Workforce Planning, A New Discipline?

2020 has taught us that we must always be ready to do things differently in order to adapt to the ever-changing business environment. I want to discuss an area that I am very passionate about and which no organization can do without; People and the management of this crucial resource.

So, what is Workforce Management? You should know this one, it’s easy, is what you say to yourself and yes you are right and no that’s not all of it. Workforce Management has been understood in so many ways depending on your perspective. Infact, you may know it as time and labour management, or time and attendance planning, or workforce planning or manpower planning or many variations of these….the reality is, this is a very broad area that covers many different aspects of deployment and management of the human resource. Part of it being workforce planning that is now strongly emerging to stand alone as organizations grow in capacity, complexity and technology.

Simply put, Workforce Management is the deployment of the right number of people with the required skills to the right places at the required time. I like the definition given by the Association of Workforce Asset Management, AWAM, because it captures an aspect of workforce planning that is usually tucked under the HR functions in many organizations. AWAM defines Workforce planning as the convergence of functions within four principle areas in management, namely; Human Resources, Operations, Finance and Information Technology (IT). Workforce Planning goes beyond the HR functions of Sourcing, structuring, remunerating and administration of people in an organization. Rather it is concerned with creating value through the effective utilization of technology and workforce analytics derived from that technology to adequately define demand and position the supply of human capital in the organization.

Janko A. Kotze, an organizational psychologist looks at workforce planning it in a twoprong approach;

  1. Strategic workforce planning which looks to what the future needs of the business is, what are the existing and expected skill gaps in the labour market, skills lost from various levels of employee turnover, assess the business environment and labour market and forecast possible sourcing strategies. This tends to take the view of the traditional HR function as defined in our organizations as we know it.
  2. Operational workforce planning which focuses on using workforce planning tools (systems, spreadsheets etc) and workforce analytics to forecast demand and match it to the supply in an optimized manner all the while being careful to meet statutory (labour laws), regulatory, Bargaining Agreements and Company Policy requirements in a bid to deliver on Key Performance indicators (productivity, utilization, customer satisfaction etc).

The goal of Workforce Management is to strike a balance at shifting interests. Dr. Jörg Herbers, Senior Vice President of the workforce management division at INFORM Software, terms it as the triangle of interests, that if left unattended impacts the bottom line either directly or indirectly. These interests include;

  • Business Interests i.e. Productivity of the workforce (End Value of Input vs Output)
  • Employee Interests or needs i.e. Off Days, Work life balance and integration, Flexible Working hours etc.
  • Customer Goals/expectations i.e. Service Levels/Standards

With the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) taking center stage, workforce planning systems are about to find their home in many organizations, especially in Africa. Technology is the thread that interlocks the four key sections that drive efficient workforce planning to achieve that balance at the triangle of interests.

With the future of work rapidly evolving, the workplace is becoming more complicated, and expansive. There are new definitions of work like the introduction of remote working, new technologies, changing expectations from both the employees and the customers, expanded reach to markets and this new environment becomes irrevocably complex and varied hence the need for a new way of workforce management.

Next week we shall delve into Workforce planning and the 4 key areas of HR, IT, Operations and Finance.

It doesn’t matter how many resources you have. If you don’t know how to use them, they will never be enough. – Unknown

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