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Manpower planning for the future

Sudipta Dev analyses how business growth and stability of an organisation depends on future workforce planning.

Strategic workforce planning is not limited to hiring and retaining talent, but anticipating future manpower needs of an organisation. In a dynamic business scenario, manpower planning is critical to organisational growth and stability. It is integral to recruiting, retaining, retraining and redeployment of talent. Linked to business needs of the organisation, the process is much more complicated than it seems, primarily because it also involves developing skills and competencies of existing employees to meet market demands which can change with time. Having a contingent plan in place in case of any eventuality (talent shortage) is also critical to the process.

“You need educated, skilled manpower for sales, product management, R&D and production. There will be a shortage of such people in the future”

– Kris Lakshmikanth
Founder and CEO
The Headhunters India

It is necessary for pharma organisations, particularly large and medium sized companies, to have a workforce plan in place. Kris Lakshmikanth, Founder and CEO, The Headhunters India, believes that while the industry will not face manpower crunch like the BPO sector, there will be a shortage of quality people. The obvious reasons are:

  • Entry of new MNCs which require people for production, development, sales and product management. People working in existing medium and large pharma companies will be their targets
  • On the retail front, all big retail groups—Future Group, Reliance, RPG, etc, are setting up pharmacies across India. Subhiksha and Apollo already exist in the South and are set for expansion. These stores will require trained people and the best are obviously available in pharma companies
  • Clinical research, which requires specialists, is increasingly shifting to India. The salaries of such people have gone up significantly in the last two to three years. Most BSc graduates who were the prime source of supply will shift to clinical research/trials as it offers them better salaries and greater chances of career development. Quality young people will be lost to such companies
  • Finally, many of the pharma companies are expanding fast, both in India as well as abroad, further aggravating the war for talent

Alignment with business needs

“Manpower needs, if planned properly, in terms of profile required, numbers, time and place, will give the company mileage over competitors in terms of consistency in output”

– Ashwin Thacker
Managing Director
Flamingo Pharma

Future manpower plan-ning is directly linked to the strategic business plans of an organisation. The estimation on manpower and budgets are governed by customers’ demands. Ashwin Thacker, Managing Director, Flamingo Pharma, states, “Business needs are achieved from effective management of materials, machines, money and manpower. Manpower needs, if planned properly, in terms of profile required, numbers, time and place, will give the company mileage over competitors in terms of consistency in output. Effective human resources planning gives optimal productivity in terms of timelines and quality of deliverables.” It will not only improve people competency, but will also ensure that people grow with the company. This helps arrest the attrition rate.

An organisation set on the growth path needs competent people to achieve its objectives. And finding the right human resources is not an easy task. “You need educated, skilled manpower for sales, product management, research and development, production, etc. There will be a shortage of such people in the future,” asserts Lakshmikanth.

Significance of strategic workforce plan
  • What makes workforce plan very critical is the possible negative repercussions that excess and under recruitment can lead to. It is people who build the organisation, consequently any mismatch in employee-related statistics, whether in terms of number, skill set or core competencies may upset the whole organisation dynamics and its objectives
  • The employee head count has direct impact on cost but indirect impact is far more sensitive. Workforce planning has a direct link with employee development, multi-skilling and succession planning
  • An organisation must forecast its business and expansion strategy correctly and also have its workforce planning in place. There are various management approaches in use for determining either shortage or surplus
  • Apart from forecasting, an organisation’s capability to sustain the current business and to grab the new business makes a big difference
  • A pharma company should consider factors like current business needs, future plans, growth areas, addition/deletion of business, change in technology, attrition trends and talent availability in the market to ensure that they recruit the right amount of workforce

Source: Oasis executive search and management consultancy

The timespan

The timespan of workforce planning differs from organisation to organisation, and can range from the immediate quarter to ten years. Both short-term and long-term planning is essential, varying as per the market demands. This also differs as per the level of the recruit, that is planning for junior staff is generally short-term and than for senior positions. “Workforce planning is driven by the need at different management levels as the business evolves. At junior level/entry level it make sense to have a yearly plan broken into four quarters whereas at senior level the forecasting for professionals is over a period of two-three years,” says Sampath Shetty, VP, Permanent Staffing Business Unit, TeamLease Services.

Manpower planning in pharma companies requires to be designed on short-term (one-five years) and long-term (more than five years) basis, concedes Thacker. “Career progression and succession planning is drawn in such a manner that company needs and employee profile are synchronised. This way we ensure that employee enriches learning and grows with company. Workforce planning is reviewed every month to check requirements, status on positions, separations, additional manpower requirements and surplus staff,” adds Thacker.

Plan for contingencies

“The need for contingency plan would come during market fluctuations, stringent deadline, natural calamity, change in technology and an unexpected opportunity”

– Geeta A Sundrani
Oasis executive search

Organisations which have fairly evolved HR systems in place know the significance of a contingent plan for any unexpected situations. Planning for future workforce needs is not just a matter of ascertaining the right number, but how well an organisation can deal with any eventuality. The planning should be effective to avoid talent surpluses or shortages.

A contingency plan is put to action when something outside the control of an organisation happens. These situations should ideally be over and above those mentioned in the main workforce plan. “The need for contingency plan would come during market fluctuations, stringent deadline, natural calamity, change in technology and may be an unexpected opportunity,” states Geeta A Sundrani, Director, Oasis executive search and management consultancy. Sundrani points out that while approved/standard workforce strength as decided for the organisation is sufficient even during difficult times, existing employees should be given authority with responsibility to meet the business needs for the hour. Stretch, during crises, could lead to realising of hidden potential and loyalty of an employee towards the organisation.

A buffer/pipeline of suitable candidates is necessary to prevent any last minute surprises. “The recruitment team today works along with business line managers to plan ahead of their manpower needs. Organisations which have gone on rampant panic hiring spree to manage their short-term business needs without considering the flip side of layoffs has led to negativity of the market credibility. If a company is more efficient, it can avoid such unpleasantries and image tarnishing for themselves,” states Shetty.

The best strategy to formulate a backup plan includes grooming fresh talent and creating a second line at all functions. “Building second line personnel in the organisation, coupled with robust systems, will ensure that company gets a competitive edge over other market players,” insists Thacker, adding that in the vibrant pharma market, contingency manpower planning is required to cater to the customers’ expectations within the framework of required time, quality and costs.

“Working closely with the business groups and keeping an active talent inventory and effective churning the internal employee database (from skills availability and referencing programme perspective.) is the key. Identifying the skill matrix of the internal talent pool and putting to good use during business exigency optimises the manpower utilisation at any given point,” states Shetty. Better resource and manpower redeployment management would be one of the key to the success of future workforce planning. In the end, it is all about having the right people possessing the right skills in place at the right time.


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