Updated: Aug 13
What do the following images have in common?
NASA's ground breaking 1969 mission to the moon was a significant event. The primary objective was to complete a national goal set by President John F. Kennedy on May 25, 1961, ‘Perform a crewed lunar landing and return to Earth’. The critical objective was a successful mission to and from the moon. Which job do you think was critical to the mission?
Hundreds of unclaimed luggage pile up at Heathrow Airport. It is July 2022 and the travel industry reports that demand for air travel has surged in the post pandemic period. What do you think caused the problem?
A critical incident is declared at the Port of Dover in July 2022. It is the start of the school summer break holidays. There are long queues of cars leading to the Port of Dover and it was reported that drivers were waiting over 5 to 8 hours to cross the border. What do you think caused the problem?
Heathrow Airport imposes an unprecedented two-month cap on passenger numbers departing and arriving at the airport until mid September. An announcement appeared on their website, 'At Heathrow, our guiding vision is to ‘give passengers the best airport experience’. We are determined to do all we can to protect passenger’s holidays and our interventions are part of a suite of industry measures that will help consumers this summer. However, the sector has experienced forty years’ worth of growth in four months which means the industry needs to work together to minimise disruption to passengers this summer. Heathrow has put in place all of the resources we need, but there remains a shortage of ground handlers employed by airlines. There has been no change in airline ground handler resourcing levels at Heathrow since January, despite passenger demand returning to 80-85% of pre-pandemic levels this summer. Airlines must grip this issue and recruit more ground handlers so that we can remove the constraint on airport capacity and get back to giving passengers the excellent service they expect'. Why do you think they capped passenger numbers?
I woke up this morning much later than I normally do and with a strong urge to write my latest blog. There was also a faint memory of a dream in my mind from last night in which I explained how to develop a strategy. In the dream, I explained a step by step approach to develop a strategy and emphasized the type of thinking involved. As I made myself a cup of coffee, my mind wandered to a project that I am currently working on with one of my clients.
My client commissioned me to develop a workforce planning framework for their organisation. I developed the framework over several months and it was recently approved. I am now implementing the framework in all of my client’s departments. The project has been challenging to work on, mostly due to the nature of the organisation and the complexity of its structure. However, it has also been challenging to implement a practice which requires long term thinking.
The scenarios that I described earlier share one thing in common - workforce planning - a lost art that has helped organisations like NASA to achieve its successful Apollo 11 mission to the moon and the fundamental reasons for operational difficulties at Heathrow Airport and the Port of Dover.
Workforce planning is a core business process which balances workforce supply against demand. Future oriented organisations carry out workforce planning by analysing their current workforce, determining their future workforce needs, identifying the gap between the present and the future workforce, and then implement action plans or solutions to enable the organisation to achieve its goals.
UK industry is particularly bad at workforce planning, the practice is non-existent, especially in the public sector. We can see the implications of the absence of workforce planning in the travel industry. The demand for travel post pandemic has surged. Heathrow Airport was hardest hit. The airport’s management appear to be totally blind sided by the increase in passenger numbers and the scarcity of baggage handlers. I recently travelled through Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport en route to Zurich. It took me nearly two and half hours to get airside due to a reduced number of staff working at security checks. The Port of Dover also appears to have been blind-sided by the number of drivers passing through the port en route to France. Despite the UK and France blaming each other, it is clear that the number of staff required to process checks were not sufficient given the volume of people passing through the border.
Workforce planning looks at supply, demand and the quantitative gap between them. It is a proactive and future oriented approach which plans to provide:
· the right number of people
· with the right set of skills
· in the right location
· at the right time
· at the right cost
to ensure the successful completion of organisational objectives. This is also known as the Five Rights of Workforce Planning.
At a strategic level, workforce planning is a long-term blueprint to ensure workforce optimization - a holistic strategy encompassing recruiting, developing, managing, retaining and redeploying talent to maximise the effectiveness of both the current and future workforce in light of the organization’s strategic goals.
