What Works When Planning

As human resources evolved over time, more emphasis was placed on human resource planning.  A big part of the transformation arose from a different perception of the role of labor (move from a manufacturing mentality to knowledge-based), acceptance of business planning as a key part of business success, acknowledgement of the cost and potential value of employees, as well as the rising competitiveness of certain segments of the labor market.  Like many adopted changes, the new perspective did not occur over night.  Organizations gradually altered their views and moved from looking at simply the human resource function and its role to internal and external factors and trends.

The table below provides a basic summary of the evolution from the early, more traditional plan structure which focused on internal human resource functions to the more strategic approach that centers on organizational development, resources, employee development, and rewards.  Basically, the change involved a move from focusing on the silos within the human resource department to the desired outcomes of the function.  Along the way, factors external to the department were added before a more structural outcome approach was adopted.

Approach Traditional Internal and External Structural Strategic
Components Each HR function Work


HR Department


Workforce Structure


Organizational development


Employee development



Although this move from functional to outcomes increased the utility and acceptance of the plans, other changes influenced organizational value more than plan component organization.  Three key factors standout given their importance in increasing the success of the plan: alignment, process, and data.

Alignment – The most successful human resource planning efforts link the organization’s business goals to human resource policies, processes, and actions, thus aligning the efforts of the human resource function with the goals of the organization to ensure that it possesses the human resource capability, talent, and resources necessary.  The status and strategic direction of an organization dictates the type of employee needed, necessary skills and tasks, allocation of work, and standard of performance.  If the strategic needs of the organization are ignored, it is likely that the plan will result in over or under addressing the actual human resource needs.

Process – Understanding the linkage between processes and outcomes is critical to the plan’s success.  Like any operational area, actions related to human resources needs to take into account not just desired direction and outcome, but the method of transforming inputs into outputs.  By analyzing the process, actions can be identified that ensure more efficiency and effectiveness.

Data – The incorporation of more data and especially human resource metrics significantly increases the ability of the planning effort to create quantifiable change in the workplace.  In other words, by being able to count the impact of changes, plans became planning tools as usual as financial or other operational plans.

What does it mean in a practical sense when you start your planning effort?

  • Make sure that the human resources match the business
  • Understand the processes so they give you what you want
  • Gather as much data as possible and use it
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