What is the role of a leader when it comes to workforce planning?

Paul Slezak
Leading People

What does ‘strategic workforce planning’ really mean for you as a leader in your organisation?  

How do you align your organisation’s business objectives with the goals and aspirations of your employees? 

These two questions appeared on the opening slide in a workshop I recently ran with a group of leaders coming together for first time following the merger of two different businesses. I had been brought in to help facilitate the transition and to ensure that a clear list of change management initiatives was agreed to ideally share with the broader business in the coming weeks. 

Overall, it was a very successful day, and while much of the discussion was around creating a revised hiring plan for the new entity, many of the participants felt that they had also taken part in a quasi-leadership development workshop. 

Mission accomplished. 

I have run many workshops like this over the years, and while ‘workforce planning’ or ‘manpower optimisation’ do typically fall into a broader ‘recruitment’ or ‘hiring’ bucket, I have also learned that there is still an important educational piece to ensure maximum impact in such sessions, so I had come prepared. 

I wanted to share some of these leadership pointers in this article, since gone are the days when workforce planning should be the sole responsibility of the HR department.

Today, particularly since the creation of hybrid workplaces, when it comes to ‘workforce planning’ and ‘manpower optimisation’, there needs to be a much strong partnership between HR and the broader leadership team. 

Workforce planning is a critical aspect of any organisation’s operations, and it involves making decisions about the composition, skills, and size of the workforce necessary to achieve a company’s overarching goals. For workforce planning to be most effective, it requires the active involvement (and buy-in) of the leadership team. After all, they are the ones responsible for driving the organisation’s strategy and ensuring that it has adequate resources to execute that strategy successfully. 

Simply stated, workforce optimisation is about getting the right set of employees, at the right time, at the right cost, in the right place, doing the right thing, and doing ‘that thing’ well. 

Having said that, there’s a lot that needs to take place in the background to make this possible. 

First, the leadership team needs to establish a clear understanding of the company’s vision, mission, and strategic objectives. This understanding provides the foundation for determining the necessary employee composition, size and skills required to meet those goals.  

During my recent workshop, it was important to explore the key drivers of workforce or manpower optimisation with this particular group of leaders. In one session, the main topics we addressed were 'position and person profiling'; 'role clarification'; potential 'role duplication'; and whether or not there might be a need for what is often referred to as ‘organisation de-layering' (or ‘re-sizing’). 

We ran a position profiling exercise where I asked the leaders to determine the importance of specific competencies in relation to various positions. They then gave each of the competencies a weighting – eg high (3), medium (2), or low (1) in terms of importance. I reinforced that position profiling and person profiling (where leaders rate individual team members on a scale of 1 to 5 in terms of performance) should not be done at the same time in order to make the process more objective. 

Role clarification is fairly straightforward where leaders agree on the ‘content’ and ‘context’ of the role and then the key characteristics and skills that should be demonstrated by successful employees. 

Role duplication is typically the result of inadequate role clarification.  

Multiple roles within the organisation may be performing the same (or at least a similar) set of activities with little or no value-add for the organisation, which would then typically result in organisational de-layering. Many businesses are moving towards flatter organisational structures through de-layering. Cost savings are one obvious outcome of de-layering. A flatter structure may also result in freedom from bureaucracy, faster communication, higher motivation and better (faster) decision making. 

It didn’t take long for the leaders in the group to realise that moving forward, they would be expected to lead the organisation in a very different way to how they may have traditionally led the organisation in the past. They would now be expected to demonstrate behaviours different from their usual set of behaviours, and that there may be a need to re-define or adjust their own existing leadership competency framework. 

Leadership competencies that typically create an optimised organisation

I then divided the group into four breakouts to discuss the different leadership competencies that typically create an optimised organisation: 

  • Change-based Leadership 
  • Relationship-based Leadership 
  • Execution-based Leadership 
  • Business results-based Leadership 

Change-based leadership

Change-based leadership is when the leader creates a compelling business case for organisational change and identifies critical success factors and potential obstacles to change. The leader gains buy-in from key stakeholders and builds commitment from change agents. 

Relationship-based leadership 

Relationship-based leadership Takes place where the leader influences and gains buy-in and commitment to the desired agenda from multiple quarters. They establish, maintain and utilise a broad network of relationships with internal and external stakeholders. 

Execution-based leadership

Execution-based leadership is where the leader demonstrates the ability to convert strategies into effective and systematic implementation plans, anticipating roadblocks in advance and planning solutions accordingly. The leader delivers a high quality of work and ensures flawless execution focusing on reducing costs and time, while increasing quality. 

Business results-based leadership

Business results-based leadership occurs when the leader exhibits drive and energy towards achieving results. The leader displays ‘entrepreneurial effort’ – taking ownership and ensuring the opportunity is capitalised upon. 

Leadership teams must also consider the impact of technology in the workplace. As automation and artificial intelligence continue to disrupt traditional industries, leaders need to assess how these technologies will affect the organisation’s workforce requirements. They may need to identify new roles that will be required to manage these technologies, while also determining which existing roles may ultimately become redundant. 

Overall, the involvement of the leadership team in workforce planning is critical.  

Leaders play an essential role in identifying the company’s strategic objectives and determining the necessary workforce composition, size and skills required to deliver those objectives. Manpower optimisation should align the organisation’s objectives and the employees’ aspirations while providing a platform for employees to learn, grow and innovate. It should help redefine roles, responsibilities and competencies removing any overlap in activity or function. 

Is workforce optimisation the missing piece to your organisation’s success? 

Remember, Hellomonday provides coaching and support to every leader, prioritising development initiatives that result in long-term sustained change, reinforcing habits through curated learning and impactful coaching, and ideally helping leaders understand their role when it comes to workforce planning and manpower optimisation.