(Source: Gartner Research, Workforce Planning)
Just 10% of organisations in the UK take a holistic strategy to workforce planning. 23% of organisations take a long term approach that projects their predictable workforce needs based on attrition, historical turnover and known retirement vacancies in order to predict their long term talent plans. On a continuum scale both of these approaches can be considered strategic workforce planning although the former is an example of best practice.
Strategic workforce planning is about defining the workforce that can execute an organisation’s strategy now and in the future. It answers questions such as:
What are the impacts of demographic shifts and external factors? (External factors can include market trends, technology changes, new skills or competency needs, social changes, etc)
What new roles and skills or competences are needed in the workforce today and in the future?
What is the gap between supply and demand of talent?
How can we ensure that the right people are in the right jobs with the right skills at the right time for the right cost?
Do we build or buy talent to meet our needs?
Can our planning react quickly enough when conditions change?
Knowing all of the above what actions are needed to fulfil the strategic workforce planning goals in order to support the organisation strategy?
Workforce planning is a confusing term because it is used to describe activities like scheduling resources by the hour, day or week. Tactical Workforce Planning is usually 0-1 years into the future [short-term] e.g. recruitment [permanent, temporary workers], resource allocation [projects and programmes]. Strategic Workforce Planning is a longer-term plan aligned to the organisation’s strategy usually 1-5+ years into the future [long term] depending on the speed of change in the industry.
Workforce planning can enable sustainable organisation performance through better decision-making about the future people needs of the business:
Reduce people costs in favour of workforce mobilisation, deployment and flexibility
Identify and respond to changing business needs
Identify relevant strategies for focused people development
Improve people retention
Improve productivity and quality outputs
Improve people’s work-life balance
Make recommendations to deliver strategic value through talent
It is a core business process which aligns an organisation’s needs with its people strategy. It doesn’t need to be complicated, it can be adjusted to suit the needs of organisation, it provides labour market supply and demand intelligence to help the organisation focus on specific challenges and issues and help prepare it for organisational transformation to support long term business goals.
The implications for an organisation that does not plan for its future workforce can be catastrophic - it will be unprepared for significant events e.g. increased demand for air travel post pandemic, skill shortages or scarcity, skills surplus, recruitment delays, reduced productivity, low staff morale, rising staffing costs, over-reliance on agency workers and associated costs etc.
The Strategic Workforce Planning Route Map
My client is acutely aware that in order to successfully achieve its mission, it must adopt a future oriented position in relation to its workforce. My approach to developing a strategic workforce planning framework is based on the model below. The Problem Statement is the starting point for the development of a Strategic Workforce Planning Framework. It forms the first of six steps or Gateways in a Route or Road Map to develop the framework.
Gateway 1: Problem Statement
The Problem Statement sets out the stakeholders, identifies the workforce planning problems which require resolution and discovers the stakeholder benefit and organisational value of strategic workforce planning.
Gateway 2: Mandate
The Mandate represents the approval by the organisation to proceed with the project. It contains the purpose of the project, context and drivers for change, relevant parts of corporate and departmental strategy and business plans, scale and scope of the project, potential approach to implementation and expected benefits.
Gateway 3: Shared Vision and PID
A shared understanding by the organisation of the convergent drivers for change need to be developed; building trust between key stakeholders, identifying shared areas of focus for improvement or resolution, and creating a Shared Vision document which evaluates the consequences and achieves cohesion between all stakeholders.
It is also necessary to create a Project Initiation Document [PID]. The PID reflects the initial intentions of the organisation to implement a strategic workforce planning framework and acts as a mini-business case.
Gateway 4: Workforce Planning Strategy [Guiding Principles]
The Guiding Principles are developed based on stakeholder requirements, lessons learned from previous attempts to introduce workforce planning at the organisation, external benchmarking and best practice.
Gateway 5: Workforce Planning Framework [Detailed Approach]
The preferred workforce planning approach or detailed framework including the strategic workforce planning process and activities, governance arrangement, roles and responsibilities, practical tools and approaches.
Gateways 6 and 7: Transform & Operate and Improve
Approach to successful implementation and continuous improvement after the framework is launched.
