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We are now moving into the golden era of workforce planning Sullivan, 2002a. Ever since the era of which a few organisations had carried out workforce planning in early 1960s, the rebirth of this increasingly important aspect has taken place and became one of the latest topic discussed by many. Laabs (1996) mentioned one of "the greatest business challenges" is the challenges in executing workforce planning regardless of the recent interest of it in the industry, making it difficult for organisations to carry out this implementation.
Cooper (2005) mentioned mainly in the labour market of OECD countries, "talent squeeze" is resulted by the combination of birth rates falls, low levels of unemployment and attitudes changes to work. To attract and keep highly skilled workers especially the young ones are much more difficult than before. This brings to the generational change and workforce planning which became the key focus for most organization to compete in order to increase their human capital.
What is Workforce Planning?
What could be the real definition and the concept of Workforce Planning and how does it differ with other concepts in Human Capital Management? Most commonly, it is defined as acquiring the precise amount of workforces with the right capabilities and competencies for the precise tasks and job in the precise timing. For more comprehensive definition which involves several issues of procedures involved, it is stated by Reilly (1996) that Workforce Planning is a practice of which organisation tries to estimate workforce requirement, assessing its size, characteristics and supplies needed in order to fulfil the requirement. This definition is somewhat new which could be interchangeable with the phrases which were long used such as human resource planning, building bench strength and succession planning. This workforce planning is allied to a more central process of which enables better identification of issues on quality in terms of capabilities and skills which could be practiced in most of organisations environment.
In order to perform Workforce Planning, it is important to start a proper metrics and analysis of the workforce. The field of HR metrics and workforce analysis needs to be determined in order for the organisation to improve its effectiveness and competitiveness. The metrics involves the part of meaning data which will be used for analysing in order to give good decision making within the organisation. Return on investment of the Human Resource metrics and analytics can only be seen only if the managers could wisely use the information processed through the metrics and the analytics reports to decide on more effective approaches in their decision-making. For organisations that gives more attention to developing HR metrics and the workforce analytics within organisations challenges and prospects could give a boost of return to their own organisation.
Newly computerized infrastructure could give larger prospects for HR metrics and workforce analytics in order for it to advance in an organisation. We are expecting evolving of metrics which organisation would implement would change in the forthcoming following the changes of decision makers especially towards an effective cost balancing and advantages of consequences in making decisions. The increasing usage of push and pull reporting systems, predictive analytics and its operational experiments, the enhancement of expertise within organisation in HR metrics and analytics capabilities will drive the evolution of both metrics and analytics competencies. As these capabilities grow, it will assist organisations to advance ahead of simple analytics to a greater enhanced of HR metrics and workforce analysis systems which could assist for better Human Resource planning or workforce planning for its organisations.
History of Workforce Planning
In the interval between 1960 towards the beginning of 1970, the workforce planning grew in response to the sound economical condition in which scenario of joblessness were minimal, with few companies having resource deficiency and underutilized human capital which needed to be improved (Reilly, 1996). Sullivan (2002) commented workforce planning as an important implement to mostly enormous HR departments until the economic took impacted in year 1980 where it failed to demonstrate the economic significance of this planning causing various hard works to be eradicated. Headcounts rather than head contents in the traditional method is just one of the aspects leading to the negative response of workforce planning in the past decades in which had limited the flexibility to fulfil the adjustments needed (Castley, 1996).
In the year 1980, structural and attitude changes were contrasting to the workforce planning implements (Reilly, 1996). Response towards centralized authority and organization started to delegate authority to the local setting. This had caused workforce planning to be more difficult to handle and leading towards losing expertise in workforce planning. Shifting of agenda in Human Resource in organisation occurred from quantitative to somewhat more qualitative in terms of skills contented in every employee. Some organisation perceived planning as meaningless action in the instability of economy (Reilly, 1996). Minzberg (1994) mentioned those who making plans which works are liars as the phrase planning is illogical as nothing will remain the same the next day.
