HR practitioners who are business focused apply business practices to their HR profession - and here's yet another good example of one to be applied, in a paper from the Boston Consulting Group called "Does Your Strategy Need Stretching?"

The short paper points out that some people think that time spent on strategy is time wasted because the future is unpredictable. We hear that argument a lot in workforce planning, and the short BCG paper gives a very strong response:

If visibility is reduced, the reward for foresight is increased. Competing on responsiveness alone implies a neck-and-neck race with little differentiation among players, as well as thinner margins and lower returns. Strategy - because it can offer a head start in the race and even define a new course - remains essential to gaining and advantage, but it needs to adapt to the current environment.

However, it then goes on to decry how many organizations treat planning as a "rigid, template driven, top down approach"...which unfortunately is how many organizations also treat workforce planning. That template driven top down approach is very operational, not strategic, and does not stretch thinking, change engagement models or ever, EVER "define a new course"...and so can not help you create competitive advantage in the talent market. But strategic workforce planning can and does. And the lessons and parallels in this article are very useful for strategic workforce planners. The report concludes:

Just as athletes cannot predict how a match of a race will turn out, companies in today's markets cannot fully anticipate the outcome of the competitive battle. But those better trained to capture and shape opportunities have a decisive advantage.

NOW is the time to use strategic workforce planning to build your organization a decisive advantage in talent strategy.