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May the force be with you

Strategic workforce planning is not new. The concept has been proving its success for years and is seen as the way to go in many HR departments. Today, data and AI are breathing new life into it, creating many new opportunities. Peter-Andries Albrecht, Head of Global Talent at Umicore, and Yves van Durme, Global Organisational Transformation Leader at Deloitte, share how strategic workforce planning makes a difference.

Umicore, a global player in materials technology, is gradually making its ambition to grow a reality. With their 2030 RISE strategy, they set clear goals: being a Reliable transformation partner, Innovation & technology leader, Sustainability champion, and Excellence in execution. Peter-Andries explains, “The mobility industry is undergoing a significant transition, which means that the material needs are also changing. At Umicore, we are ready to respond to this, and that means our revenue will grow exponentially by 2030, which naturally has a major impact on our workforce. Together with Deloitte, we embarked on leveraging strategic workforce planning in an effective manner.”

From traditional to future-focused

“Umicore is what we call a true traditional company, and the growth ambition they currently have is phenomenal. It is only natural that questions arise, such as: What profiles do we need? Is the talent we need also available in the countries where we want to be operational in the future? The magnitude of their growth does not allow us to take a year-by-year approach but calls for a flexible, future-oriented policy. And that is where strategic workforce planning helps them.

Whereas in the past it took a lot of time to develop various workforce scenarios for the future, today data and technology enable us to model quickly and efficiently.

Yves van Durme

Whereas in the past, it took a lot of time to develop different scenarios for the future, today, data and technology allow us to model quickly and efficiently. Various hypotheses regarding workforce planning can be developed, and models can be fine-tuned on a regular basis instead of just once a year. Strategic workforce planning enables us to project into the future more objectively and significantly enhances the credibility and quality of the ultimate decisions.”

One dream, one team

“Our challenge is twofold,” Peter-Andries explains. “We want to create value as an established company while simultaneously growing like a startup. Having a clear direction pursued by everyone in the organisation is crucial for us to succeed.

Where previously finance, business, and HR had different workforce realities in mind, strategic workforce planning now allows us to maintain one version of that reality. This not only reduces communication noise between different departments but also enables us to work more efficiently. In the past, finance would create a global budget that the HR department could use for hiring, without considering the specific job profiles needed to achieve growth. Today, we all look in the same direction, resulting in what we call one single equation for workforce planning.”

“Hiring the right talent is crucial to fulfil Umicore’s ambition,” says Yves. “The HR department used to have a more supportive role, working based on the budgets provided by finance and the business. Strategic workforce planning compels all departments to work together proactively, manage available resources consciously, and look not only at the past but also towards the future.”

Ready, set, go

“In order to deploy strategic workforce planning effectively, proper preparation is essential,” says Peter-Andries. “So, we first brought someone in-house with the right capabilities on board, who, along with the Deloitte consultant, will internally lead the entire process. