Over the last couple of editions of the Harvard Business Review, there have been two articles that have particularly caught my eye as being relevant to Strategic Workforce Planning.

Cultural Change that Sticks
The first article that caught my attention was Cultural Change that Sticks, which gives some insight into an enormous strategic shift that Aetna made in the early 2000's, and the implications that had for its' organizational culture.  It talks about the importance of aligning organizational culture to organizational strategy when making a major strategic shift:
"Too often a company’s strategy, imposed from above, is at odds with the ingrained practices and attitudes of its culture. Executives may underestimate how much a strategy’s effectiveness depends on cultural alignment. Culture trumps strategy every time."
The article goes on to suggest five principles that are critical when dealing with cultural change in an organization.  Perhaps not surprisingly, there are close parallels to the strategic workforce planning model in these principles (though we word them a little differently):

  • Match Culture and Strategy - Strategic Workforce Planning aligns the Capability, Availability, and Productivity of the workforce to the Organizational Strategy.
  • Focus on a few Critical Shifts in Behavior - Typically, Action Planning involves a limited number targeted strategies to close the gaps between the "No Change Future State" and the ideal future workforce.  In this post from way back in 2010, I spoke about the importance of focusing on a few critical human capital metrics, that are targeted to specific parts of the workforce.
  • Honor the Strengths of Your Existing Culture - In workforce planning we talk about understanding the Current State and the trends that are occurring, rather than starting from a blank slate.  In doing this analysis we look at not only the challenges with segments of the workforce, but the opportunities also - such as those metrics and trends that point to statistically significant high performance in a part of the organization.
  • Integrate Formal and Informal Interventions - Perhaps not a complete match here, but in SWP we look at both formal (metrics and statistics); and informal inputs into the process, such as Environment Scanning and Scenario Planning.  Good workforce planners look outside the formal structures of an organization and segment by talent, not just by roles or departments; and
  • Measure and Monitor Cultural Evolution - Two of the critical and ongoing pieces in workforce planning are Environment Scanning and Progress Monitoring - these allow you to check that your action plan is actually working, and that the future that's unfolding is in line with the future you forecast when you first created your plan.
The second article is about Big Data, which I'll post over the coming days...

posted by Alex Hagan