Alongside Gateways 1 to 7: Provide accurate and reliable baseline Establishment and Workforce Data
The Route Map draws on principles which repeatedly test if the business case is worth keeping alive during its development. A Gateway Review examines the project at key decision points in their lifecycle and looks ahead to provide assurance that they can progress successfully to the next stage.
The mandate sets outs the purpose of the project. It is a statement agreed by the organisation which justifies the reason for the project. Alongside the six gateways, the project should also ensure the availability of establishment data for the organisation.
The problem statement ensures the organisation does not jump before it knows where it wants to land. The problem should be framed around an understanding of the justification of the business need, contextualisation of the problem, an understanding of the stakeholders and an understanding of lessons learned from previous attempts to implement workforce planning at the organisation. The problem statement ensures the organisation commits to finding an opportunity and commit to its implementation.
An example of a problem statement from my client is as follows:
'XXXX is reliant on the capability and capacity of its workforce to deliver its mission and goals. There are various factors, both internal and external, which influence its ability to meet its requirements over the 1 to 5-year timescale . Workforce planning is the mechanism that will equip XXXX to manage the impact of the forces which influence its ability to build its capability to the necessary levels. Currently this mechanism is absent and there is therefore no strategic planning which enables the organisation to meet its needs’
According to my client, strategic workforce planning will:
Enable the delivery of the organisation’s mission and goals
Enable the contraction and expansion of our workforce according to business priorities and budgeted establishment - the right skills, at the right size, right cost, right location and right shape
Embed a systematic approach to planning for our future talent needs
Enable the organisation to introduce and foster creativity and innovation in meeting our talent needs - buying, borrowing or building capability
Inform investment in the professional development of the organisation’s people
Inform the development of the skills base for the wider organisational sector
Tactical workforce planning (future planning horizon of 0-1year) is out of scope for my client. However, there are some handoffs from tactical workforce planning to strategic workforce planning by way of information gathering and integration into decision-making. The strategic workforce planning approach focuses on mission-critical roles and significant events i.e. major changes in the organisation within the next 1 to 5 years which will have a significant impact on their workforce.
Personality, Intuition and Workforce Planning
Personality is an evolved human solution to the problem of our overly complex world. There are many other ways that we, as humans work to solve problems, including the development of technology and social co-operation. Personality functions by influencing our perceptions, motivations, emotions, and actions such that people of different personalities actually experience the world differently. When working together to solve problems, groups of humans that include many different personalities are more adept for the ever changing environment. Personalities are worth learning about because they help us relate to other people and to ourselves more earnest, productivity and understanding.
Although the term ‘Personality’ is widely used in everyday conversation, defining its meaning is not a simple task. Even typing in ‘Personality’ into a thesaurus brings up several other words; charisma, identity, makeup, nature, psyche, self, temperament, disposition, individuality, emotions, likableness, selfhood, magnetism etc.
People often talk about television ‘personalities’ or describe someone as ‘being a personality’, or as ‘having a lot of personality’. These descriptions suggest the kind of person who is typically lively, talkative and tends not to be ignored. We also use the term ‘Personality’ in relation to a person’s most striking characteristics, for example, we may describe someone as having a jovial personality, or an aggressive personality, meaning that these are their most salient characteristics and that they tend to respond to a variety of situations in that particular way. It is difficult to imagine, for example, someone who is usually shy suddenly becoming the life and soul of the party, or someone who is easily angered, not rising to the occasion where insulted. Therefore when we describe the personality of someone we know, we assume their characteristics to be fairly stable, not only in different situations, but also over time.
Although the term ‘Personality’ has different meanings in different contexts, it is a term that is generally well understood in everyday language. It may seem surprising, therefore that psychologists cannot agree on a definition. Here are few of the many that have been put forward.
Almost adequate conceptualisation of a person's behaviour in all its detail
A persons unique pattern of traits
The dynamic organisation within the individual of those psycho physical systems that determine his characteristic behaviour and thought
Those structural and dynamic properties of an individual, as the reflect themselves and characteristic responses to situations
The distinctive patterns of behaviour, including thoughts and emotions that characterise each individuals adaptation to the situations in his or her life
A constant set of intrapsychic or internal characteristics and predispositions that directly determine psychological behaviour
With respect to psychological testing, the following definition of personality functions well.
