I have been looking at Zoominfo's latest research report "The 2008 Recruiting Landscape: Five Recruiting Gurus' Predictions", and the number one item is workforce planning. However, the report goes on to complete their description of workforce planning with:

More and more companies are preparing for peaks and troughs in hiring by developing structured workforce plans, including succession planning for key roles, candidate pipelines for other roles, and candidate nurturing programs

What? Sure, all of those are valid activities for a staffing organization, but succession planning is not workforce planning, and neither are candidate pipelines or candidate nurturing. Yes, each of them might be a valid part of the action plan that workforce planning can produce....but in themselves they aren't workforce planning.

It seems the term "workforce planning" is getting more confusing, and people are applying it to more and more things - it's getting like the definition of irony! "I can't, uh, really define irony," says Winona Ryder in the 1994 movie Reality Bites, "but I know it when I see it!". Hmmm - almost as bad as when Alanis Morissette completely missed the real meaning* in her song!

So why is Workforce Planning so difficult to define? Primarily, it's because there are different kinds of workforce planning, which are for different purposes, most readily separated by the planning horizon (plans have horizons of a week, a quarter, a year....or 3-5 years). If you are struggling to understand what workforce planning is, and which of the many interpretations around are right for you, have a look at our brief "Operational and Strategic Workforce Planning: Understanding the differences and when to use each", which should make it a bit clearer...and a lot easier than having to "know it when you see it"!

* Technically irony is when the literal meaning of something is the opposite of the real meaning - but if you have a look at dictionary.com, you'll see that even the experts disagree...a bit like workforce planning!