The Problem with Strategic Workforce Planning

We saw this coming

For the past 20 years our team has worked for some of the leading recruitment agencies across the UK, Asia and Australia, partnering with some of the world’s most respected corporations.

As far back as 2014 – when Ploy was founded –we recognised that there was – and still is – a need for businesses to tap into highly skilled, local resources for ‘gig’ assignments that would enable those businesses to scale and thrive. Has this changed since 2014? Yes, it has. The need for scalable and flexible resourcing has grown exponentially and the gig economy has exploded.

And have organisations kept up? No. What we’ve found over this time is that corporate recruitment is still, in most cases, far from strategic or proactive. On the contrary, it is agonisingly reactive and failed to meet the demands of a new post-COVID economy – and here’s why:

The Problem

Each and every year millions of Human Resources professionals globally set out at the beginning of each financial year with the best intentions to pull together a skills gap assessment to design a talent attraction plan that aligns with the ambitions of the business in order to predict the future needs of the business.

Additionally, these businesses (these humans) need to ensure that the businesses for which they work have the capacity and skills to deliver on the company business, operational and marketing plans – simply put – to succeed.

Now, being the clever person that you are, you immediately understand this “bridging the gap” predictive scenario planning is not an easy task. Most businesses simply don’t have the tools, or the level of understanding required to understand or incorporate more variables than could possibly be predicted by any one or group if humans. Here we enter the world of the “unknown unknows”.

These talent attraction strategies are endorsed at ‘C’ level and passed internally to Talent Acquisition (of which there are 2.5+ million globally) to enact the strategy. These are predominantly outwardly focussed.

For a business to truly thrive it MUST first look internally – to engage, develop and nurture its biggest asset – its people.

However, herein lies the issue. Fundamentally, most businesses don’t understand their current workforce in terms of their skills, motivations and aspirations. The key drivers for talent success and successful business outcomes.

In fact, we are yet to discover a business that explicitly knows their skills inventory and tracks their workforce data in any meaningful way.

This lack of understanding leads to retention issues which cost the US market $US700+ billion a year and compounds the issue of talent attraction.

No Transparency = No Loyalty

Corporations must share their vision and future state at the granular level – with everyone. This enables “Learning in Context” – the ability for a workforce to align their skills, motivations and aspirations to future opportunities and skill gaps identified within the business.

The result? Increased retention and ROI from upskilling, learning and development, mentoring, and talent mobility programs.

In fact, according to the Work Institutes 2020 Retention Report – State of the Workforce thriving employees are:

  • 8x more likely to work for a company that they trust to provide them with a career, even if their job significantly changes or goes away (79% versus 10%)
  • 7x more likely to work for a company they trust to prepare them for the future of work (83% versus 12%)
  • 4x more likely to work for an organisation that provides up-to-date information on career paths (77% versus 22%)
  • 4x more likely to work for a company whose culture is supportive of employees who want a change mid-career (74% versus 17%)
  • 2x more likely to work for an organisation that is transparent about which jobs will change (52% versus 23%)

We need a dedicated platform

Corporations need a platform to overlay their people data against their business and operational strategy to drive retention, talent, diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB), and business growth – whilst optimising Operations.

There are over 260,000+ professionals worldwide who focus on workforce planning*, yet there is no single platform catering to the issue.

Most use a combination of HCM, HRIS, Excel, Project, manual process, and guesswork to enable talent mobility, upskilling, retention programmes and skill gap assessments to enact their talent strategies.

Companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year trying to gain a fundamental understanding of their employees and the skills they possess – and this is no easy task! Employees don’t see a benefit in filling out surveys and questionnaires for hours on end with little return for them and little match with their standard KPIs.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused such a shift in the way people work that it has given rise to a new, $US300 billion-a-year** business software category to rival ERP and CRM.

This new category is most commonly referred to as EXP – Employee Experience Platforms. EXP consists of collaboration tools, wellbeing apps, training and development offerings, and all forms of surveys, knowledge management, case management, and employee support in one form or another.

So what’s the solution?

The solution to the problem is what we call a Workforce Experience Platform (WXP), that solves Strategic Workforce Planning issues by revolutionising antiquated HR methodologies using people-centred design.

Businesses need to engage the entire workforce***, not just the employees, to capture the skills, motivations and aspirations of every individual – including Gig Economy workers – across upskilling, learning and development, and career opportunities internally.

With such an approach, businesses will be rewarded with profound insights and an understanding of their workforce skill inventory and people data whilst enabling nurtured career paths, talent mobility, succession planning, retention strategy, talent strategy, skill gap analysis, business optimisation and access to an uncatered-for market, the Gig Economy.

Benefits to Strategic Workforce Planning

It’s never been more critical to consider the consequences of bot, borrow or boomerang decisions, 39% of companies plan to hire more “boomerang” talent (employees who return to work for a former employer).

Strategic workforce planning and insight into workers’ skills profiles and motivations are critical to building a sustainable talent pipeline (Mercer – Global Talent Trends 2020).

And the bottom-line benefits?

  • Anticipate and plan for change. Quantify the talent requirements to meet business objectives over the short and long term; improve business planning and financial forecasts. Establish metrics that help inform leadership about key workforce issues.
  • Drive allocation of talent investments. Workforce planning helps determine which talent segments deliver high ROI and need greater investment. For example, which groups of employees should be targeted with extra dollars for training and development?
  • Align HR with corporate strategy. Strive to position HR policies and programs to support overall business goals and objectives. If your strategy includes high-touch customer service, will you have the talent to deliver?
  • Reduce vacant positions and increase workforce productivity. Workforce planning can help reduce vacant positions and increase productivity.
  • Decrease hiring costs. Workforce planning can help reduce hiring costs by providing the information HR leaders need to reduce attrition in key segments in which hiring new workers is especially costly.
  • Improve business operation decisions. Do a better job assessing operational needs, costs and investments based on fluctuating workforce trends (e.g., procurement practices, real estate, mobile technology).

 Simple really – right?


(*LinkedIn. Does not include HR, Talent Attraction, Recruitment)
(**Microsoft & Josh Bersin)
(***Permanent, Part-Time, Contract, Temporary, Gig)

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