More than ten years after the shifting of structural and attitude, the workforce planning began to be accepted back in the Human Resource agenda. As for now it becomes the top concern for most corporations when they realize the importance and significance in planning of workforce (Sullivan, 2002b). Developing skills is given more attention when it comes to adapting to the tasks given within organization. This may explain the needs of fully utilizing the talent and knowledge of the employee to give better productivity and involvement. Comprehensive insights of job scope of each employee and modifying it to be more motivating will further contribute to continuation of business development.
Environment is constantly changing in certain aspects but not all. Regardless of increasing uncertainty economically, Minzberg (1994) stated it will be ridiculous to state the environment as neither ceaselessly unstable nor ceaselessly unwavering. Reilly (1996) stated it is essential for organisation to move towards planning for their sustainability be it locally or internationally; considering the human resource market factors, the employment and keeping the good human capital; the pace of gaining and distributing information, the activities of globalisation of economic, relating to users/customers, and providing valuable quality with reasonable charge.
The volatile features of businesses demands for considering of the future. Handling successfully expansion or recession of an organisation is vital to ensure the sustainability of an organisation. For the past many years, due to recession we have seen many organisations going through scaling down and termination of employees in most developed countries. Those who were not prepared for scaling down of organisations look forward into how they could plan for their workforces in order to revive their operation once the financial prudence is restored again. Meymuka (2002) mentioned the most distress an organisation could face is to throw out their new ones and losing its competitive human capital due to not able to defend its main expertise. Despite of economic downturn which affected most developments or projects to be used to measure the foundation of abilities and skills, it is necessary to find what you will require and manage it when your finance starts recovering.
Regardless of forecasting shifting of the business arena, we can be assured of our own workforces within the organisation. Moving into the more modernized world, there is an expectation of having more skilful and knowledgeable workers to suit the tasks and responsibilities the field of knowledge based jobs, acquiring of more competitive talent within the labour market and better varied employees, transformation of different generations' principle of work, new anticipations and the need to replace increasingly number of retired baby boomers.
After a thorough inspection of workforce planning guideline, it proposed that due to the large retirement of the baby boomers in most of the companies, they seize the need to plan its workforce in order not to face rapid deficiency of expertises and skills within organisation at one time. Without having proper workforce planning, an organisation would suffer the rapidly decreasing expertise within their organisation. Through workforce planning it can create variety of its employees within the organisation. In the western countries, regardless of having equivalent opening and variety planning, especially in non-government division the position of management of higher level or mid-level are mostly occupied by the white middle-aged men.
White (2002) stated in order to succeed in multicultural economy, it is necessary for the organisations to appear similar as to the clients they attended in order for them to relate well with the clients. In the text by White (2002), a company of United States health-care product, the Abbott Laboratories has started to boost its variety and diversify workforce and human capital by starting proactive enrolment approaches through the networking with some minority universities and by funding science courses in educational institutions in largely minority vicinity.
The organisations that have opted into starting of workforce planning have not reverted back to the former approaches of manpower planning too deterministic (Reilly, 1996). Instead these organisations have acknowledged the essentials and personalized the approach of workforce planning correspondingly.
In the event of "greying" workforces in library and information science (LIS), good succession planning is vital in the trends of retiring baby boomers which gives significant impacts particularly for the past few decades. The literature has shown significant shifts in workforce demographics and the effects the trends present since the phrase first appeared in the late 1980s in the industry lexicon (Berry, 1986; Wilder, 1995; St Lifer, 2000; Hutley and Solomons, 2004). The comprehensive 2006 profile of the national LIS industry reports 49.9 per cent of staffs were over 46 years old; 16.1 per cent over the age of 56, and 31.7 per cent categorised under the retirement plans by 2015 (Hallam, 2007). This clearly indicates 49.9 per cent of the librarians will be reaching the age of 55 years and above by year 2015, which implies the LIS industry to be having less 49.9 per cent of its experienced librarians. To ensure the sustainability, continuity and regeneration of library workforces during these intense demographical changes, workforce planning is used as one of their tools as the needs rise for more comprehensive shifting towards succession planning (Whitmell, 2004; McCarthy, 2005; Hallam, 2007; Knight, 2007; Topper, 2008; Potter, 2009).
