Workforce Planning Through Supply Commerce Essay

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We are now moving into the golden era of workforce planning. 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 that in most of OECD countries, "talent squeeze" in the labour market 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.

Although the intended audience for the report is local authorities within the UK, the literature is drawn from a range of public and private sector organisations, both in the UK and abroad. Some may question the relevance of a large multinational corporation's experience to the current context. However, it is important to note that different organisations face a number of common external pressures, especially those relating to the changes in workforce demography. In addition, it would be foolhardy to negate the lessons learned from the private sector, which typically has a more substantial history of using workforce planning techniques.

History of Workforce Planning

Workforce planning grew during the 1960s and early 1970s in a period of relative economic stability when unemployment was low and organisations were faced with supply shortages and the need to improve labour utilisation (see Reilly, 1996). It remained a significant practice in most large HR departments right up until the economic downturn of the 1980s when the failure to prove the economic value of workforce plans resulted in many efforts being eliminated (Sullivan, 2002b).

A number of factors contributed to the rejection of workforce planning over this period. The traditional approach had been highly mechanistic and concerned with 'head count' rather than 'head content', which prevented it from being flexible enough to meet the changing conditions (Castley, 1996). A number of shifts in organisational structures and attitudes during the 1980s were opposed to the practice of workforce planning (Reilly, 1996). There was a reaction against a centralised corporate power and organisations began devolving power to the local units. This, in turn, made workforce planning more difficult and led to the loss of some workforce planning skills. In addition, the HR agenda switched from a quantitative approach and a concern for numbers to a more qualitative approach looking at the skills employees bring to the workplace.

Furthermore, the fluctuating economy led some to regard planning as a futile activity (Reilly, 1996). The mood at the time was captured by the following quotation, taken from Minzberg (1994): Those that say they make plans and that they work are liars. The term planning is imbecilic; everything can change tomorrow.

In the latter part of the 1990s workforce planning started to creep back onto the HR agenda. Today it represents a high priority for an increasing number of organisations as they realise that the need for planning is greater than ever (Sullivan, 2002b). There is an awareness of the importance of skill development in an environment that requires adaptability rather than stability. There is recognition that employee contribution must be maximised through better utilisation and deployment. Finally, there is an understanding of the need to frame employee tasks in the context of business plans and to make them more challenging in the drive for continuous business improvement.

Whilst unpredictability is rife, there are common pressures facing organisations. Minzberg (1994) reminds us that: To pronounce any environment permanently turbulent is as silly as to call it permanently stable. Environments are always changing in some dimensions and are always remaining stable in others.

Nowadays organisations need to plan for their own survival as they grapple to deal with: intensified competition from home and abroad; labour market factors, recruitment and retention; the speed of information acquisition and dissemination; the globalisation of economic activities; consumerism and the drive for quality at an acceptable price (Reilly, 1996). In today's business world, there is no time for catch up if an organisation makes mistakes - others will be straight in there to grab the market share (Sullivan, 2002b).

Far from undermining workforce planning, the unpredictable nature of business necessitates thinking about the future. Organisations need to be able to deal effectively with any upturns or downturns they may face. The last couple of years has seen a period of instability in the economy, which has led to downsizing and lay-offs in many industrialised nations. Organisations that were unprepared for the cutbacks are now planning for how they will regenerate the business when the economy brightens up again. There is increasing concern (especially in industries such as IT) of 'throwing the baby out with the bath water', and losing competitive advantage because of a failure to protect core competencies (Melymuka, 2002). As one practitioner advised: Even if recession has forced you to cut back on projects you can use this time to assess your skill base, figure out what you'll need and get organised to hit the ground running when your budget loosens (quoted in Melymuka, 2002).

Although we cannot predict some of the changes in the business world, we can be certain of others, some of which relate to the workforce itself. The future is expected to bring a shift to higher skilled 'knowledge-worker' jobs, increased competition for talent as well as greater worker diversification, changes in worker values and expectations and an increasing number of workers retiring.

