There is an Australian political satire The Hollowmen which has an episode that I think all Workforce Planners would benefit from. Though this episode is about the Australian Defense Force (ADF), it is a very funny demonstration of the tensions between business executive (the Prime Minister in the episode), specialist advisers (political advisers in this instance, but equally attuned to HR advisers or strategists) and Gen Ys (the potential supply).

The overarching issue in this episode is that the Prime Minister becomes concerned that not enough people are joining the armed forces. He defers to his ‘fix it people’ to solve the problem, commonly referred to as The Unit.

Their first error is a common obstacle to good workforce planning – failure to engage the Executive in the workforce planning process. As a result of poor communication and misallocation of accountabilities, the Defence Minister is deliberately and counter-productively kept out of discussions, and significant time, effort and resources are put to waste.

The second mistake is the failure to acknowledge the seriousness of a genuine workforce crisis and underestimating the potential benefits that would be gained from properly addressing it. What is initially considered a crisis is reduced to “a serious worry” for political reasons. Sound familiar?

However it’s not all mistakes and folly! The episode has a great example of Environment Scanning covering the external demand environment. It quickly emerges that the biggest threat to the Force’s pilot reserve is not an air crash or warfare as originally thought, but rather a private industry airline’s new route to Hawaii – much more appealing.

In the episode the Unit segments their workforce (another good Workforce Planning strategy). In the first instance they segment at the demand level; rather than the broad designation of “soldier” to describe the key skills they, break down their needs into job families– Welders, Clerks, Diesel Mechanics, Cooks, IT Specialists, Truck Drivers, Accountants – and realistically acknowledge that, based on the supply and demand characteristics of the market, the ADF is currently facing one of its greatest threats.

In the second instance, they segment by motivators and drivers as to how recruits would view the ADF employer value proposition. Interestingly their research and focus group findings conflicts with the Executive’s existing ideas. The Hollowmen try to make the point - it is essential to work through the Executive’s flawed paradigms, because they are a barrier that stands in the way of a better workforce. However, the Executive holds firm.

I’ll cover what they do in their action planning in tomorrow’s blog. If you can’t wait till then click here and you can watch episode 5… If you laugh out loud and a colleague asks what you are doing – just explain you are Strategic Workforce Planning and its lots of fun.