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Personnel planning of the future - A look beyond the horizon

02/03/2023 2023/03

In my dream I walk into a large office building. The furnishings are there, but where are all the people? On the first floor I meet a younger colleague with a huge pile of papers under her arm. "Where is everyone?" I want to know. "No time!" she shouts at me and hurries on. I turn a corner and voices are coming from a conference room. Ten to twelve-year-old children are sitting there: two are arguing, one is fighting with the laptop, another child is looking dreamily out of the window. "Generation Alpha" I read on a sign. "Where are the adults?" I ask the kids. Stressed, they look at me: "Well, they're all retired!"

Whew, what a nightmare! It will be a few years before Generation Alpha takes over management (and I'm sure their conflict resolution skills will be maturing by then). But if dreams give us a glimpse into subconscious concerns, then we should urgently start talking about strategic human resource planning now.

If you search for keywords like "strategic human resource planning" or "workforce planning", you will find many valuable references to tools that should simplify the process of actual planning. Actual workforce planning, on the other hand, attempts to look into a crystal ball: How many employees with what skills will we need in the future? What jobs will there be in our company in the future? 

Strategic human resource planning is one of the key components of successful human resource management: with a well thought-out human resource planning strategy, issues such as recruitment can be handled more effectively while ensuring the overall success of the company. Strategic human resource planning therefore helps to determine the right staff composition and take into account the company's current and future challenges; in other words, it is about forecasting future staffing needs. By anticipating upcoming workforce changes and adapting accordingly, companies can better manage their human resources and reduce costs associated with recruitment, create an effective work environment and align the workforce to achieve business objectives. 

The goal is to ensure business success with strategic human resource planning and, along the way, to reduce the burden on recruiting: those who train young people today will have to search less frantically for skilled workers in three years' time.

Procedure for personnel planning

If you look in the textbooks, you will find detailed instructions on how to determine personnel requirements. The following steps are recommended for successful human resource planning: 1. analyse the age structure, 2. determine the planning horizon, 3. define the corporate strategy and task areas, 4. group task packages according to qualifications, 5. determine gross human resource needs, 6. work out departures and arrivals for the planning horizon, 7. determine net human resource needs and 8. draw up the resulting measures.

So far, so classic. If we are to take the nightmare at the beginning of the text as a case study, here the analysis of the age structure has obviously failed or was not undertaken in time. Did you know that within the next five years almost 5 million workers will retire? By 2035 there will be almost 13 million people from the baby-boom generation who will no longer be available on the labour market. What is the situation like in your company?

In view of these figures, it is worthwhile to focus the planning horizon of your human resource planning strategy not only on the next 3-5 years, but also on the next 10-12 years. (Unless you are also looking towards a well-deserved retirement - then you could meanly leave this problem to your successor...).

If we look at Step 6 "Retirements and additions for the planning horizon" in economic terms, we naturally hope that the younger generations will step into the big shoes left behind by the so-called baby boomers with a lot of vigour. Even if not all members of Generation Alpha have been born yet, however, there is a noticeable gap of about 4.5 million people in the number of people in the labour force - that corresponds to about 10% of the total labour force! In other words, the younger generations will not be able to replace the pensioners in terms of numbers. Our net staffing needs assessment will therefore not only be a verbal monster, but will also pose considerable difficulties for staff recruitment.

 four children in an office table, they discuss
A well-thought-out human resource planning strategy can not only answer recruitment questions, but also ensure the overall success of the company by anticipating upcoming changes in the workforce.
A well-thought-out human resource planning strategy can not only answer recruitment questions, but also ensure the overall success of the company by anticipating upcoming changes in the workforce.

Difficulties in strategic human resource planning

Of course, even in textbook human resource planning there are a number of difficulties that need to be considered. These include operating under uncertainty, taking into account many conditions such as laws, tariffs and the nature of the organisation, interdependencies of companies (for example, as suppliers and customers), staff shortages and poor predictability of human resource policies. We further read that strategic human resource planning helps companies to collect, analyse and simulate data. Through a combination of data analysis and the inclusion of various factors such as the shortage of skilled workers, technological progress and trends in the labour market, workforce planning can be used to manage and optimise a company's human resources. 

Sounds quite comprehensible so far. But we have already seen above that the already existing shortage of skilled workers will be further aggravated by the demographic change in the labour market. It is tempting to be fatalistic about the Shrugging our shoulders and leaving the human resource planning for 2035 to our 2030 selves. To make life easier for ourselves in the future, we should accept this strategic challenge despite all the uncertainties. What jobs will you have in the next ten to fifteen years? And which tasks can be done elsewhere in the future? The Internet of Things and automated production, as well as self-driving vehicles and delivery drones, provide the first indications of where human labour will be needed in the future, primarily in planning and control, but not in execution. We may not yet know what software will be used in the 2030s - but you can be sure that your employees in production and logistics, for example, will increasingly need more skills in dealing with software and robotics. Up to now, the appropriate training has been offered by specialised providers, mostly the manufacturers of the corresponding products. In terms of modern, efficient learning, however, it can be worthwhile for your company, for example, to already train employees as internal trainers who will train their colleagues directly at the workplace in the future. In this way, you build up valuable know-how within the company and save costs for external training courses in the long run. In addition, you offer existing employees a secure perspective and have an argument why future generations should work for you of all people - a shortage of skilled workers has an effect above all where you do not build up skills quickly enough yourself.

Next steps towards a strategy in human resource planning

Perhaps you feel the same way: it is easier to deal with worries about the future if you already take the first steps on the right path. Take a textbook look at your age structure in the company and consider in which key areas you cannot afford a shortage of skilled workers. From an HR or management perspective, be sure to sit down with the relevant departments (if you like it dynamic, set up a task force) and talk about the jobs of the future. Once you have derived the necessary competencies, the next step is to plan when you need to train, upskill or recruit which employees. In addition to good personnel requirements planning, a strong employer brand, which you can build up over the next few years through employer branding, will of course also help here. To ensure that you do not stop at well-intentioned approaches, you should of course regularly review your progress on the basis of your personnel strategy goals. And if you are all too busy with day-to-day business in your company right now, you should help your 2030 self and get support on board already. As an HR agency, we either take over the stacks left over from day-to-day business as part of HR as a Service or help you look into the crystal ball by means of HR consulting.

About the Author
Valeska Szalla
Development Consultant
Since 2017 I have been writing my success story at ARTS, where I can always add a new chapter through the various projects I have been involved in.

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