An examination of organisation workforce planning guidelines suggests that it is this latter problem which has spurred a number of organisations into creating workforce plans. As the first wave of baby-boomers edges towards retirement age, organisations that do not prepare for their replacement are expected to face a sudden loss of skills, or 'brain drain'.

Some organisations are even planning for the increasing diversity of the population. Despite equal opportunity and diversity initiatives, most middle and senior management positions are still held by white middle-aged men, particularly in many areas of the private sector. However, a multicultural economy is on the way and many believe that if organisations want to identify with their customers, the people running the businesses will need to look like the people they serve (eg White, 2002). One organisation, Abbott Laboratories, a US-based health-care products company, has begun to increase the diversity of its workforce through aggressive targeted recruitment initiatives, including building relationships with minority universities and sponsoring science programs in schools in predominantly minority neighbourhoods (see White, 2002).

Given the changing context over the years, organisations that have resumed workforce planning have typically not returned to older methods of manpower planning, which by now are regarded as too deterministic (Reilly, 1996). Rather, they have accepted the imperatives of the modern world and adapted workforce planning accordingly.

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).

Succession Planning

Findings - The data appears to confirm studies conducted in the US and Canada that show Generation X and Y learning styles are typically motivated by a desire to enhance professional skills and thus marketability to future employers. For many Generation X and Y staff working across a range of professions, access to professional development has become an important component of their overall remuneration package. It also figures highly in any decision to join or remain with an organisation. This paper concludes that a better understanding of generational change and commitment to professional development are critical to the recruitment and retention efforts of future academic libraries.

The University of Tasmania (UTAS) Library initiated a comprehensive workforce planning project in 2005-2006 to solve key issues influencing effective retention and development of new and experienced staff.

Recognising this problem, the University of Tasmania (UTAS) Library initiated a comprehensive workforce planning project over 2005-2006 to identify and address the key issues impacting on the effective retention and development of new and experienced staff. The process aimed to facilitate the smooth management of short and long term transitions as people enter and leave the workplace, and as the needs of the workplace change. To this end, the basic elements of the process were:

2. The University of Tasmania Library workforce planning project

The issue of workforce planning is becoming increasingly pertinent across the Australian library and information industry.

stocktaking the current workforce;

forecasting future needs;

planning to meet these needs; and

implementing measures to address these needs (Gorman and Cornish, 1995).

"Stocktaking" the current workforce revealed, among other things, that:

the overall age profile of the Library workforce was comparable with the national average for the sector, with 60 per cent of staff over 45 years of age;

34.3 per cent of professional staff were over 55 years of age - double the national average for librarians;

staff turnover increased from 12.6 per cent to 19.1 per cent in 2005 and was likely to continue to increase;

70 per cent of terminations were among staff in positions classified as entry level; and

67-90 per cent of staff across all positions exceeded the minimum requirements for their classification level (University of Tasmania, 2006, pp. 11-25).

With moderate and critical gaps identified between the Library's current capacity to meet these needs and the capacity that would actually be required to do so, the structures and practices shaping the Library's workforce needed to undergo significant transformation. This paper examines the structures and changes that specifically related to the Library's liaison librarians.

It is worthwhile at this point defining what liaison librarian means at UTAS; some institutions may use the term to describe a significantly different role, while others may use the term subject, or reference librarian to describe some, or all, of the duties undertaken by liaison librarians at UTAS.

UTAS liaison librarians act as the link between Schools and the Library, consulting and communicating with staff and students to provide services and resources in:

research support (e.g. personalized consultations, advanced database training and support for postgraduate students and staff);

teaching and learning (namely undergraduate information literacy development); and

collection development (e.g. recommending and prioritising resources, contributing to Library-wide collection development policy).

Also included among the liaison librarians' responsibilities are the provision of reference services and involvement in strategic planning.

3. Restructuring liaison

Gap 1: the need for greater mobility across positions.

