Lacey All, Starbucks on Workforce Planning

   I’m finishing off posting on the CIPD conference with some notes on future human capital / talent / workforce planning.  But before I bring this all together, I want to do a short review of the session on workforce planning from Starbucks’ Lacey All.  Partly because I thought it was an excellent presentation of a great case study (and Lacey hadn’t even had any coffee!), but mainly because workforce planning does fill a central role within human capital planning.

I think I4CP explained this role quite well in their recent post claiming that workforce planning Is the ‘missing link’ for HR – helping to combine the business strategy and HR strategy:

“If your bead on the future is looking blurry these days, you’re not alone. The global recession has thrown off a lot of organizations’ expectations and predictions. So, it’s little wonder that many are now striving to do a much better job of strategic planning for the future, especially in the area of talent.”


And at the conference, Peter Howes from InfoHRM explained how workforce planning can assist organisations to better manage within this new economy:

  • Replaces a reactive approach (reduce headcount across the board, cut labour costs by x%) with more precise interventions
  • Decisions are based on clearer understanding of critical factors and relationships –in effect, a ‘risk audit’
  • Which roles or jobs have biggest business impact?
  • Which will be hardest to fill internally and externally in the future? Which have the steepest or longest learning curve?
  • Which skills and competencies will become increasingly or decreasingly valuable to future performance?
  • Which talent segments need to be protected as feeder pools?
  • Organisations can model alternative scenarios to compare long-term consequences for talent supply.


In her presentation, All explained that their approach to workforce planning doesn’t attempt to be the same thing for everyone, but consists of a number of activities ranging from operational to more strategic:

  • Retail forecast tools
  • Dashboard analytics
  • Ad-hoc analysis
  • Environmental scanning



  • Talent segments
  • Pivotal roles
  • Planning workshops
  • Action planning and progress monitoring.


The focus on retail here is about this being the area which will differentiate Starbucks’ brand and create a competitive advantage.


I thought the most interesting part of the session was the outline of Starbuck’s planning workshops.

In these sessions, leadership teams consider:

  • The environmental scanning reports shown above (what affects my workforce?)
  • The current state (where am I now?)
  • No change future state (where am I heading if everything remains the same?)
  • Scenario planning (what’s my ideas vision given different operating climates?)
  • Targeted future (what is my targeted or likely future?)
  • Action planning (how do I get there?)
  • Setting up progress monitoring (is my plan right?, am I on track?).


A key issue at the moment is understanding ghost turnover – and predicting how many people will leave post the recession.

Some of the external factors the teams look at include:

  • Demise of a Competitor
  • Unionization of Workforce
  • Distribution Optimization
  • Process Teams don’t have the right capabilities
  • Full Automation of Production Lines
  • Failure to open 5th Roasting Plant at 75 mm pounds
  • Store of the future.


Although workforce planning is often closely linked to workforce analytics (particularly when considering the current state / supply of the workforce), All stressed that lack of data (outside the US) doesn’t stop them doing workforce planning, and that the process is as much art as it is science.

The outputs of the planning workshops are solutions to close critical gaps in the future workforce.


All useful stuff – so why aren’t many organisations doing this (and why were so many people walking out during such an excellent presentation?).

Actually, the situation may not be that bad – I4CP notes that the use of workforce planning is trending upward. About 70% of the respondents to their survey said that they are doing some form of workforce planning in their organisations today, and 43% of those who are not doing it now plan on implementing this process in the future.  But that doesn’t mean that most companies are doing it well:

“There are three types of workforce planning: operational, tactical and strategic. While most organizations with WFP are highly engaged in short-term operational workforce planning – which includes actions such as headcount forecasting and staffing requisitions – relatively few are highly engaged in long-term strategic workforce planning, which includes actions such as business planning, needs assessments and scenario creation.”

If you want to gain more of the benefits that Starbucks are clearly getting, you may want to review:





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  • jon  [dot] ingham [at] strategic [dash] hcm [dot] com


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I graduated from Imperial College, London in 1987 and joined Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) as a systems development consultant. After ten years in IT, change and then HR consulting, I joined Ernst & Young as an HR Director, working firstly in the UK, and then, based in Moscow, covering the former USSR.More recently, I have worked as Head of HR Consulting for Penna and Director of Human Capital Consulting for Buck Consultants (the HR consultancy owned by ACS).


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