talent is the most powerful competitive edge, leadership needs to be fluent on its composition and consequences. SWFP puts accurate human capital data in context of your whole business. By making your approach data-first, you can fulfil the increasingly vocal demands of C suits exec, especially CEO’s and COO’s that HR makes positive business impact with all the data it collects. Less decision must be made on ‘gut feel’ or side-lined with the ‘nice to haves’ and must instead be further grounded in impartiality and evidence. Strategy can then start with unbiased facts and uncover both areas of strength and opportunity driving action and measurable outcomes.

Goal Alignment - Align business HR programmes & policies to business strategy such as “employee assistance, employee benefits, career development, wellness programmes, data protection…” ensuring that those goals are supported in the best way possible and strengthen your companies culture, improve growth and retention and contribute to ROI and business success. SWFP conducted at a business strategy entry point will align business goals with HR strategy. Talent quality and quantity must never be the bottleneck to business success, SWFP connects business strategy with developing the capabilities needed to deliver the plan. “It encourages an understanding of the organisation’s workforce profile; HR strategies and policies are therefore allied with maximising the capacity of the existing workforce and shaping the desired workforce

Reduce costs - SWFP provides a mechanism for monitoring costs and directly linking expenditure of personnel against business outputs and outcomes. Getting a detailed overview of the people input your organisation needs, together with the productivity levels required for the business to run and grow, will ensure that you’re making the most of the talent you have. “Effective Strategic Workforce Planning should result in a better allocation of resources and lead to better returns on investment in training and development, talent management and succession planning” (Colin Beames, Workforce statregy: Audit survey report, Corporate Research Forum). With many of our customer bases and output being affected as a result of the pandemic, the opportunity to action measurable cost reduction should please everyone.

Harnessing the potential

What we have presented above is by no means an exhaustive list on the benefits of good SWFP, that conversation would take far longer than we have space for here. What needed expressing was the imperative and once in a work-lifetime opportunity that all companies now have to harness the potential in strategic workforce planning


"the real benefit of workforce planning is in the accuracy."

Paul Chance, What are the benefits of workforce planning?, Senior Product Marketing Manager NICE

To have proof on all matters from talent pipelines to productivity. To be impartial, credible and informed in your business strategy, which means elevating HR beyond a human capital supply and administrative role to a key component in the delivery of business success. Aligning on a strategic level for projects and folding them into a workforce plan from the start is the sweet spot on getting a competitive edge with your workforce talent.

An effective SWFP should optimize employee lifetime value and use your data to make smarter hiring decisions and retain key performers. It offers many more opportunities to align the workforce flexibly with peaks and troughs in demand. You will have the intelligence to predict and react with greater accuracy and speed to market developments. Speaking historically, whenever in the past forces have gone into the field of battle, you always want to be the side with the better plan. Knowing how, why and where to deploy your resources in an environment that will change, results in a stronger outcome for your side.

Strategic Workforce Planning should ultimately culminate in a “living” plan, something that is constantly revisited, kept up-to-date, and leads to action and follow-up. A good SWFP is something too powerful to waste. To help you with your planning, please download our handy checklist we have attached at the base of this article for free.

Planning of this kind delivers real ROI, whether that it 10% better revenue per employee, cost reductions across the business or the more than double ratio that your digital transformation project will succeed where your competitors face a 70% chance of failure. The question is not can you afford to invest in SWFP- but can you afford not to.

At Humdex we deliver data driven high-level workforce analysis, which we decode bespoke for your SWFP. If this article has motivated you to action and you want our support to unlock the power of your people data please CONTACT US to find out more.

HUMDEX SWFP checklistzip

We work hard at keeping up to date and informed on the latest trends and news affecting the world of people analytics & strategic workforce planning. If you would like to know more about the work we do, then please contact us.

Author -Scott Brent

Subscribe to our bi-monthly newsletter for more insights, news, light reads and trends from the team here.


A "behind the scenes" talk on our latest work with LEAD, producing webinars on powerful data-driven diversity and inclusion practices.

Gender diversity and inclusion is a high-profile topic in modern organizations . The goal of having gender parity in a workforce is not an arbitrary key performance indicator, but can have a positive and measurable business impact.

In 2018 the WISE report "Why gender diversity makes business sense" stated:

“Organisations that lead the way on gender diversity so often also lead on performance and even profitability. Those that ignore diversity risk losing out to the competition.”

Increasing evidence suggests that a well-managed and diverse team will be more innovative and have more common experiences with an end user. More diverse workforce's gain a competitive edge in the fight for talent, as a diverse labor force signals an attractive work environment.

For example the Harvard Business Review reports on a survey in the U.S. and Western Europe:

“Of 1,000 respondents, the job site Glassdoor found that 67% of job seekers overall look at workforce diversity when evaluating an offer.”

Yet despite progress towards gender equality, the majority of organizations still have a long way to go before they reach parity.

