Collaboration in Workforce Planning 

Collaboration in Workforce Planning 

In his book Team of Teams , General Stanley McChrystal articulates the challenge he faced in Iraq of having teams that were high performing within the team but created friction when working with other teams. He highlights the to transform from the command of teams in silos, to a network with the same interconnectivity as the existing teams. We do the same in workforce planning for two key reasons:

  • Ideas are not created in silos. The process of ideation results from combining ideas and sharing feedback.
  • We get better ideas. Ideas from those who are closest to the problem are more likely to succeed than those imposed externally. Fostering and execution of ideas from those who will execute the plan will create the greatest levels of buy-in and lead to more effective implementation.

As we conduct agile workforce planning, we aim to foster this ‘team of teams’ rather than conduct it in a sub-silo of an HR centre of expertise. At a minimum, we would want to collaborate across the following areas:

Operational leads

The operational leads are the key stakeholders who sit in the primary functions of the organization. These areas are likely to be the providers of the information we used in calculating demand and, indeed, key contributors to the qualitative forecasting. Those of us operating at either the meso level, or focusing primarily on horizon one planning, are likely to sit within these operational areas. A key area of collaboration with this group is demand optimisation, which typically falls outside the remit of HR functions. As a result, it is a process that is severely neglected as a workforce planning lever. Operational leads normally have accountability for demand optimisation within their areas. More importantly, such optimisation goes directly to their own bottom line, either as a cost or profit centre, so are directly incentivised to collaborate.

Human Resources

Those with a partnering role, both the CHRO and HRBPs, will play a critical part as allies in engaging operational leads; they will have trusted relationships that can help sell the benefits of workforce planning. Moreover, they will have a great deal of insight on the nature of the macro and meso level issues and how best to address them. The CoEs, and their extensions in the shared services, will often be the main point of execution for many of the talent management levers. As a result, they will have the deep expertise in how best to approach gaps between supply and demand.


Finance functions are a critical partner in workforce planning; too often I have seen finance and HR functions operating in silos despite the inextricable link between them. The central function conducting budgetary planning may well be accountable for horizon two planning within the organisation, and therefore, we need to be joined up with them. The function is likely to have CoEs that conduct reporting and analysis; they can be a key provider of data and analysis in our demand and supply forecasting. There is likely to be some form of macro level partnering in the form of the finance business partner (FBP). Having both the FBP and HRBP bought-in to our aim will provide an extremely powerful alliance in gaining buy-in with operational leads.


Many organisations will have some form of procurement function that manages the commercial arrangement with suppliers. This will extend to outsourced services providers and, for many organizations, may be the only function with an understanding of the levels of contingent labour that are being utilised. As a result, the procurement function is a key part of the team of team when it comes to applying the borrow lever.

Information Technology

The information technology function, increasingly referred to as the digital function, is typically accountable for the management of technology systems and data, under the leadership of a chief digital officer (CDO) or chief experience officer (CXO). This function is often a key driver in demand changes across the business, so collaboration is critical.


A facilities, property or estates function will focus typically on the bricks and mortar infrastructure of the organisation and have a key role to play. Ensuring the best balance of facilities can be an important part of optimising demand. Even more important, facilities are an underlying component of many of the talent management levers. The ability to leverage a new estate plan can allow us to tap into talent hotspots, moreover, understanding the marketplace for skills can avoid costly mistakes in site consolidation.


1.McChrystal, S et al (2015) Team of Teams: New rules of engagement in a complex world, Penguin, New York