Thursday 9 June 2011

#ECTalent: Future Proofing the Business (Strategic Workforce Planning)


  The session earlier this morning from Hugh Mitchell at Shell focused on the need to think long-term about talent, and this focus was continued into the next panel.


Rafael Ramirez from Oxford’s Said Business School talked about some of the scenario planning he had been involved with at Shell and since. His perspective is that there is quite a bit of thinking about the 20-50 years time horizon. There’s also a fair amount of short-term planning, but there’s a gap in the middle – at least in HR (more so than in Strategy, technology, Risk Management etc). Companies are contracting this out to consultants. Responding to this environment requires moving from a “predict-assess-adapt” approach to one of “imagine-design-prototype”.

And we need understand the fragrance of the future – to think about what kind of futures can we manufacture that will challenge managers thinking, leading to better bets and hedges.


Jane Datta, Director of Workforce Strategy at NASA presented on NASA’s mission shift, putting more focus on research, innovation and partnering with commercial entities – presenting a challenge for workforce planning.

NASA traditionally ensure access to talent through attrition – and then bringing talent back in once it’s needed again. But this doesn’t work so well when people aren’t leaving – as in the current economy.


Linda Seber, HRD EMEA at Boeing talked about their small Strategic Workforce Planning team within HR but working with the business. Their global framework for identifying gaps in talent provision is:

  1. What is the business strategy?
  2. What is our talent philosophy eg to acquire, grow from within, outsource / work with contractors etc – and therefore what is gap between now and where we want to be?
  3. What skills are needed and what is the market situation for these skills ie environmental scanning – eg maths, science and engineering are all facing shortages currently.


(You can see my suggested process for workforce planning here).


Boeing plan for about 5 years out and the outputs of this feed into the business strategy (creating value?) as well as the HR, compensation & benefit and leadership development strategies etc.

It’s interesting that all these case studies (Shell, Boeing, NASA) clearly do need to think long-term. You could therefore say that they only need to think long-term about talent because of that. I don’t think that’s the case – my belief is that talent management is a fundamentally long-term issue.  It’ll be interesting to see whether other, later speakers from other sectors (especially Gareth Williams from Diageo in FMCG) agree!



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