Expanding the pink talent pool

Humdex has been working hard to bring its brand of data driven analysis to the D&I issue. Partnering with LEAD, Leading Executives Advancing Diversity, to construct and conduct online webinars on how internal and market data can be used to unlock a powerful, diverse workforce, or as we coin it; “expanding the pink pool”. Our speakers, Founder Caroline Brent & Senior Consultant Thea Roberts, have already met with much success for part 1 of their 2-part webinar series, which you can listen to for free here, so we take this opportunity, before part 2 go live, to get some “behind the scenes” information on the topic.

Just a few questions

1. What was your reasoning/motivation to tackle the hot topic of D&I?

C- We know from research that a diverse workforce delivers better results both in terms of financial performance and innovation. We are particularly interested in gender diversity as we have researched data that shows that the more gender balanced the workforce the smaller the pay gap between men and women, that is a good thing.

T- Having experienced being the only female leader in many leadership teams, and having seen the data that shows the financial benefits of a diverse workforce, I'm passionate about changing the thinking and actions that businesses take now and in the future towards a balanced and inclusive workforce.

2. How important, in your opinion, is it to use data effectively in the execution of D & I strategy/planning?

C- D&I strategy and subsequent targets should be data based and not emotionally led. We feel this gives the best chance of success, allows real market comparisons and, when well communicated to all stakeholders, drives positive engagement.

T- Whilst we all inherently know that having a workforce that represents the population mix is the "right thing to do" data gives this idea power, reach and structure to make and measure lasting change.

3. In the current ‘lock down ‘environment in many countries. How can people do to start to use data like this in planning for when their world restarts?

C- Even though change is challenging to enact in the present circumstances, the way some of us are working currently might give the time for thought and reflection. A more gender balanced world needs planning and commitment. Now can a be a good time for analysing your own data and linking this with relevant external influences that can help you plan that change. The world will be a different place, but gender imbalance will still exist. Now could be the perfect time to plan how to work to redress that balance.

T- Depending on your circumstances and the workload you are currently experiencing through the Covid-19 situation, now actually might be an appropriate time to review your business' D&I picture. The first step is to gather internal data to understand your D&I shape by country, business group, function and level. Could this be done NOW so you have a foundation to build your plans on?

4. What were the unique challenges and benefits of presenting in an online webinar format?

C- We are so enthusiastic about what we do, and we also like to really involve people in our thinking and approach so that it answers their questions. We are also happy to be side-tracked and move to those areas that are interesting for those that we work with. In a webinar, delivering that style is a little more difficult. However, we hope people hear enough to want to contact us so that we can understand the questions they have and help to find the right answer for their organization.

T- As a strong extrovert I do get my energy from being with other people. Whilst a webinar is not quite the same as interacting face to face, it is still a great way to connect with others. A webinar has so many benefits as it allows us to cover this important subject matter with hundreds of people, from across several continents, in a time and cost-effective way.

5. By participating in events like this, what are you finding the reception to sophisticated data driven D&I analytics is?

C- I think that many people have some internal data on D&I but find the added dimension of how external data can influence their plans new, exciting and sometimes a bit concerning. We love to show how to bring those two elements together so that we can give that 'ah ha' moment and encourage broad based thinking and a very fact based, measurable and deliverable D&I plan. It positions HR people professionals as data competent and fact led – perfect.

T- We know that registrations for our webinar were in excess of 230 people, the feedback rate was high at almost 25% and the webinar recording is one of the most visited pages on the LEAD network website - which is really exciting!! It tells us that the interest and reception are really strong for this topic and that people want to learn about producing sophisticated, data driven D&I plans for their businesses.

6. How else does Humdex help companies with their people analytics?

C- This is only one aspect of how people analytics can help companies plan and grow. We have a major interest in helping companies develop data driven SWFP as we believe this is the root of a sophisticated people strategy. We can also help with data analysis, planning and strategy during acquisition divestment and in culture and technological change strategy - in essence good data is never wasted in any people process, and we are here to help.

T- D&I is an important part of sophisticated human capital strategic planning, and should be a part of a businesses' overall strategic workforce plan, which Humdex can support businesses in analysing, developing and finessing. Humdex are experts in supporting businesses to deliver against their business plans by ensuring that they have a sophisticated people strategy that combines their internal data with the external market place.

7. When can we expect part 2 of your webinar on D & I to take place, and how can people sign up to hear it live?

C & T- Recruiting for D&I is an important step in the delivery of a business' D&I strategy. How you "Go to market" with a sophisticated plan will determine your speed, impact and success. Join Caroline and I on May 15th to hear more about the value that a sophisticated gender diversity plan will drive in a business and how you might take such a plan to market.

Sign up to the webinar here.

We work hard at keeping up to date and informed on the latest trends and news affecting the world of people analytics & strategic workforce planning. If you would like to know more about the work we do, then please contact us.

Author -Scott Brent

Subscribe to our bi-monthly newsletter for more insights, news, light reads and trends from the team here.


Sign up to our bi-monthly newsletter for more insights, news, light reads and trends from the team 


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