HR is given the seemingly Sisyphean task of analysing the entire workforce, looking for talent gaps - as well as gaps that it thinks will emerge - and preparing staff to plug these holes as and when the need arises. This covers partnerships, outsourcing, contract and temporary staff as well.
It's a tall order - research from Capita Learning and Development suggests strategic workforce planning isn't doing all that well. It claims 70% of business leaders fear inadequate staff skills are the greatest threat to their ability to grow. A third of senior managers don't even believe their employees have the skills they need now.
But rather like the space-time continuum, strategic workforce planning is more elastic than it first appears - the more you put into it the more you get out. So trying to design the workforce of the future will remain top of the HR agenda for a while yet.