Economic Transformation: Why Strategic Workforce Planning Is Crucial

Mashhour Bedaiwi

We live in exciting economic times, both globally and locally. Economies are shifting dramatically while economists struggle to keep up.

These trends come from what we call digital disruption, in which technology is changing business models throughout the world. We can see this in many industries, such as the hotel and transportation industries. A key digital disruptor is machine learning, which is becoming more and more prevalent to support or sometimes replace humans in the workplace.

As an example, Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, is on an ambitious path to diversify its economy, where it will rely on non-oil exports in the future to create income for the country. Diversifying an economy means introducing a new breed of employees, new skills, and perhaps a different culture into the country’s private and public sector.

Take a moment to think about this fact, and you would likely conclude that the workforce in place today will be largely irrelevant just a few years from now.

This inevitable change calls for action—specifically, a plan to equip organizations with the right talent to keep up with these changes, or even be ahead of the curve.

HR leaders today must plan ahead to by gradually introducing new talent, enabling existing talent, and shifting its talent from within to enable their organization to thrive or even keep pace. There are already many examples of organizations that have either thrived or disappeared, depending on how they cope with change.

To plan the needs of their organization’s talent, HR leaders must have a sound methodology that is continuous, highly governed, sponsored by their organization’s executives and agile with high accuracy.

They must also focus on agility and accuracy, as the competitive edge in the private sector and legislation in the public sector are changing rapidly. These factors will determine the organization’s success coping with change as it moves forward.

HR leaders should start by identifying where their organization’s workforce has been, where it is now, and what it will look like in the future by using multiple scenarios that align with their organization’s vision or purpose. From business diversification to transformation into a completely different business model, all scenarios should be considered.

This can be achieved using rich and accurate data—whether it’s historical, current, or predictive—along with data quality assurance methodologies and carefully designed projection formulas.

Data efficiency is essential to extract the necessary key performance indicators that feed into strategic plans and project what an organization will look like in the future.

HR leaders must then define what areas of their organization are most prone to change, whether by functional grouping, division, or job function. These areas should be selected carefully as not every area is relevant to their strategic plan.

Leaders should be able to forecast what talent they need based on the scenarios selected, and project the organization’s level of productivity in the coming years.

Of course, no plan is complete without identifying the risks at hand, which are based on the current readings of the organization’s key performance Indicators. These include things like talent shortages in specific areas due to high turnover, lack of employee engagement, or an aging workforce that’s approaching retirement.

Based on these factors, leaders should then enact an action plan to manage identified risks and prepare the organization for the future.

This strategic approach to workforce planning should be an iterative practice rather than a one-time static plan, and it should be adaptive to external and internal factors. In addition, a core team should be appointed to handle the plan, with an executive sponsor empowering then to execute it.

Last but not least, to execute a demanding workforce plan, HR leaders need the right technological tools. This technology should fluently translate the organization’s critical workforce KPIs to strategic business scenarios while also offering accurate projections for the future to ensure the success and growth of the organization.

For more on strategic business planning, see Growing Companies, It’s Time To Master The Numbers Game.

Mashhour Bedaiwi

About Mashhour Bedaiwi

Mashhour Bedaiwi is a Senior Solutions Advisor at SAP, with a passion for digital transformation.