By: Micki Lewis MS, PCC, CPLP

Part 2

Welcome back to part 2 of Leveraging Coaching with Strategic Workforce Planning.   We have the pleasure of partnering with two SWP experts to be able to take an exclusive, deeper dive into the role of HR/OD, the framework and coaching within Strategic Workforce Planning.

Before we continue, let’s look at some distinctions between Workforce Strategy and Workforce Planning are defined by a whitepaper authored by Mr. Horace McCormick – Program Director for UNC Executive Development:

Workforce Strategy’s focus in on “development the capability and culture required to quickly adapt the workforce.

Workforce Plannings focuses more on shorter-term labor forecasting and availability of projects. He states the ‘planning does not take into account various scenarios that could disrupt the workforce ability to execute the long-term business strategy.” [1]

Thus Strategic Workforce Planning is what we are discussing in this article.

For this portion, we asked SWP book author and practitioner, Ms. Tracey Smith, how coaching can be used during the Strategic Workforce Planning Process and within her framework.  We will also share valuable tips and advice on the role of a HR/OD Consultant from Certified Strategic Workforce Planning Professional, Jill Marie Chapman, JD.

Where does your role as a HR/OD Consultant fit in this process?  

Always raise your hand to participate in a SWP process. Few companies have robust capabilities in SWP and your HR skill set will provide needed capabilities for achieving a successful outcome from the process.

HR/OD Expertise utilized in Strategic Workforce Planning

Innovator:          Recognizing SWP is crucial to the ongoing success of the organization.

Marketer:          Build a business case-present to the senior leadership team signifying it really warrants completion sooner than later with reasons denoted.

Influencer:        Light a fire! Buy-in and sponsorship from the senior team and key stakeholders is key.

Advocate:          Knowing and believing this is worthwhile endeavor and announcing it all the time.

Change Agent: Seeing both the people and process sides: what may need to be prepared before, during and ongoing for SWP to work in the organization?

Facilitator:          Identify: Find best person (internally or externally) to facilitate the process now + in the future.

Acquisition:      Lobby for and generate Job Description to project manage this initiative.

Project Mgmt:   Identify and secure the best person for PM role.

Coach:                 Support team and individuals. Keep the SWP process in focus, keep people on track and safeguard its ongoing existence.

Before beginning the Strategic Workforce Planning, it is imperative to understand the current business strategy and value of the Workforce [2].

Questions we would want to ask:

  1. What are our current capabilities?
  2. What is the most critical work in the organization?
  3. What human capabilities do we need now and in the future to achieve our strategic targets?
  4. What is the value of our workforce? What does our workforce cost, what are the labor cost drivers?
  5. What sills and capabilities are losing value?

Additionally, in preparation for the process, obtaining and pulling together all Workforce Analytics, financials and HRIS data you can find is important. This includes uncovering probable, future-related information and trends forthcoming when planning scenarios.

Below is the Framework of Strategic Workforce Planning found inside her book Strategic Workforce Planning; Guidance and Back up Plans by Ms. Tracey Smith. [3] Ms. Smith was genSWP Frameworkerous to walk through each of the 5 phases she designed and share her thoughts of where coaching would fit well.

  • 1. Determine the “roles of interest”

Looking toward the future, the key roles based on what a company will need to run efficiently and effectively are now identified as, “roles of interest.” Ms. Smith Tracey wanted to reflect a new way of thinking. Instead of naming these roles pivotal or critical, these “roles of interest” can offer a different perspective. Additionally, these “roles of Interest” might change during this process. Technology may take over and the need for specific position may change.

Leveraging Coaching

During this phase, Coaching would fit in both educational and behavioral situations, looking to assist the leader or the stakeholders involved to think a little differently. Educationally, using the terms, “roles of interest” denotes a change with the lingo used in the past.

This term also describes how these potential roles may not be top priority now, or at a higher level both in terms of title or pay scale, yet as the team moves through the process, new positions might emerge and are essential to take notice. Behaviorally, coaching can keep leaders on focus as well as offer new perspectives and think broader to support thinking differently.

2. Establish the Current State and Historical Trends

This phase is more on the technical side – it’s the analytical portion to review current and past trends. It’s the “numbers” portion of the SWP process.

3. Determine Desired Forecasting Scenarios – Choose Top 3

Depending on the size of the group, working in small groups, identifying most impactful prospective or Disruptive [4] scenarios might be a good start in gathering ideas. What impacts, effects, costs and risks might emerge?

