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Sally Hunter


Senior Vice President

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How to create a strategic workforce plan that can improve job quality


The CIPD recently released findings from its UK working lives survey and identified the key challenges for two main groups in the market: those at the lower levels who are far less likely to have access to skills and training, and those in middle management who feel significantly squeezed by their workload.

We often read about unhappy or overworked employees and how this results in poor mental health, absenteeism, lack of training or poor management. There are a number of ways these pressures can be alleviated, by simple initiatives like increasing job flexibility, allowing employees to work from home or offering free or subsidised therapy and private healthcare.  

It can be argued that these are short-term solutions that will only help those currently in the workforce. What happens to future employees? How can organisations continue to not only improve job quality of employees today, but to also ensure they have the structure in place in order to make the most of the talent now and in the future?  

By utilising strategic workforce planning (SWP), businesses are able to create a talent plan in advance and, most importantly, identify the skills gaps around issues of job quality highlighted in the CIPD survey.

Identifying skills needed now and tomorrow

As SWP focuses on the integration of broader business goals, human capital planning and operational requirements, senior HR professionals are able to align skills, roles and people to meet short and long-term company goals.

By using a skills audit or gap analysis, senior HR professionals can meet the demand of the future workforce by utilising data available to predict future resource requirements.

With SWP, organisations will be better able to pinpoint key development areas and look to create career paths for existing staff to grow into new roles, which will give them that clarity.

If organisations develop tools and processes that enable managers to access and interpret the available workforce data, this can be used to inform their decision-making when recruiting. Particularly with the increasing introduction of automation, artificial intelligence, technology and digital skills, it’s important that organisations plan ahead and ensure that solutions are put in place to meet future demand.

Creating learning and development paths

The CIPD survey highlights the extent that employees feel unable to progress in their careers especially among unskilled and casual workers. More than a third (37%) said that they had not received any training in the last 12 months while two in five (43%) felt their job did not offer them potential to grow and develop.

HR professionals can use SWP to create opportunities and identify areas where training may be necessary to bridge the gap between an employee’s current skill level and the skill level that they need to be at to support future business goals.

This is crucial for industries such as manufacturing because of the growing impacts of technology, as it can help support a ‘build versus buy’ approach for these new skill requirements.

This lack of opportunity to develop can leave workers stuck and unable to progress their careers. With SWP, organisations will be better able to pinpoint key development areas and look to create career paths for existing staff to grow into new roles, which will give them that clarity.

Scenario planning and risk management

SWP allows businesses to respond and create a talent plan in advance and it is crucial that relationships are formed between HR, Finance and the Exec team. By undertaking strategic and horizon-scanning elements of workforce planning, resource, training budget and company finances can all be allocated in advance and more cost efficiently.

SWP also ensures that the skills align with the organisation’s mission as well as ensuring that they are fundamentally fit for the future. This allows role creation and development to be planned in advance rather than being reactive.

SWP can enable employees to be better able to explore their career options within the organisation.

While many organisations have good quality data, HR analytics enables better decision making and provides an organisation with insights and evidence about key aspects of the workforce, combining these insights with SWP will help to overcome the challenges highlighted in the CIPD survey.

By aligning the workforce strategic business objectives for the present and the future, senior HR professionals will not only contribute to the long-term success of their organisation but can also enable flexible working for all types of employees.


As we live in a continually changing world where job roles are adapting and skill shortages are visible, it’s imperative that companies strategically plan for the future of the business and the development of employees.

One way of successfully doing this is through linking employers with schools and universities as early as possible, as this will ensure future candidates can keep up to date with industry developments, go on work placements and have the opportunity to build good contacts.

Partnerships can help educational institutions understand the skills that are required for future roles and organisations can play an active role in ensuring employees of the future are fully equipped for the workplace.

Once they enter the workplace, SWP can enable employees to be better able to explore their career options within the organisation. Furthermore, managers are better able to offer advice to employees about their career options, for example, by providing coaching or other assistance.

Organisations need to therefore develop and offer career practices to achieve a variety of objectives, including the development and promotion of employees from within, assistance to individuals in their career planning efforts, improvement in employees’ productivity, and enhancement of human resource planning.


Author Profile Picture
Sally Hunter

Senior Vice President

Read more from Sally Hunter

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