Those relatively stable and enduring aspects of individuals which distinguish them from other people, making them unique, but which at the same time allow people to be compared with each other.
The personality, from an analytical psychology 'typology' perspective, consists of two attitudes and four functions. The attitudes are extraversion and introversion, and the four functions are sensation, intuition, thinking and feeling. Each combine with each other to form 8 functional-attitudes:
1. Extraverted Sensation
2. Introverted Sensation
3. Extraverted Intuition
4. Introverted Intuition
5. Extraverted Thinking
6. Introverted Thinking
7. Extraverted Feeling
8. Introverted Feeling
The totality of the 8 functions constitutes conscious and unconsciousness from a personality perspective. Our personalities can express all 8 functional-attitudes on a sliding scale of most preferred to least preferred. The functional attitudes which are most preferred are in consciousness whereas the functional attitudes which are least preferred are in the unconscious, likely to be repressed or undeveloped.
The function which is most effective at strategic workforce planning is intuition. Intuition as a behavioural characteristic of the personality is future-oriented and therefore it orients the personality to look to the future on a wide range of matters. However, it is extraverted intuition rather than introverted intuition which is critical to the personality of those involved in the strategic workforce planning process, for example, the SWP lead, HR business partners, managers and leaders.
People who favour introverted intuition are future oriented too, however, their locus of attention is subjective. They have an apprehension of their own destiny, purpose or goals in life. Their focus is on their inner world. People who favour extraverted intuition focus their attention objectively. Their focus is on their outside world. They have boundless enthusiasm for the adventure of making outside possibilities tangibly real. An introverted intuitive will have boundless enthusiasm for the adventure of making their inside possibilities tangibly real.
Behavioural characteristics associated with extraverted intuition
Extraverted intuition is highly complementary to strategic workforce planning because those who favour this functional-attitude are predominantly loyal to their visions of completed projects, however, when a new project is sufficiently close to the imagined possibility, they often lose that enthralling creative tension between what is and what could be. The project, once complete or nearly completed, becomes yet another fact that no longer has sufficient unrealised potential to hold their attention.
Facts about current circumstances are useful only as long as they feed imagination directed at change. They are merely stepping-stones to realise envisioned possibilities. As long as facts provide a bridge to imagined possibilities, they have value, but once they have served their purpose, they again become merely ordinary and incidental, sacrificed to the next compelling vision of possibilities.
People disposed to extraverted intuition are drawn to the advantage of pursuing new potentiality. Life as it is constitutes a banal prison, they must seek and uncover the next possibility. Which is the most exciting of all possibilities? The next one, always the next one. That disposition seldom permits staying with one venture long enough to see it through to fruition. They have no tolerance for the status quo, stable conditions suffocate them. Nothing, not practicality, not reason, not logical argument, not fear, not wild horses could keep them from abandoning a former project now a prison, to pursue the unbridled liberty of a new one.
Others more patient with the facts of experience, those who favour extraverted sensation like myself, are often the beneficiaries of the discarded adventures of extraverted intuition. I tend to work very well with people who favour extraverted intuition. My grounding in the here and now often compliments their long term visioning. I am also better equipped, psychologically, to deliver their visions into concrete projects.
People who favour extraverted intuition eagerly seek many projects, they are seldom satisfied by just a few creative possibilities, for they see possibility everywhere and are driven to perceive a wide range of possibilities. They can often see the future before it arrives, accurately anticipating the outcomes of impending events. They have a knack for knowing what will work, what will turn up, what will prove successful, or how events will conclude.
That predictive facility fuels their enthusiasm for creating new projects and ventures. It also provides a prophetic edge to all their interactions with the objective data, events and people. Strategic workforce planning comes natural to the extraverted intuitive. Because their anticipatory advantages is applied to the external world, it has substantial economic currency. People who favour extraverted intuition are often drawn to those professions where they can materially optimise their capacity for anticipating future events e.g. entrepreneurs, strategists, politicians, speculators, or investment analysts for example.
