4 Key Steps to Strategic Manpower Planning
How can employers utilise workforce planning to achieve business results?
When organisations are flexible and adaptable, this enables them to be resilient and responsive enough to withstand challenging market conditions.
In recent months, we have observed how organisations in the engineering and manufacturing sectors have expanded their product range to include biomedical supplies1, while those in the F&B, hospitality and events industries have pivoted to offer new services such as food delivery, catering and planning of virtual rather than physical events. In these instances, employers were not only able to recognise the growing market demand as a potential area of expansion, but to also quickly build up operational capability and strengthen their workforce to meet these needs.
While these are positive examples of short term operational workforce planning, employers need to consider how they can carry out long term strategic manpower planning in order to sustain this level of organisational adaptability for the long haul.
These are the critical steps that every employer will need to take:
Align the workforce plans with the long-term organisational goals
Business and manpower planning cannot occur in silos. Instead, as an employer, consider what your intended business objectives are for the next 5-10 years. For example, if you anticipate expanding your current operations, increasing sales revenue or diversifying into new markets, how will you need to prepare and equip your current workforce? When the management has clarity on specific goals it wants to achieve, it can take proactive steps through strategic manpower planning to achieve these same goals.
Pause to take inventory
Often, employers instinctively lean towards dealing with immediate problems and issues that arise in their organisations. While this may offer short term results, true business longevity requires planning ahead – employers should step out of the constant ‘firefighting’ mode to take inventory of their current workforce. A SWOT analysis is an effective way to do this:
- What are the company’s strengths?
Internal assets, resources and qualities that the company can leverage on to differentiate itself.
- What are the company’s weaknesses?
Internal limitations and weaknesses that could prevent the company from reaching its goals.
- What are the company’s opportunities?
External conditions such as positive market conditions and emerging trends that the company could use to their advantage.
- What are the potential threats?
External conditions such as negative market trends, strong competitors and poor customer feedback that could affect the company’s growth plans.
Once a SWOT analysis has been carried out, employers would have identified the changes needed to ‘future-proof’ their workforce, in order to achieve business goals. Often in this exercise, these are the types of key workforce insights are likely to emerge:
- Identifying the employees with the specific skills, abilities and qualities that are needed to drive the next phase of growth. These may not have been tapped on previously.
- Identifying skills gaps in the workforce; areas where individuals or teams require training and on-the-job exposure to update their skillsets and keep them relevant to the business as it grows.
- Identifying gaps in processes and policies that need to be addressed to ensure the effectiveness of the workforce.
For richer insights, employers should also explore tools such as the Fair and Progressive Employment Index which assesses the approach to workforce planning as part of the overall evaluation of the organisation’s systems and provide actionable insights and recommendations for the organisation.
Refine the organisation’s talent management model
The traditional talent management model focused on hiring the right talent, deployment, developing their skills at work and retaining them. However, as the workforce and business needs evolve, employers will need to move beyond these basic steps to consider a dynamic model where employees can be continually engaged at work. Research suggests that employees who are engaged at work are significantly more likely to achieve business results than those who are disengaged2. Employers will need to ask themselves:
- Do employees feel that their work is meaningful?
- Do employees feel their opinions and voices are heard?
- Do employees have access to various learning and development resources to help them excel at work?
- Are employees empowered with the autonomy to do their best work?
At this stage of the manpower planning process, HR will need to identify and recommend new programmes and initiatives to enhance the existing talent management schemes. Progressive employers have implemented coaching and mentoring programmes, job rotations and even flexible working arrangements in a bid to engage employees and ensure they have the resources and skills to meet the evolving needs of the business.
Include all stakeholders in the decision-making process
One of the common challenges to long-term workforce planning is the lack of collaborative effort. Effective strategic workforce planning requires buy-in and input from different levels and teams in the organisation – it is not the sole responsibility of the employer. Senior management will need to share the business direction and company goals, while HR partners should advise on the current state of the workforce and suggest talent management strategies. Supervisors who are closest to the ground should be roped in to offer up-to-date insights on daily operations and their employee teams, while employees themselves can provide meaningful data via employee pulse surveys on their individual skills and aspirations. A cross-functional team can be created to review information from these various sources and distil them into insights that inform the workforce planning process.
Strategic manpower planning is critical for future success. Employers that invest time and effort in this process will reap the benefits of having an effective workforce, with the necessary skills; where each individual is assigned to a role that is the best-fit for them, and ultimately achieve business goals and objectives for the organisation.
The Fair and Progressive Employment Index (FPEI) is a free, online self - assessment tool that allows employers to evaluate organisational workplace culture and benchmark their practices against industry peers. The FPEI offers insights and recommendations on how employers can leverage their workforce for better business and employee results.
 TAN, S., 2020. Companies That Are Agile And Innovating Can Still Grow During Crisis: DPM Heng Swee Keat. [online] The Straits Times. Available at: <https://www.straitstimes.com/business/economy/companies-that-are-agile-and-innovating-can-still-grow-during-crisis-dpm-heng-swee> [Accessed 2 October 2020].
 Dyckerhoff-bdu.de. 2020. [online] Available at: <http://www.dyckerhoff-bdu.de/images/Downloads/Dyckerhoff_Gallup_Studie_How%20_Employee_Engagement_Drives_Growth.pdf> [Accessed 2 October 2020].