 Top 3 to focus. Your team may already have one of your top 3 scenarios being seeing, “NO CHANGE” at all.   It is okay to have that as one of your scenarios.

Brainstorming in small or large size groups seems to be the go to method for coming up with ideas.   To be a little different, yet, a completely unique approach to identifying scenarios and ideas is where you first work on your own to identify ideas to bring to the group. This is called, “BRAINSWARMING.” [5]

Created by Dr. Tony McCaffrey who proposes “a more silent approach called “brainswarming”   encouraging individual ideation within the context of a larger objective. You start brainswarming by placing a goal or problem at the top of a white board, then listing the resources available to meet these problems at the bottom. Members of your team sit independently and write down ideas for tackling the problem from either end.

Mr. McCaffrey shares ‘natural “top-down” thinkers will begin refining the goal, while “bottom-up” thinkers will either add more resources or analyze how resources can be used to solve problems. The magic happens in the middle, where these two factions connect. To get a more visual demonstration of brainswarming, see the video here.

Continuing on, “While traditional brainstorming methods are great for producing a lot of ideas, it’s time to start shifting your focus to methods that foster better and more useful ones.”

During this 3rd phase of the SWP process, it’s not about solving problems, its thinking about future settings aligned with the Business Strategy to then isolate what positions, resources, etc. will be needed. Use Dr. McCaffrey’s method above produces more ideas ) in less time (115 in 15 minutes vs. regular Brainstorming 100 in 60 minutes).

Leveraging Coaching

Effective Coaches  ask the difficult questions. Facilitating the tough conversations, diving deeper and fostering even more out of the box thinking and future scenarios is key to really getting to the top 3 Future Scenarios. Questions include:

  • What else might happen?
    • Are we looking both domestically or globally?
    • If our world goes south –
      • Business slows down to a standstill.
      • We aren’t getting paid due to economic issues?
      • A competitor buys us out.
      • We merge with another organization.
      • We have no more funding, etc.
  • What risks might these scenarios generate?
  • What else are we missing?

4. Perform Gap Assessments   

  1. Identifying the top 3 Future Scenarios will then lead to thinking about the skills and talent needing to be in place will then start to close this gap. Constant monitoring and appraisal will also been needed to safeguard the success of the organization.
  2. Gap Assessments – head count numbers – yes – we talked about data in Phase 2 – Current and Historical Trends.   How about the people side of things? Are we missing anything? What upcoming potential skills gaps need to be developed? Where do we begin?

Leveraging Coaching

Ms. Smith definitely see coaching as a huge support in the development of these skill gaps. Do we need to upskill or add talent by bringing it in? What does your organization do?   Education (skill training) for associates is imperative and coaching to continue to embed the learning is paramount in filling these gaps.

Another point of view is to look at your “Stay” or retention strategy. Do you do “stay” interviews? Why do people stay at your organization? Research says promotions and filling positions from within gives the image that the company believes in and seeks to develop their people – which is a huge draw for great talent as they want to continue to grow and contribute. Money isn’t everything regarding motivation!

Are managers set up for success and aligned to coach and develop their people? This element is also a strong indicator of a successful organization. Career Coaching is also an effective tool to leverage internal talent and can be seen as an effective retention strategy as well.

5. Establish Action Plans to Close the Gaps

After determining your top 3 Future Scenarios, Action Plans receive attention. Identifying next steps with date and times for completion is vital to being prepared for the future and the workforce needed to make things happen. Depending on solutions identified, realizing the need to buy talent or upskill our current workforce will depend on the scenario as well as our resources required for realization.

Leveraging Coaching

How coaching fits will be asking questions or possibly coaching leaders to:

  • Build strong action plans – keep on focus
    • Do they need help on the building of an effective Action Plan?
    • Keeping on focus – targets created and aligned with Business Strategy and Forecasted Scenarios.

Other coaching possibilities include:

  • A manager is looking for more support with a high performer for the future spot in the future state.
  • Is there a Leadership Competency Model?
    • Creating a Leadership Development learning itinerary – observations by the coach, HR and other stakeholders to be involved
  • Change Readiness – across entire organization.
    • Change Leadership
    • Change Management
    • Coaching Through Change
      • – is coaching already embedded in the org? Executive Sponsorship of Coaching?
      • If not – what are plans to develop coaching within the management group?
  • Action Planning sessions:
    • Embed learning by holding Leader or manager side sessions


Ms. Smith shared additional ideas for the Strategic Workplace Planning process.

