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December 2010

The value of planning
Paulette Dunn-Smith, Contributor

Last Sunday, we looked at the use of technology in improving workforce productivity. To remind our readers, the process of workforce development can be defined as an activity that improves the level and application of skills so as to achieve greater success for individuals and employers. This week, we focus our attention on improving workforce productivity through the process of planning.

In the same way that businesses are required to have a business plan for start-up purposes, so it is that every business, no matter how small, should also have its own workforce-development plan.

Why is this necessary, and how beneficial is having a plan? Without forward planning and forecasting of workforce needs, firms would not be able to achieve their aim of providing excellent services for their customers.

The aim of a workforce-development plan is to enable companies to meet their strategic objectives by identifying issues which deal with people. By so doing, they can better plan to address these issues. This will ensure that the organisation can deliver services in the future by maximising the utilisation of employees and outlining the strategies and plans in place to address these needs.

Predicting the future

Workforce planning at its simplest is about predicting the future demand for different types of staff and skills and seeking to match this with supply. Workforce planning provides the essential link between business-planning strategies and people plans for recruitment and retention, staff development, and training. For example, in a firm, the main drivers for workforce planning would include issues such as policy changes and technological changes.

Workforce planning means:

Identifying the current and future skills and numbers of employees needed to deliver new and improved services;

Analysing the characteristics of the present workforce in relation to

These needs;

Comparing the present workforce and the desired future workforce to highlight shortages, surpluses, and competency gaps.

The workforce-planning process provides the basis for producing a workforce-development plan that sets out how the firm will recruit, support, develop, and retain the employees it needs for the future. The plan should also set out where employees will need to move to new jobs to meet changing needs and priorities. In general, a three-step approach is used to develop the plan:

Step One: Where are you trying to get to? What workforce do you need?

Step Two: Where are you now? What is the current workforce position?

Step Three: How are we going to get there? What needs to be done to achieve the necessary changes?

At the individual or team level, the organisation needs to be clear as to its key services and priorities over the coming months and years. This will determine what jobs (roles, responsibilities, objectives, tasks) are required, then what skills, knowledge, and behaviours are required and are associated with these jobs and, therefore, whether the people required, the existing staff or new recruits have this knowledge, skills, and behaviours.

Benefits of Planning

Effective workforce planning is an important tool in maximising a company’s resources and building capacity in a structured and planned way. People are the key to successful improvement and capacity building, and if we plan well, we will be better equipped to manage both day-to-day business needs and to address changing priorities. Some of the benefits of effective workforce planning include:

1. Reduced staff shortages and staffing costs;

2. Ensuring the delivery of quality and timely services;

3. Training and development activities which support future skill needs;

4. The development of future managers and leaders;

5. Forecasting employment needs by anticipating changes;

6. Providing appropriate training and development at the right time;

7. Delivering improved services by linking business strategies to people plans.

Planning for the development of the workforce is, therefore, another means of improving workforce productivity. These plans not only look at the strategic and operational components for the business to succeed but also consider the people factor in developing and delivering their business.

Paulette Dunn-Smith is an international trainer and workforce-development expert. She is the executive director, Dunn, Pierre, Barnett & Associates Ltd. & chairman, Caribbean Career and Professional Development Institute. Contact her at pdunn@dpbglobal.com or www.dpbglobal.com.

Jamaica Gleaner