Key to this gap was the development of unintentionally divergent, location-specific position descriptions. Spread over two campuses and six separate branches, liaison librarians worked in both local branch-based and cross-campus School-based liaison teams. In the absence of a centrally-defined position framework, the different branches of the Library had independently developed a range of position descriptions encompassing a variety of roles and activities that were then all grouped together under the title "liaison librarian". This resulted not only in a fragmented and strategically scatter-brained liaison service, it also served to entrench a static liaison structure in which little movement or flexibility within teams and across branches was possible.

Gap 2: the need to facilitate opportunities for career progression and Gap 3: the need to recognize the changed role and requirements of liaison.

This was compounded by the structure of these branch and School teams. The teams comprised team leaders, classified as experienced or senior librarians at Level B, and the remaining team members, all classified as entry-level, Level A. While there is, perhaps, nothing essentially wrong with this model of team leadership, it was the dichotomous classification of team members as either senior or entry-level that was problematic. As the demographic statistics outlined earlier showed, the vast majority of librarians classified at Level A exceeded the minimum requirements of this level, and indeed most were far more experienced than the entry-level classification would imply.

Interviews with staff at entry-level positions revealed that while they would like to progress their careers within UTAS, they could see few options for doing so (University of Tasmania, 2006, p. 41). This observation was reflected in the fact that 70 per cent of all terminating staff were from positions classified as entry-level (University of Tasmania, 2006, p. 18), while a later parity analysis with equivalent institutions revealed that liaison librarians at UTAS were classified one to two levels below the industry norm (University of Tasmania, 2006, p. 69). Furthermore, the existing classification structure was not only unrepresentative of the actual skills and experience of the Level A liaison librarians in their current roles, it was even less appropriate in the context of the ongoing strategic re-alignment of liaison away from a reference service based role and towards that of highly skilled co-educators and information specialists.

4. The liaison librarian: a developmental framework

Once development in each capability area had been discussed, documented and signed off, the librarian's increased capacity would be reflected through a change in classification, moving from Level A to the experienced Level B. The Learning activities column provides space for structured and non-structured activities to facilitate learning; it can be seen that in the segment above, the column is nearly empty. The same approach was taken in the Types of evidence column, where suggestions for potential means of demonstrating developing knowledge, skills and capabilities can be made within each librarian's unique liaison context. It was agreed that the Framework must function as a working document, in order to accommodate the evolving context of the liaison environment.

The wholesale Level B re-classification of the "entry-level" librarians was an important and necessary step in redefining the UTAS Library workforce. The intention was to allow for the necessary flexibility and open-ended learning required by the fluid nature of the liaison role, rather than prescribing a list of rigid requirements. The Development Framework was designed to act as one such support. It did produce the unwanted side-effect of effectively locking new librarians out of opportunities to gain experience in liaison by removing the traditional entry-level pathway. Progress in each capability area was discussed and reviewed in regular meetings between the liaison librarian and his/her supervisor.

As the analogy implies, scaffolded enabling structures act as temporary supports for the development of permanent skills; once these skills are stable and free-standing, the temporary support can be removed.

The wholesale Level B re-classification of the "entry-level" librarians was an important and necessary step in redefining the UTAS Library workforce. It did, however, produce the unwanted side-effect of effectively locking new librarians out of opportunities to gain experience in liaison by removing the traditional entry-level pathway. Addressing this problem was fairly simple; as liaison librarians left or retired from their positions the openings would once again be advertised at Level A. However, without a system in place to formally recognize skill development at Level A there was the very real potential that this practice would eventually lead to experienced librarians facing a structural plateau in entry-level positions once again.

