Use workforce planning intelligence to focus your talent management activity

Wendy Hirsh

Wendy Hirsh, Principal Associate at the Institute for Employment Studies, shares some important questions to ask when planning an integrated talent management and workforce planning strategy. Wendy is presenting at the CIPD Talent Management and Workforce Planning Conference which takes place on 29 April 2019 in London. Book your ticket today.



When oddly named ‘talent management’ came into vogue, many organisations replicated a fairly standard set of procedures. These were mostly pitched at the need for future senior leaders and therefore focused on identifying what were often called ‘high potential’ individuals and sending them on leadership programmes. But did such activity address the real resourcing issues businesses were facing? And was it likely to improve organisational performance?

As talent management understanding has grown, other challenging questions have emerged. How do talent management and succession planning fit together? How does leadership development at senior levels link with recruitment and earlier career development? What about professional or technical ‘talent’? Many now advocate more ‘inclusive’ talent management: something you can apply to the whole workforce. But how does that address future business needs and how do we help employees develop their careers?

Workforce planning has of course been addressing future workforce demand and supply for well over fifty years. But many businesses lack workforce planning expertise or locate it in a separate bit of the HR function, not well linked with talent management. It is high time to address this gap and use workforce planning intelligence to keep talent management relevant and therefore useful.


To make a start, try bringing these workforce planning questions into your talent management discussions:

  • Where are we already having difficulty resourcing our work because we do not have enough people with the right skills? Where is lack of capability stopping us from doing new things we want to do?
  • Where does talent management need to focus in the workforce? Which groups of jobs (often by level and function) are strategically key or operationally critical and hard to recruit into?
  • Roughly how many people are we talking about entering these priority work areas and over what time-frames?
  • What skills, knowledge and experience are we looking for and needing to develop? What changes in skill needs to we need to factor in?
  • When in career do we need to identify people in the business with potential for our talent management priority areas and over what time-frames do we need to develop them?
  • How will we need to flex our recruitment and development mixes?
  • Are there some capabilities we need to be building in the whole workforce and are our current people able to take these on board?
  • Where do we need to improve diversity and inclusion and how do we build these goals into our talent management activities?

When both business plans and the labour market are very uncertain, as with Brexit, workforce planning takes on an even more crucial role. It both informs short-term talent management activities and explores longer-term resourcing options.

Workforce planning has always dealt with business risks, uncertainties and ‘what if’ questions. There are well established workforce planning techniques which help us address uncertainty. These include contingency planning, scenario planning and adaptive planning. The Institute for Employment Studies (IES) recently supported CIPD with case-based research and reports on workforce planning practice and workforce planning for Brexit. IES also provides a framework and tips for effective talent and succession management.


Wendy is presenting the session titled “Integrating talent management and workforce planning in uncertain times” at the CIPD Talent Management and Workforce Planning Conference which takes place on 29 April 2019 in London. Book your ticket today.