For a workforce plan to be effective, there are a number of key components for us to include:
Articulating the Baseline
It is vital that the workforce plan begins by articulating the key elements from our baseline of the organisation. Many stakeholders will have primary accountabilities at the meso level, so providing a macro level understanding will provide an essential context for them. Chief amongst these contextual elements are the scenarios and time horizon that we are planning within; just like telling a story, we need to set up the background to the narrative. An important inclusion for the scenarios is specific direction that has been provided, perhaps by the executive board or the chief human resources officer. This provides authority to the foundations of the plan.
Outcomes & Timelines
Using a cost benefit analysis (CBA) is key to highlight early the high-level outcomes that result from the plan and to articulate all outcomes alongside the timelines. By not framing a timeline, many stakeholders can be left with an assumption that benefit realisation is imminent; this unrealistic expectation can generate unfair criticism that plans are not working. Leave stakeholders with a clear understanding of what outcomes will be achieved and when.
Describing the Journey
As well as articulating the outcomes and timelines in a clear and perfunctory way; it is vital that we provide a more narrative description of the journey that stakeholders and the business will undertake. It needs to speak to senior stakeholders to enable them to understand the plan and also provide sufficient detail for people to execute the plan.
Workforce plans deal in the realm of change, which can be stressful for those involved and impacted; the clear description can enable people to prepare themselves to safeguard their wellbeing. As workforce planning practitioners, we will be experts on our own plan; other stakeholders may not be in receipt of the detailed progress of that plan. Therefore, the summary makes it far more accessible for people to understand the events they will see that will allow them to understand that progress is being made as intended.
The final, and arguably most vital aspect is that it avoids any surprises. The effective execution of great plans can quite easily be derailed by a senior stakeholder who is surprised by the impact of change. Unless it has been articulated clearly, a sudden change in the metrics of a stakeholder’s HR dashboard can result in the programme grinding to a halt and additional work to allay the concerns that something is going wrong. Take the time to describe, both in writing and verbally, the journey that stakeholders are about to undertake.
Once a decision is made to proceed with the action plan, execution must be supported by responsibility assignment. It is equally important that we provide clarity on the responsibilities in relation to executing each of the initiatives of the plan. We can do this using a RACI matrix, the most common responsibility assignment model, detailing those who are:
- Responsible - who will execute the task?
- Accountable - who is overseeing the work and has to ensure execution is completed?
- Consulted - those who can provide expertise in the event of a deviation
- Informed - those updated on progress, either on a routine basis or on completion of the task
It is prudent to ensure those accountable and responsible are those with the greatest incentive for its success. It is wise for us or an element of the workforce planning function to be recorded as consulted on each of these, rather than informed, to ensure a two-way conversation is maintained.