At our April 15 meeting we were focused on the theme "Where Are You Today?" meaning where is your organization on its workforce planning journey? We first learned from WPE Co-Chair, Mike LeBrun, Senior Manager HR Strategy & Insights, at Toyota North America, on how Toyota is evolving their operational workforce planning into strategic business planning and building new HR capabilities. We then had a breakout group discussion on current status of workforce planning across member organizations: What questions and challenges do you have? What impact did COVID-19 have on WP? What is needed to build a workforce/work planning discipline that enables talent fluidity? We then closed with a presentation by i4cp co-founder and chief futurist Jay Jamrog on the future of workforce planning as being composed of a combination of headcount planning, skills planning, and work planning.
Here are some highlights from the meeting:
- LeBrun offered a three-part model of workforce planning, that includes:
- Operational. Run the business: headcount forecasting; Range: 0-12 months; e.g., Cust Service / Sales HC models
- Tactical. Manage the business: staffing plans; Range: 12-24 months; e.g., labor cost, SOC, resource allocation
- Strategic: Enable the
business: competitive advantage; Range 3-5 years; e.g., future skills,
- LeBrun then described the
evolution of workforce planning at Toyota North America. Many years ago,
when they were known as Toyota Financial Services, headcount planning was
done by line of business leaders without any centralization. So the first
step was to provide centralized reports, dashboards, and analysis for
headcount planning for the business. This knowledge and insight improved
decision making, and eventually evolved into role-based planning. This
involves understanding critical roles that provide strategic
differentiation and associated future talent needs. Talent is seen as a
strategic competitive advantage, and outputs include role segmentation and
Now Toyota North America is building up its third level: work and skills planning. This involves proactive management of talent risk and agile redeployment, and requires understanding current skills gaps and future required skills. Outputs include a model for assessing talent risk, tools to find skills and assign people to work, and a new-skilling plan.
- We asked this poll question during the meeting: Which of the following best represents where you are today? 62% indicated headcount planning, with 19% each indicating role-based planning and work / skill planning.
- Headcount planning - Understand headcount by location, type, levels and associated workforce cost
- Role-based planning - Understand critical roles that provide strategic differentiation and associated future talent needs
- Work and Skill planning -
Understand the work, current skills gaps, and future required skills
- One member noted that a
challenge of workforce planning in recent years is regarding data
analysis: there is now so much people, skills, and work data available, it
is easy to fall prey to analysis paralysis.
- For some members, the work
climate during COVID-19 expedited workforce planning in several ways, such
as increasing leaders' focus on critical talent, labor costs, etc. There
was also more sharing of talent across organizational silos, something
many hope will continue as workers return to traditional work and
- Some members mentioned the
benefit that consulting firms can sometimes play in workforce planning, as
well as a solid technology platforms, such as your talent management suite
as well as Salesforce or other CRMs, though often simple spreadsheets
remain a foundation.
- It was noted that for many
the past year of COVID-19 has compressed planning timelines from years to
months or months to weeks for various needs.
- Jay Jamrog closed out the session with a presentation on the differences between headcount planning, skill planning, and work planning.
- For headcount planning, he noted the importance of creating a baseline profile, key decisions to make, and what data is required vs. nice to have.
- For skills planning, he described what skills demand forecasting is and facets of the decision making process involved. He then shared some data on key trends in skills, coming from automation and AI, but also more generally. Unfortunately, a hindrance to the massive need for upskilling/reskilling is that most organizations have no formal mechanism to reward managers for developing talent -- and this is true almost as much at high-performance organizations as lower-performing ones.
- For work planning, Jay described what he calls the project revolution where jobs will increasingly be deconstructed into work and projects, with talent being sourced in many ways to get the work done. He gave an analogy to how talent is sourced to work on a movie in Hollywood, with relatively few full time employees involved. The importance of a broad range of talent sources is highlighted in i4cp's Talent Ecosystem Integration Model, which includes numerous case studies for internal talent marketplaces, external talent marketplaces, overlooked talent pools, and much more.