I've just read Peter Cappelli's "The Challenge of Talent Management" in Human Resource Executive.  Cappelli describes the two key ways that organizations plan for talent - either not at all (roughly two thirds of US employers), or those companies trying to do long term succession type planning, using terms like "predict".  As Cappelli points out:

Here are the challenges:

How do we forecast talent needs into the future in the face of inevitable uncertainty?

How do we decide whether to "make or buy" talent ¿ internal development versus outside hiring?

How do we design employee-development systems that avoid breaking the bank if employees leave?

How do we prevent our talent-management plans from being undercut by employee's own career plans?

There ARE ways to deal with these items, but as Cappelli states they do not involve using attempts to predict or plan in the old fashioned, operational workforce planning sense.  Rather, they use futuring techniques (particularly scenario planning), which allow exploration of alternative futures - and so workforce design which enables agility to respond to different scenarios.

It's great to see serious research being put to play in workforce planning - and great to see more and more people realising that old methods of forecasting and planning just don't cut it. 

However, it is critically important that people DO make steps towards creating the future workforce, and describing it in ways that they can measure and track.

Very much looking forward to next month's column...