Most Companies Have Yet to Master Strategic Workforce Planning

New i4cp study finds 70% of companies have workforce planning strategies, but rating effectiveness and future forecasts lags behind

SEATTLE, WA (November 12, 2009) - Seven out of 10 companies today have made workforce planning a part of their performance growth strategy, but most don't think their efforts are particularly effective, according to the latest study by the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp).

Workforce planning, which helps organizations identify pivotal talent gaps and develop strategies to ensure that they will have the right people in the right places, is an extremely popular topic right now. Nearly all (97%) of high-performance organizations - those that consistently perform better than their competitors in revenue growth, market share, profitability and customer satisfaction - said that support of the strategic/business planning process is the most valuable aspect of workforce planning. Overall, 71% of all polled organizations agreed, while 60% feel these programs support the budgeting process and 55% said they serve as a mechanism to identify critical roles.

Though organizations see the benefits of workforce planning, most companies rate their efforts in the area as so-so. Of all respondents, 53% said their efforts are moderately effective, while 23% said they are just slightly effective. Less than two in 10 (19%) rated their firm's workforce planning efforts as highly or very highly effective.

However, 26% of high-performance organizations reported that they are highly or very highly effective at workforce planning, compared to only 15% of lower performers.

When asked what workforce planning activities are focused on, 43% of respondents pointed to a review of the business strategy to better fit organizational needs as being important from a high to very high degree, and 41% "build the business strategy" to help formulate objectives. Fewer address future needs, however. Thirty percent of all respondents said "demand forecasting" to determine future skills and needs is seen as crucial from a high to very high degree, while 27% employ gap analysis to project skills or position needs and 26% said they use environmental scanning techniques (literature searches, interviews, focus groups, etc.) to provide a context for workforce planning strategies. Just 19% see the utilization of scenarios to envision the future as being of high or very high import.

"Although companies see workforce planning as a supportive effort to organizational strategy, they aren't doing workforce planning on a strategic level nearly as much as they're still doing the transactional work," said i4cp senior research analyst Carol Morrison. "With an eye toward the future, companies don't appear to be implementing the tools they could be using to help them prepare for the next time the world tilts on its axis."

The study also showed that, of those companies that don't currently incorporate workforce planning activities, 71% overall said their organization would benefit from workforce planning, and 76% of higher performers feel such activities would be beneficial, compared with 68% of lower performers. Overall, 43% of companies polled said they are considering adopting a workforce planning process. That number jumps to 59% among higher performers. Overall, 39% of companies planning to implement a process reported they are likely to do it in the next year or so.

About half (52%) of all polled companies said they have an in-house "champion" for workforce planning - 63% of higher performers and 42% of lower performers have one - and upper management is likely to be involved. Overall, 46% of respondents said executive management is highly or very highly involved in ownership and development of the workforce, and 55% of high performers said executives are highly or very highly involved.

Additional findings as well as data filtered by company size, market performance, job level and more, are now available exclusively for i4cp corporate members. i4cp will explore these findings in more detail in a complimentary webinar on December 8, 2009. Registration is available through

The Workforce Planning survey was conducted by i4cp in September 2009.

About i4cp, inc.

The Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) is the world's largest vendor-free network of corporations focused on building and sustaining a highly productive, high-performance organization. Our vendor-free community facilitates innovation by giving our members - among the largest and most respected organizations in the world - access to:

  1. Peers to spark new ideas and prevent "reinventing the wheel,"
  2. Research to enable members to understand current practices and next practices,
  3. Tools to put ideas and research into action,
  4. Technology to enable members to easily access tailored information and execute workforce strategies.

With more than 40 years of experience and the industry's largest team of human capital analysts, i4cp is the definitive destination for organizations seeking innovative ways to improve workforce productivity. For more information, visit

Erik Samdahl
Erik is the head of marketing at i4cp, and has nearly 20 years in the market research and human capital research industry.