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The 7 Attributes of a Strategic Workforce Plan

The world's IT functions will need to look drastically different a decade from now, and to make that change they need the right kind of plan.

The demands of IT teams at the world’s large companies have changed dramatically in the past half decade or so. Three-quarters of line managers agree that fast access to new technology capabilities is vital to them doing their jobs well, and almost as many believe that IT is too slow in providing them with what they need.

To speed up, IT teams need to become more adaptive, both to broader business trends and in the way they respond to business partners during a project or on implementing or maintaining new technology. And one of the main ways to do that is to put people with the right skills and experience into the right roles.

This requires a lot of change and a lot of coordination, and many IT functions have already started to pull together a strategic workforce plan. This is not just an annual staffing plan, or an aggregation of development and compensation plans for the function, rather it is a comprehensive plan that encompasses recruiting, developing, managing, retaining, and redeploying IT employees across a multi-year period.

The List of Seven

There are seven important attributes that make a plan like this effective; we’ve covered this before in the context of strategic planning, but this is how they apply to IT workforce planning.

  1. Be truly strategic (not tactical): The plan should describe how the workforce will change over multiple years, not just the roles that need to be filled in the next 12 months.

  2. Be linked to business strategy: It shows how talent plans will affect revenue-generating objectives and highlights specific business capabilities that will support those objectives that, in turn, will be supported by IT roles in the workforce plan.

  3. Sets real priorities: The plan intentionally focuses resources on a few high priority talent objectives (ideally three to five, never more than 10), and clarifies what the IT function will stop doing.

  4. Defines metrics: The plan must include measures that enable IT to track and report progress against talent objectives.

  5. Links to operations: The plan must provide concrete guidance that informs day to day talent activities, compensation, recruitment and development plans, technology roadmaps, and budgets.

  6. Establish accountability: The plan should define the owners for specific initiatives and objectives, and provides guidance to inform HR activities.

  7. Inspire: Ultimately, the plan must help IT employees understand how to develop their own career paths.

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