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How Big is the Challenge of Manpower Planning?
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How Big is the Challenge of Manpower Planning?

by Ashok Grover

Many  organizations are not able to conduct this important exercise, because the task of manpower planning is too complex and yet not error proof. Let us have a look at the complexities of this continuous, dynamic exercise!

Undoubtedly, Manpower planning is a very important exercise for the survival and growth of an organization. In the absence of a systematic planning, organizations are forced to take ad-hoc decisions and struggle for survival. Then, the obvious question arises, why many  organizations are not able to conduct this important exercise.  The answer is too simple that the task of manpower planning is too complex and yet not error proof.

Let us have a look at these complexities:

  1. Generally a wide range of data and variety of methods are used to have fair projections for the future. These may include external environment, industry projections, organizations future plans, estimated overall requirements, natural attrition projections, assumptions regarding future attrition, etc. etc. In spite of all this, whatever method or combination thereof you make use of, it is very difficult to accurately forecast future manpower requirements.
  2. A very important element of manpower planning is the organizational planning. This itself is a difficult task since economic conditions are so dynamic and complex in nature. First, it is not possible to predict them and even if you have some idea, calculating its actual impact will be a Herculean task.
  3. Natural attrition in the form of routine retirements is easy to calculate and plan. To some extent, one can even attempt to handle resignations tactfully, so as to control the outward movement. Still, accidents and sudden deaths have the power to demolish the foundations of all those efforts.
  4. The best of manpower planning is bound to fail in the absence of management support. It must be understood that the manpower planning is not the exclusive responsibility of HR. Also, the matter is extremely complex and the human resource professionals do require inputs, views and above all, the management trust to do a fair job.
  5. Most of the times, companies get into the trap of looking for replicas of successful professionals. It generally happens when someone occupies a position for too long. It is a good idea to plan a broad based development strategy and keep on moving people periodically. It helps developing managers as well as continuous infusion of fresh ideas.
  6. Implementation can suffer setbacks because getting the right candidate and filling a critical vacancy may take much longer than even the best estimates. The pendulum may swing to either side as well. You plan for six months, the search may go on for a year or you plan for a year and may be forced to fill the vacancy in two months (or lose the right candidate you found accidentally!)

All said and done, big corporations in spite of detailed and meticulous manpower planning, do need to resort to mass recruitment and mass retrenchment, since you can never have a perfect plan. The bottom line is that Manpower Planning is not a one time, static exercise. It is a continuous, dynamic process. It would be the best to have a long term tentative plan and short term firm plan backed by periodic review and course correction. Remember, it will only minimize your problems and help avoid taking knee-jerk ad-hoc decisions.

Ashok Grover is an expert in people assessment and focused executive / leadership coaching. He is Director at Skillscape, a company with a vision of Value Creation by enhancing people and organizational competencies.

His last assignment was with the JBM Group as Corporate Chief Human Resource Officer. He has over four decades of experience in operations, materials, information technology and people development with Parle Group, Mohan Meakins Group, Hawkins Cookers Limited and JBM Group.

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