Over the course of 2006-2007 the Liaison Librarian: A Developmental Framework (for the sake of clarity to be hereafter referred to as the Development Framework, or simply the Framework) was developed and implemented to provide new librarians with a detailed structure for skill and knowledge development; defining a set of core capabilities and performance criteria, the Framework provided a pathway for professional recognition and promotion from Level A to B. Born of the very real practical needs of the Library, the Development Framework was also developed within the wider context of UTAS Library's long-term aim to orient itself better as a learning organisation. Senge (1990, p. 14), one of the early proponents of this field, defines the learning organisation as "continually expanding its capacity to create its future"; Pedler et al. (1997, p. 3) expand upon this slightly to "an organisation that facilitates the learning of all its members and consciously transforms itself and its workers". Taking these definitions, workforce planning can be understood as an integral process of organisational learning, facilitating the conscious transformation of the workforce at both macro and micro levels by allowing the organisation to plan for change, rather than simply reacting to it.

Designing the Framework, it was Pedler et al.'s (1997 p. 16) seventh characteristic of the learning organisation, "Enabling structures", that provided the conceptual model for facilitating workplace learning. Enabling structures are defined as any physicalcultural, procedural or structural feature of an organisation that provides opportunities for development both on an individual and organisational level (Pedler et al., 1997, pp. 122-4). Of Pedler et al.'s (1997, pp. 122-4) discussion of enabling structures it is the concept of scaffolding that is particularly being applied here. As the analogy implies, scaffolded enabling structures act as temporary supports for the development of permanent skills; once these skills are stable and free-standing, the temporary support can be removed. The Development Framework was designed to act as one such support.

The first level of the Framework, Capability, outlines the broad requirements of liaison librarians; the second, Performance criteria, delineates the levels of accountability and complexity within these capabilities at levels A and B. These were extrapolated from the new generic position descriptions, and further refined as the Framework was explored in practice. It was agreed that the Framework must function as a working document, in order to accommodate the evolving context of the liaison environment.

The Learning activities column provides space for structured and non-structured activities to facilitate learning; it can be seen, however, that in the segment above, the column is nearly empty. The intention here was to allow for the necessary flexibility and open-ended learning required by the fluid nature of the liaison role, rather than prescribing a list of rigid requirements. The same approach was taken in the Types of evidence column, where suggestions for potential means of demonstrating developing knowledge, skills and capabilities can be made within each librarian's unique liaison context.

As skills and knowledge developed, progress was charted against each capability (as shown in Table II).

Progress in each capability area was discussed and reviewed in regular meetings between the liaison librarian and his/her supervisor. In some cases documentary evidence was provided (e.g. learning plans, written feedback and other records), while in others evidence was assessed in terms of conceptual understanding, or practical demonstration of proficiency. Once development in each capability area had been discussed, documented and signed off, the librarian's increased capacity would be reflected through a change in classification, moving from Level A to the experienced Level B.

CONCLUSION

While the processes of planning and change were by no means difficulty-free, the process has increased the capacity of UTAS Library to meet its oncoming demographic challenges as a responsive, reflective, learning organization. Through the systematic investigation of its current situation and the assessment of where its future was leading, UTAS Library was able to move from a fragmented, static structure in which career progression for librarians was virtually non-existent, to a system in which staff are able to move across and within teams uninhibited by an artificially isolating position structure, and where skills and knowledge are recognized, valued and developed across all levels of experience.

The practical experience of the development of an integrated program of structural development and support for new librarians will be explored here.

In this study, they explore the practical context, the effects relating to the workforce review and the measures taken to solve major problems discovered especially relating to hiring and retaining its liaison librarians in the university. The gap of its state of affairs and its expected staffing needs are identified through workforce planning. Positions restructuring of liaison librarians and development and articulation structure execution for new librarians are the two major approaches and changes which took place within the university to address the gaps. This case study found that this workforce planning process is able to identify few major gaps in capacity specifically in the aspect of ability to retain the existing liaison librarians and employment of new librarians to expect forthcoming effects of elderly workforce. After which the execution of the two major changes are carried out, UTAS Library has slight increase of new librarians, a better structure that portrays skilled workers which enabled flexibility and movement across levels (Vanessa Warren, 2011).

Summary Article 2: Yue Qu, Fang Cai, (2011),"Understanding China's workforce competitiveness: a macro analysis", Journal of Chinese Human Resource Management, Vol. 2 Iss: 1 pp. 8 - 22

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