Advantages of Workforce Planning
Far-sighted corporations realized the importance of allying its business goals to the expansion of workforce and the advancement strategy which can generate competitive benefits of organisations and its human capital. Classifying its capabilities and skills for each groupings or tasks and work role in the present and for future is essential in the planning process. This may engage taking into account different environments and situations for initiating and advancing the best upcoming workforce.
Having a workforce planning will enable the organisation to develop an approach in workforce which distinguishes the important tasks, capabilities, competencies and outlines vital in reaching the strategic business goals. It is important to know what an organisation has first in order to plan for the near future.
Besides developing approaches to distinguish all necessities, the workforce planning assists in measuring the present capabilities and competencies of an organisation. After which the important parts are identified, it is crucial to an organisation to know what level are their workforces in for each capabilities and competencies that they have in order to further develop the lacks of competencies within an organisation or to further utilize the competencies and skills that they may have within an organisation for a better purpose. Having a proper storage of this workforce-related data is important for an organisation.
Human Resource Information System and Workforce Planning
The management of Human Resource includes attraction, selection, retention, development and utilization of human capitals to meet goals of individual and organisational. Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS) in the other hand integrates the Human Resource Management with the Information System (IS). Human Resource Information System assists Human Resource managers to carry out the Human Resource tasks and roles effectively and orderly by implementing the technology.
For this reason, as the shifting goes towards more modern and information technology era, most of the organisations integrate the information technology into their Human Resource practices by using a Human Resource Information System. Data acquisition, storing, manipulation, retrieval and dissemination relevant information relating to the human resources can be done through the system. Tannenbaum (1990) defines Human Resource Information System (HRIS) as a system for acquiring, storing, manipulating, analyzing, retrieving, distributing relevant data and information of human resources of an organisation.
The Human Resource Information Systems are more often used as an element of the corporation's well-built Management Information System (MIS) which also contents the accounting, production, marketing, operation functions and so on. Most line and human resource managers need decent information of its workforce to aid in their decision-making process.
This Information System implemented in Human Resource gave various advantages especially to the Human Resource operations. Overman (1992) stated implementing the HRIS can facilitate in giving rapid information processing as it helps to process all the necessary information with the user interface provided. Using the traditional approach may give less accurate information when data are stored in different places and updated not at one time. In contrast to this, by using HRIS, it increases the correctness of the data provided giving more accurate and timely information. HRIS can also be used to assist Human Resource managers to plan out the workforce planning and the development of the internal talent and human capital. Another feature of HRIS is to enhance communications of the employee bridging virtual communication via the HRIS whether it is within the local area network, wide area network or an e-HRIS on the internet. One of the examples of HRIS software implemented in the organisations to assist in workforce planning is PEOPLESOFT in which one of the module contained in the HRIS is Workforce Planning module.
However, challenges may arise in implementing HRIS within organisation, especially when there is a lack of awareness of the importance of this information system to the organisation. Low commitment of the top management in engaging to this system can cause obstacles for the organisation to move forward into successfully implementing the HRIS as a whole. Besides, when the organisation becomes comfortable with its state of affair of not implementing a system, it is hard for them to get used to the system unless if orientation is done for all the employees involved. The fear of technology may cause implementation to slow down because older generation who are not familiar with the technology would resist to change thus requiring a good change management plan in order to assimilate each employees into buying in to the implementation of HRIS. A good HRIS consists of adequate need analysis done; unsuccessfully identifying the main person involve or having the project management team functioning throughout implementing the HRIS can prevent getting a successful implementation of the system, just to name a few of the barriers involved.