  1. Secure a Project Manager – or have a person whose role is to keep SWP on radar to follow up every year.
  2. Remember ongoing coaching of leaders – own monitor x times month, year (TBD).
  3. Understand that the following years – even just the 2nd time through – Roles may change due to technical advancement (example working now replaced by software) and there may be certain situations warranting “roles of Interest” changes.

Continue to be asking: What else next 5 years may change? Or be different?

  1. What’s growing so fast in certain areas of the world – what might need to change?
  2. What patterns are you seeing?

In your quest to identify the ideal future scenario – sometimes technology, economic, political issues occur and these strategic roles become tactical, sometimes changes things, thus requiring additional factors to occur.

Utilizing the Human Capital Institute (HCI) Model, Ms. Jill Marie Chapman JD and Certified HCI Strategic Workforce Planning Facilitator offered additional key points for you, the practitioner as well as for the process of Strategic Workforce Planning:

  1. Identify what role you can play as the HR/OD Consultant.
  2. Be clear with the Business Strategy to focus upon.
  3. Be sure to have a conversation if there is No change for Future State.
  4. Be sure to add different perspectives and explore both sides: Business Challenges, People Challenges
  5. Keep people honest.
  6. Be the beacon- keep the focus and keep topics on track.
  7. What if things goes in a totally different direction – what would you be doing as the HR/OD Consultant?
  8. Be sure to identify the top 3 critical gaps to develop – Identify risks to each.

Ms. Chapman strongly expressed to “remember baby steps. We may stumble or go through a few hiccups, know the team and yourself will be more effective as we continue the SWP process in the long run.”

In conclusion, Coaching IS a tangible tool as a HR/OD leader and can be actualized during many facets of a Strategic Workforce Planning initiative. Coaching lends itself both in facilitation and in 1:1 situations. An effective coaching formula is one where the Coach:

▪ Listens: 70% of the time.          ▪ Asks Questions: 20% of the time.         ▪ Summarizes: 10% of the time.

Contact Micki for assistance on Coaching during your Strategic Workforce Planning Process!


Part 2 References

  1. Bailis, Rochelle, “Brainstorming doesn’t work – do this Instead.” Forbes Entrepreneur. Found online: http://www.forbes.com/sites/rochellebailis/2014/10/08/brainstorming-doesnt-work-do-this-instead/#2bf458297f20
  1. Brainswarming Video: Found online: http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid2617163850001?bckey=AQ~~,AAAB4mHtenE~,_rixfzbq5sXZV_V1FXfQG4pTbi6618Xt&bctid=3373616535001 .
  1. Chapman, Jill Marie Chapman JD, SWPC, CEBS. Certified HCI Strategic Workforce Planning Facilitator. Presentation: CODIC (Community of Organizational Development Professionals in Chicagoland), Jan. 9th, 2016. Benedictine University, Lisle, IL..
  2. HCI Human Capital Institute’s Strategic Workforce Planning Certification. Found online: http://www.hci.org/hr-training-courses/strategic-workforce-planning .
  3. McCormick, Mr. Horace, UNC Executive Development 2015, “Who’s Afraid of Workforce Strategy?   www.execdev.unc.edu .
  4. Smith, Tracey, BMath, MASc, MBA. Strategic Workforce Planning; Guidance and Back up Plans. Found online: http://www.amazon.com/Strategic-Workforce-Planning-Guidance-Back-Up/dp/1478317175 .
  5. Strategic Workforce Model: Found online http://www.numericalinsights.com/index.php/workforce-planning .



[1] “Who’s Afraid of Workforce Strategy?” Page 2

[2] “Who’s Afraid of Workforce Strategy?” Page 6

[3] Strategic Workforce Model: Tracey Smith BMath, MASc, MBA

[4] Page 10   Who’s Afraid of Workforce Strategy?

[5] Brainswarming, Dr. Tony McCaffrey – creator.

[1] Strategic Workforce Model: Tracey Smith BMath, MASc, MBA

[1]Who’s Afraid of Workforce Strategy?” Page 6

[1]Who’s Afraid of Workforce Strategy?” Page 2