Four Strategies That Drive High-Performance Workforce Planning

What if your workforce planning were four times or five times more effective than other companies' initiatives? That kind of edge translates to a marked advantage in an organization's ability to attract, deploy, and manage the talent it needs to execute strategy and produce strong business results. Imagine the performance advantages you'd realize if your workforce planning were even more effective.

High-Performers Are Far More Effective at Workforce Planning

Better performance is just what i4cp's latest research into workforce planning revealed when a survey of about 200 business and workforce planning leaders contrasted higher-performing (based on revenue growth, market share, profitability and customer satisfaction) and lower-performing organizations' strategic workforce planning. More than one in four high-performers rated their programs highly or very highly effective. In stark contrast, the number of respondents from lower-performing companies who labeled their strategic workforce planning equally effective was a shocking zero.

No leader wants to see his or her company's workforce planning efforts fail. With that in mind, i4cp's new report, Winning at Workforce Planning: Turning High-Performance Strategies into Action (available to i4cp members), focuses on actionable strategies for planning initiatives--the tactics that high-performing organizations use to produce better results.

The report includes more than 20 recommendations to drive better planning outcomes--among them, takeaways from workforce planning professionals at four high-performing organizations: FedEx Ground, 3M, Educators Credit Union, and Luminant. Here are the strategies their teams used to overcome commonly encountered problems that derail many organizations' workforce planning initiatives:

1. Create defined roles for organizational leaders.

Key research finding: More than half of surveyed business and planning leaders say that greater support from senior executives remains elusive, but would significantly improve the impact of workforce planning.

Winning strategy: To effectively leverage executives' expertise and participation at shipping company FedEx Ground, workforce planners drafted "seven high-level, cross-functional officers to serve on a Workforce Planning Steering Committee to oversee and direct projects," explained then Senior Workforce Planning Specialist Sugani Leman. To provide a framework for the committee, FedEx Ground's planning team designed a four-tiered process that specifies roles, responsibilities and decision-making rights based on projected organizational impact. The result is a streamlined process that moves planning projects to successful completion.

2: Integrate workforce planning with strategic planning.

Key research finding: Planning outcomes are stronger when teams effectively use workforce planning technology and when business units take greater ownership of planning.

Winning strategy: With about 85,000 employees worldwide, global consumer and commercial products manufacturer 3M leverages technology to collect the data needed for workforce planning. "Our HR managers around the world use a custom tool that is pre-populated with figures for their locations," making planning discussions between those managers and location leaders efficient and expedient, says Global Human Capital Planning Manager Jon Thurston. He credits 3M's integration of human capital planning with strategic planning cycles for driving locations' ownership of workforce planning.

3: Apply corporate values to focus workforce planning.

Key research finding: Better planning results occur when organizational cultures support the planning process, and when planning aligns with company values.

Winning strategy: At Educators Credit Union, a Top-100 workplace and industry leader in Wisconsin, VP of HR Peter Stein has overseen development of values-based planning that drives development and succession programs at the financial institution. Planning activities grow from a culture that emphasizes excellent service and long-term success for the organization. Stein credits workforce planning with fueling hiring and targeted development that reflects the credit union's core values of respect, integrity, stewardship, community and passion.

4: Use innovative tools to customize and communicate workforce planning across the organization.

Key research finding: Particularly in geographically dispersed organizations, communicating the value of workforce planning and gaining organization-wide traction pose stumbling blocks.

Winning strategy: Texas-based energy company Luminant's operations spread across multiple mine, gas, and power plant locations, along with the support units that serve them. Under the direction of Strategic Workforce Planning Director Shannon Vallina, the workforce planning team developed its own five-step planning process and custom planning tools. One tool offers what Vallina calls "a creative method for displaying workforce-related risks at each site in the organization." It empowers the team to "build actionable, site-specific plans" to address those risks. Completed and printed, the site risk assessment provides executives with a location-specific display and readily visible talking points to communicate and act on workforce planning issues.

As i4cp's research emphasizes, workforce planning isn't about predicting the future. It is about taking action now to prepare organizations to achieve their future objectives. Planning is the bridge that connects organizational strategy to successful execution--and that makes it a crucial link in business performance that leaders can't afford to ignore.

Carol Morrison
Carol Morrison is a Senior Research Analyst and Associate Editor with the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp), specializing in workforce well-being research.