Acendre Blog

Workforce Planning Questions Answered in our APAC Webinar


Author: Joe Abusamra / Release Date: 07-Dec-2016

What do you get when you engage a panel of workforce planning experts and ask them some big questions?

Food for thought and actionable insight.

That’s what we and over 200 registrants were hoping for at our recent webinar, co-hosted with ATC Events – Workforce Planning Expert Panel Q&A – Asking The Big Workforce Planning Questions.

We weren’t disappointed, as the panelists engaged in questions and answers while providing intriguing insight for 60 minutes. The expert panel, with years of practical, real-world workforce planning experience between them, included:


  • Quentin O’Grady, Senior Director – Workforce Strategy Branch, Queensland Health
  • Tony Wallace, Senior Manager, People Advisory Services, EY
  • Karen Evans, Managing Director, APAC, Acendre.
The focus was on big and small workforce planning, forecast accuracy and diversity of workforce. We asked our expert panel our questions -- and they also took several from the audience.

Here's an overview of the discussions:

Big vs. small workforce planning – should it be a “one view” undertaken by HR/Finance, or moved into Talent Management?

Tony indicated unequivocally that he is in the “big camp.” That’s because strategic workforce planning follows organisational strategy. It’s important to understand capacity and also consider the emergence of the contingent workforce. Workforce planning has to be led by the strategy of the organization and workforce planners need to speak to the execs – and then, subsequently, moved down to HR.

Karen noted that one of the steps in workforce planning is to segment the business into whatever segments make sense. This could be job families, business functions, regions or different areas of supply chains. She pointed out that smaller businesses might want to start with just one of those segments – that will help your organisation get started and you can see some real value in a shorter period of time. It’s a proof of concept, and can also be used to prove your points to executives. While organisations might be wondering where to start and how to start with workforce planning, “the answer is to just make a start and then go from there.”

Quentin offered a different take – he’s in the big and the small camps. He noted that “you can’t have one without the other, and all are critical stakeholders.” Workforce planning is no longer about supply and demand or just understanding recruitment – it’s now critical to planning the business, understanding how you work globally, how you do your financials, and even down to future job designs – knowing how future jobs will affect things operational. In summary, to do small workforce planning, you need the big picture.”

Forecast Accuracy – is it possible and should we even try?

Karen believes it is certainly possible. The best way to go about it is to “put different scenarios in place, then do your workforce planning.” It’s also important to check and run your scenarios regularly and “use those scenarios to do your forecasting.”

Tony feels forecasting becomes a communication issue. Organizations should run simulations with input variables – turnover rate, contingent workers, etc. that are not fixed over time. This might be quarterly, but at least every 6 months. A 12-month review is possible but not desired, as it’s likely many things will have changed over the year. “We are trying to replicate the behaviour of people, and that is difficult,” because it will change over time.

Quentin believes forecasting is an art and pointed out how complex it is. Calculations, behavioural patterns and seasonal forecasts will help you understand how your organisation behaves, which is important. It is “absolutely valuable to forecast,” but you shouldn’t get hung up on particular numbers. It’s beneficial to have, for example, 3 scenarios that you work through. Quentin noted that forecasting is critical in the health sector, where you can’t wait for a critical shortage and you need a mix of professions to deliver the necessary mix of services.

Diversity of workforce is mission critical for most organisations – what’s the single best example of how you have used Workforce Planning to achieve this?

Quentin believes the issue of diversity in the workforce is an exciting one, and at Queensland Health, they’re still on the journey. It’s important to give everyone the same opportunities others have. But the key point here is that you should do the work “to understand how a diverse workforce can add value and improve the business.”

Tony stated that diversity is one way “we solve problems in our organization -- we don’t want everyone to look and think alike.” Different perspectives and views are vital for the organization. In particular, government needs people with different experiences, even from the private sector.

Karen feels that what is really critical is making sure you know what your organisation needs and to understand what you already have in your workforce -- what are the skills and what are the gaps – this will then help you go recruit for what you need.

More Workforce Planning Questions and Answers 

After these questions were discussed, some of the over-200 registrants chimed in with their own questions, including:

  • How do you influence leaders to invest more in true workforce planning?
  • What are the key requirements for success of workforce planning?
  • What metrics do you use for workforce planning?
  • Can you provide any examples of industries that are leveraging the gig economy and the contingent workforce particularly well?
  • Are the robots coming to take away our jobs? How do you see the role of robots affecting the role of the future workforce planner?
  • What was your most challenging organisational issue?
  • Who can you recommend to connect with in the organisation to get started on workforce planning?
  • Which seminar or course would you recommend if you are just getting started with workforce planning?
You can listen to the answers to these questions and more, in detail, by listening to the webinar.

Follow Joe Abusamra on Twitter - @JoeAbusamra


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