HRIS is mostly practiced in large organisations as an enhancement to their activities of Human Resources. Despite the significance of HRIS, organisations can still progress on its Human Resource activities without the HRIS. As the years goes by, more data will be accumulated from different generations of workforces which could end up having enormous information to be handled. By that time, most of the tasks are oriented on project related environment as more employee in moving towards their own expertise rather than the current job that they may have now. In the era of information technology, information is equal to power as having more than sufficient information means having informational power in an organisation. Thus, most organisations would want to have a positive employee empowerment without biasness of negative competitiveness. To help in increasing the workforces' capabilities and knowledge, they need a platform to share information among their workforces.
Realizing the changes of trend and significance of Information Technology, most of the organisations are shifting towards HRIS. The developments of HRIS are more focused on the small enterprises to the medium organisations to support their Human Resource activities within the appropriate scales. The providers and vendors are also developing detailed modules of program and software to provide for the organisations specific Human Resources' requirements.
The implementation of the workforce planning in most organisations is still on its early stages and has not matured throughout the decades. An inspection of the organisations profile on their web stated that while some organisations are creating guidelines in to run their workforce planning, some are just beginning to conduct it within their organisations.
A research done in the America's federal government, Friel (2002) stated that the Office of Management and Budget and Office for Personnel Management have issued scorecards using different lights to rank its workforce planning performance. An organisation that have human capital strategy which complements their organisation's aims and conducting a system of performance appraisal which can distinguish good or bad performance of employees are given green light. Among all the agencies with the scorecard, none of them received the green light but however there are a total number of three agencies which is ranked with red lights. Due to the incomplete education for the inventory for their present capabilities or in restructure of workforce planning to ally the missions and goals, the requirement was not implemented comprehensively within the organisation to give most of them a green light to the scorecards given. The same could be identified in other agencies with very low or planning missing in place (Selden et al., 2001). The states which recorded vertical integration of workforce planning with its strategic plans are Washington and North Carolina. Most of the states involves horizontal integration with other functionality of human resource such as acquiring workforces, selection of workforces, training and development.
The audit of the research testified one major problem which is the lacking of resources throughout its research. Taking a look at one of the cases, when the above audit is carried out, there was a response given by the state personal office as below: "I don't think anyone does any kind of workforce planning - either us or the agencies. I don't think anyone disagrees with the notion. The idea is that you have limited resources available to you, both in the agency and in human resources, and there are so many continuing issues that you have to deal with that you have to make some determination of where you put your efforts" (Selden et al., 2001).
Few studies were carried out and it is too early to mention that workforce planning could or could not assist further in organisations. Sullivan (2002) mentioned out of the tracking records of workforce plans that has been done for the past 30 years of research shows 90 per cent of its "old model" workforce plans failed. Exploring the causes of failures in the old model was difficult due to workforce planners involved had ended their services for the companies involved many years back. Despite of this, few areas were identified by Bachet (2000) and Sullivan (2002, 2000) that may draw the rough ideas of failures in workforce plans. It is vital to study through the past failures in order to create a better working plans for the organisational workforce.
Workforce planning is part of the bigger agenda that is happening now in Human Resource agenda. As to counter rivalry of different organisations in the market, the greying workforce and recessions that could occur anytime in the economical situation; most of the organisations are seriously considering the essential of planning their workforce in order to catch up with the pace of the shifting within the era of information technology. As vendors and providers work closely to provide for models, packages of software program, it is necessary for organisations to look into the metrics and the workforce analytics within its organisation in order to match the need for the system that could assist in their workforce planning. Workforce planning could never be easy when tracking and processing records are apart from each other. Thus having proper system could enhance the workforce planning within the organisation.
Several disappointments in implementing workforce planning together in HRIS are mostly related to misinterpreting the procedures and the intention of workforce planning. As mentioned earlier, workforce planning is usually built in the surrounding of problems that needs to be solved by using the practices and models in workforce planning. It is not an occasional procedure which is done once a year but it is rather a continuous process that revolves through the changes that occurs within an organisation. Workforce planning is not used to tell the future of an organisation structure and business operation but however it can give clearer picture of plans and postulation of business in which short-range cognitive can settled. Difficulty shall not de-motivate organisation effort in better developing insights of current environment, seeing into the main challenges which can be counter rather than leaving everything to opening and possibilities which are not planned.