They may play a catalytic role in generating economic growth, they are often innovators, entrepreneurs, and visionaries who apply their imagination creatively to improve the world around them. Driven by the imaginative intuition they tend to be far less mindful of commonly accepted norms and social restraints. They are great at seeing the workforce in a holistic manner. Every operating rule, every traditional circumstance considered normal or acceptable, may be inconsequential for them and their passion for innovation. Morality consists not of obedience to commonly accepted ethics or norms but of their duty to the creative process of realising possibilities. They wear their excitement on their sleeve.
They are often convincingly persuasive, readily recruiting others to their favourite projects and ventures. They don't just have creative inspiration, they embody their creative inspiration that drives them. Their vision often extends to seeing potential in others, they can see the hidden possibilities in people, often becoming enthusiastic champions of their potential.
Those who favour extraverted intuition often bring much value to the world, they have access to the images and dreams of intuition yet direct their energy into the world to encourage people, improve life and anticipate unborn events.
Extraverted intuition is an essential mindset or psychological attitude to have if you want to successfully implement or introduce strategic working planning in the workplace. However, not everyone possesses the attitude as a preference within their personality or consciousness. For some individuals, the functional attitude is least preferred and therefore it languishes in their unconscious, unknown, repressed or undeveloped. These individuals may struggle to make the case for workforce planning or impede the success of the practice within organisations. So it is really important that an organisation carefully selects the individuals participating in strategic workforce planning and to test their intuition on a sliding scale of preference. A well designed selection process using a range of methods such as competency based interviews, in tray exercises and psychometric tests can ensure the right person is selected for a workforce planning job. Even managers or leaders involved in the process as board members or stakeholder groups should also show some capacity to use their intuition in an extraverted way. My approach to implementing a strategic workforce planning framework starts with a shared vision - a vision of the organisation’s workforce in the future, say 1 to 5 years ahead, articulated by leaders and managers. A vision that gives a sense of the knowledge, skills and experience needed to achieve the organisation’s mission. Yes it is a challenging and time consuming exercise to come up with such a vision but to a person with a preference for extraverted intuitive, this will come naturally to them.
Returning to the scenarios at the start of this blog. I would argue that Heathrow Airport’s management simply did not take the time to carefully consider their future workforce post pandemic. Heathrow Airport’s vision, itself a form of extraverted intuition, is to give passengers the best airport service in the world. To achieve their vision, it needs to identify their mission-critical jobs that directly contribute to the accomplishment of their vision. The images of hundreds of uncollected baggage indicate a scarcity of ground handlers or baggage handlers which drastically impacted on the passenger experience. Passengers waited ages for the baggage and in some cases, their baggage did not make it to their final destination on time. The delays at the Port of Dover also indicate a similar situation. The port’s management team did not anticipate the increased demand for border crossing and did not ensure the right number of staff were in place to meet the increased demand. NASA’s mission was commissioned by the extraverted intuitive statement of President John K Kennedy, ‘Perform a crewed lunar landing and return to Earth’. One of the jobs directly responsible for accomplishing the mission? Astronaut. NASA spent years training their astronauts for the mission to the moon. From a strategic workforce planning perspective, these are mission-critical roles, roles which directly contribute to the accomplishment of an organisation’s mission.
I appreciate that all of this is easier said than done. The reality is that organisations in the UK simply lack the time or don’t make the effort to properly plan for their future workforce requirements. This is very apparent in the problems we have seen at Heathrow Airport and the Port of Dover. But with some planning and foresight, organisations can avoid these disruptive and costly incidents. Strategic workforce planning is an approach that helps organisations to ensure they have the right number of people with the right skills at the right time, and most importantly, a leadership and management team who have extraverted intuition in consciousness. It requires a certain type of thinking or personality type, who has extraverted intuition as a strong preference, to successfully balance future workforce demand and current workforce supply in terms of actionable solutions and to envision what the future workforce of an organisation looks like. Intuition comes naturally to the individual personality with a preference for it, however, it must be an objective rather than a subjective perspective for it to have a beneficial impact in the workplace.
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