Strategic Workforce Planning is once again recognised as being a high priority in the recent report by HCI in partnership with Workday, yet almost half of the organisations state they are unprepared for their future talent needs. Similar results are found in a survey conducted by Visier earlier in 2014. In their study, 39% of companies do not regularly do workforce planning.

One reason for workforce planning efforts being unsuccessful could be a lack of clarity about allocation and understanding of responsibilities of the various stakeholders involved. In fact, an unclear ownership has been identified as one of the main challenges by Bersin & Associates already back in 2009.

In general terms, ownership of the workforce planning process and budget most often lies with HR as opposed to Operations or Finance, according to the aforementioned study by Visier. Whilst research by HCI and Aberdeen Group confirms this finding for Strategic Workforce Planning, near-term Operational Workforce Planning, to the contrary, typically sits with the line-of-business leaders and not HR according to Aberdeen Group’s report.

Since “Workforce Planning fails when it is viewed as an HR issue rather than a business issue”, as Madeline Laurano phrased it, I wonder if HR really is the best place for Strategic Workforce Planning. Would it not be better to follow the logical extrapolation that if Operational Workforce Planning is owned by line-of-business leaders, Strategic Workforce Planning should be owned by the overall business leaders – the Executive Team? I do not suggest they should be responsible for facilitating the process and involving the various stakeholder groups including operations managers and other support functions such as Finance, Risk, and Compliance. This can be still done by HR or, maybe better, a standalone team. What I do suggest is that the Executive Team should be accountable for Strategic Workforce Planning at the company level.

A similar line of reasoning is followed by Mollie Lombardo, the author of the aforementioned report by Aberdeen Group, in her guest blog where she argues that it would be similar to financial budgeting where the Finance department facilitates the process, but the business leaders are responsible for their business plans and investment decisions. Advanced Workforce Strategies’ Whitepaper further supports my suggestion by stating that “not involving CEOs, CFOs and Executives in the development of a workforce strategy” was one of the 12 deadly traps of strategic workforce planning. It does not seem to be such a revolutionary idea after all, since the Executive Team already owns or co-owns the process in 28 per cent of cases in the HCI study.

Regardless of whether HR owns of just facilitates the process, it is essential that those HR professionals involved really understand the business. This is a recognised capability gap, and one of the reasons why developing HR professionals into skilled business consultants who understand the business strategy and models is the second most urgent trend with in the 2014 UK Human Capital Trend Report.

So maybe a debate similar to the one about workforce analytics ownership that has been fuelled by Morten Kamp’s blogs is needed on whether Strategic Workforce Planning should or should not be owned by HR.