Jargon buster - 'Strategic workforce planning'

Albert Einstein made more than his fair share of ground-breaking discoveries but he took a dim view of crystal-ball gazing all the same. 'I never think of the future', he said, 'It comes soon enough.'

Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013
But the latest HR trend requires employers to ignore this sage advice and try to predict what the workforce of tomorrow needs to look like. The snappily named strategic workforce planning is about hiring, training and developing staff to prepare a business for what lies ahead.

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.

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