Why human resources planning is never a waste of time

When things are going well and your business is functioning successfully on a day to day basis, it is easy to expect that things will continue this way. However, regardless of the size of your company, all businesses need to plan for now and the future.

There are many benefits to investing time in human resources planning at all stages of your business and getting this part right will enable your business’s success to continue.

This is through employing the right people, having the right processes to meet best practice and compliant human resources requirements and ultimately developing and engaging employees to meet the long term goals of the business.

There are two strategies which will help you with your planning – workforce planning and succession planning.

What is the difference?  Do you need to do both? Where do you start?

Well, there is a difference, but no, you don’t have to do both, but it is advisable to. Let’s start with some definitions:

Workforce planning will assist in mapping out what tasks and functions will be performed, the number of positions and with what skills and knowledge.

Succession planning will assist in defining what skills and experience are required to perform each position, as well as identifying which employees have or will be able to obtain the skills, experience and leadership capabilities required to cover while someone is on leave or temporarily changes their work arrangements. It also takes into consideration which employees would really impact the business if they were to resign.

So, to put it another way.  Succession planning is an extension of workforce planning.  It takes the planning a step further.

But, both look at planning where you are today, where you want to go in the future (focussing on 12 months, 2 years and 5 years) based on business goals and industry changes to then implement initiatives to narrow the gap.

Going through the process can raises more questions about your staff, you might realise you have some poor performers or staff who are happy just to do what they do, plus the star performers who need more.  

There are a number of ways that these gaps can be proactively addressed including job redesign and recruitment, formal performance appraisals or performance management as well as learning and development opportunities.

So, now that you know the difference.  Where to start?

Start with Workforce Planning.

  • First, document what do you know about your current workforce including skill and knowledge level, demographics, formal training level as well as overall business knowledge and experience.
  • Next, document what changes do you know will affect your industry, what changes will happen to product and service delivery with the introduction of technology, and is your current workforce ready for future expectations?
  • Now, identify any gaps in your workforce including management and leadership team as well as outline what you don’t know about your current workforce.

Using this information, follow on with Succession Planning.

  • Document the key roles within your business and who within your business could replace them if they left, and why they would be the right person.   
  • It is also important with succession planning to consider this list of employees who could step up to fill a vacant role, are note if any of those employees are a flight risk due to being ready to step up but no promotional or extra duties opportunities available in the near future?

Human Resource planning can take time, as can any business planning, but it is time well spent and will give you a better understanding of your workforce and your business needs. It can also better prepare your for the unexpected in your business and keep you on the path to success.

Want to know more about how strategic human resource planning can help your business?  Or would you like some assistance in conducting your business’s workforce and succession planning?  Contact Small Business Society to learn more.


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About Kate Tongue

Kate Tongue is the founding Director of Small Business Society.

She is a qualified and experienced Human Resources professional with more than 10 years of experience across the private and public sectors.

Her particular interest and experience is in managing the employee life cycle, delivering process improvements, and Human Resource strategy.


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