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The 6 secrets to strategic workforce planning

strategic workforce planning

Organisations are constantly seeking competitive advantages that can propel them ahead of their rivals.  

As one of the largest business and people solutions consultancies in Africa, 21st Century specialises in sustainable business solutions, underpinned by exceptional analytics and research. It views effective management and optimisation of one’s workforce through strategic workforce planning (SWP) and people analytics (PA), as one such advantage. 

Dr Chris Blair, chief executive officer of 21st Century, delves into the transformative potential of PA in identifying and bridging gaps within the fundamental aspects of workforce management, commonly referred to as the six Rs: Right people, right place, right time, right skills, right cost and right culture. 

Strategic workforce planning 

At the heart of strategic workforce planning lies PA – a data-driven approach to making informed decisions about how to manage and deploy employees most effectively. By leveraging data, analytics and artificial intelligence (AI), organisations can uncover deep insights into their workforce. This enables them to anticipate needs, predict future trends and make strategic decisions that align with their long-term business objectives. 

The framework of the six Rs serves as a comprehensive guide for organisations aiming to optimise their workforce. Each “R” addresses a critical aspect of workforce management, from ensuring that the right people are in place to optimising the cost of talent. 

 Blair explores how PA plays a pivotal role in each area: 


Right people 

People analytics helps organisations: 

Right place 

Geographic and remote work considerations are more relevant than ever. Analytics can aid in determining the optimal locations for talent based on various factors:  

Right time 

Timing is crucial in workforce planning. PA enables organisations to: 

Right skills 

As industries evolve, so too must the capabilities of the workforce. Through skills analysis and future needs forecasting, analytics can highlight areas where current capabilities fall short and where strategic investments in training or hiring are needed. 

Right cost 

Optimising the cost of the workforce, while ensuring competitive compensation for financial sustainability. Analytics can provide insights into: 

Right culture 

Employee engagement scores and alignment between leadership actions and core values, measure the health of an organisation’s culture. Employee expectations are shifting towards more meaningful work and alignment with personal values. Cultivating the right culture is essential for: 

Reading between the Rs 

The true value of PA lies in its ability to identify gaps across the six Rs, by analysing the data. Organisations can pinpoint discrepancies between their current workforce and the ideal state needed to achieve their strategic goals. Whether it’s a skills gap, a misalignment of resources or cost inefficiencies, a clear path to identifying these gaps provides actionable insights for addressing them. 

PA capabilities provide organisations with a powerful tool to conduct this analysis. By leveraging data, it helps companies: 


The strategic implementation of these insights can lead to improved employee engagement, better job satisfaction and higher retention rates – all of which contribute to a more stable and productive workforce. This results in a robust, agile organisation that is well equipped to navigate the complexities of the modern business environment and outperform the competition. 


The diligent application of PA to the six Rs of SWP is not just an exercise in data analysis – it is a transformative process that optimises the very core of an organisation, its people. It ensures a workforce that is not merely a cost to be managed, but a strategic asset to be optimised. 


Issue: Ensuring a stable, productive workforce. 

Solution: Using people analytics ensures a workforce that is not a cost to be managed, but a strategic asset to be optimised. 


For more information, contact 21st Century:  

Tel: +27 11 447 0306 




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