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John Sumser

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Workforce Planning
October 29, 2002) - Workforce planning can seem so complicated that it never gets done. The visionary systems suggest that a combination of scenario planning and deep skills assessment can lead to a decision-making framework. We're closer to the back of the envelope school of thinking. That is, some level of planning is far superior to none at all. As we've mentioned before, John Sullivan's article, "Why Workforce Planning Fails" is an important point of departure.

Recently, we stumbled across an interesting new professional association, The Society of Workforce Planning Professionals (SWPP). Focused exclusively on the needs of the Call Center universe, SWPP seems unlikely to have a vibrant life. But, a quick scan of the current newsletter gives some sense of the rigor with which Workforce Planning can be implemented in single discipline settings.

When you have a department (or company) focused on the accomplishment of a single, repetitive task (even if it varies in the way that customer support tends to) there are sound, repeatable tools for workforce sizing that can and should be broadly applied. The techniques are so easy and powerful that precision can be measured in fractional percentage points of accuracy. The tutorial on the use of spreadsheets in workforce planning demonstrates just how effective the process can be in environments where the work is computer-mediated.

In more complex settings, organizational dynamics and political issues complicate the problem. Ultimately, good workforce planning is an iterative (and ongoing) process. The bottoms-up estimating procedure (demonstrated by the material at SWPP) will always be modified by top-down concerns. Workforce Planning is, after all, a planning conversation. Learning to engage the organization in the give and take of planning is at the heart of successful implementation.

The good news is that the techniques for small scale Workforce Planning are simple and easy to use. Any reader of this newsletter could take the materials from SWPP and modify them for use in local one task settings. That's the good news, to the extent that workforce planning is a local problem, it can be easily solved. The issue becomes complex at the point that you try to integrate the details at a system level. Then workforce planning becomes subject to the sorts of organizational issues that drive other strategic conversations.

-John Sumser

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Materials written by John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.
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