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The secret to successful planning in an uncertain future

By Mark Judd, VP, HCM Product Strategy, EMEA, at Workday

November 5 2020 - This year has shone a light on the importance of business agility. In a challenging post-COVID-19 landscape - the impact of which includes a recession - that light will become even more unforgiving. Months into lockdown the pressure is increasing to become more agile as HR leaders are having to plan for ‘lightning lockdowns’ and the impact that could have on their workforces spread around different parts of the country. The question is, how can HR teams become more agile and respond better to such an unpredictable situation?

The answer comes from changing the way business leaders plan and moving away from static planning to active planning.

Why static planning is a practice of the past

Static planning relies on admin-heavy processes such as manual, spreadsheet-based planning, budgeting, and forecasting. Its long planning cycles, and siloed efforts from teams across the business such as HR, finance and even IT, doesn’t give business leaders room to flex around new and unexpected obstacles. These may have worked well enough in the past, but as we’re discovering, they are a questionable choice in times of disruption.

Instead, efforts should be focused on developing an active planning strategy. At Workday, we advocate for active planning as it has proven to be effective for our customers HR teams as it is collaborative, comprehensive, and continuous. It is grounded in strong data modelling, something described by Michael Cole, the CTO of the PGA European Tour as an essential business currency. In using live data across departments, active planning can form a comprehensive picture that provides HR leaders with the ability to revise plans and make informed decisions to overcome internal and external business obstacles in real-time. In comparison to the admin heavy, long cycles of static planning, the active models allow teams to be much more agile. It broadens planning data beyond just HR, pulling in real-time operational and transactional data from enterprise systems - all to make better, data-driven decisions quickly.

How to build a strong foundation for business agility

In order to implement active planning, and begin their journey to better business agility, business leaders must first identify the obstacles. For HR, more often than not, these obstacles come in the form of people, learning and development, and retaining knowledge. To overcome obstacles, and build a strong foundation to success, you must follow three golden rules:

  • Assess what the business needs to get it where it wants to go. It is important to understand the capability of the business by understanding the skills you have at your disposal as well as other accurate and relevant data. To do this leaders should be asking questions such as: what technology do we have in place, and how well is it serving us? Does it provide us with a live view of our data and does it use machine learning and solid business processes to ensure the data is accurate.
  • Align the leadership teams from across the business - HR, finance and IT - on the changes that are needed and invest in tools that allow real-time collaboration across those different functions. Working together can help to quantify the current planning process much faster and establish how much it is costing your business in time and money not to make the necessary changes. In addition, working in this manner can also help to establish how much this opportunity can save the business in time and money. Ultimately, this will highlight the meaningful change that modern and agile planning will bring to the business and present a strong case to get department heads on board.
  • Action the plan across the business. Once you start implementing active planning, don’t fall into the trap of relying on just technology. Having a collaborative planning system and regular stakeholder one-on-ones, identifying lessons learned along the way and uncovering opportunities to improve processes will be essential to move the organisation forward. The key is to make sure the impact of active planning is seen throughout the company.

HR at the heart of agility

The three pillars above lay the groundwork for creating a more agile - more people focused - active planning environment. One that will help businesses plan for what’s coming while also ensuring that employees remain engaged and productive in uncertain times. After all, once active planning is in place, you’ll be able to spend less time trying to predict the unpredictable. And it is those companies planning for agility by implementing positive data-driven changes now, that will recover faster and thrive in the future.


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