The Importance of Strategic Alignment in Workforce Planning
Effective organisations are clear on why they exist and can connect their ‘why’ to the way that work is done; this is called strategic alignment.
The strategic framework is just the first dimension of alignment. For organisations to be successful, strategic framework must align across three different dimensions: hierarchical, lateral and chronological.
Levels of the Organisation
The hierarchical and lateral dimensions are related to the three levels of the organisation:
The hierarchical dimension means that strategy needs to align from the macro level, through the meso level and down to the micro level. A department at the meso level may have a different set of objectives than the organisation has at the macro level. However, those objectives must still align. For example, a macro-level objective for Acme Corporation may be a 20 percent revenue growth by 2025. The objective for the meso-level vehicles department might be to increase production by 30 percent by 2025, as Acme wishes to change the leverage of its products in the marketplace.
The lateral dimension means that the strategy needs to align across the meso and micro levels. If the vehicles department is working to an objective of increased production by 30 percent by 2025 in order to enable 20 percent revenue growth, the sales function needs to have a matching sales objective. If the sales function is working towards a 15 percent increase, then inventory levels will quickly grow unmanageable.
Understanding these dimensions is vital when it comes to setting a workforce strategy. For the purposes of a function with the mandate for the workforce (eg HR), the workforce strategy is a blueprint or design for our people to accomplish our organisational strategy. It is about who we want our people to be, focusing on ambitions (eg greater diversity) and broad concepts (eg flexibility) and sets the framework for a workforce planning. ‘The employment or workforce strategy is not always articulated in one or more written documents, but covers the dimensions, sources and supply and any changes required to the size, shape and nature of the workforce and its contractual and psychological relationship with the organisation’[i]. One of the common issues I encounter when advising struggling businesses is a workforce strategy that either does not align to the business strategy or does not recognise the way that work is done at the execution level.
The final dimension of alignment to be achieved is chronological.
When we plan the workforce, we do so over three clear time horizons:
As a result, we need to ensure strategic alignment across each of these planning horizons, connecting the short-term to the long-term. A strategy of product development to achieve a long-term goal of launching new products will likely create disconnect if there is a short-term goal of reducing costs in research and development.
The role of leaders in organisations is to set the strategic framework and ensure alignment over each of these four dimensions and ensure a healthy tension does not snap.
Chartered FCIPD FCMI, Strategic Workforce Planning Leader
Click here and use the discount code AHR20 to get 20% off the purchase of Adam Gibson's new book - ‘Agile Workforce Planning.’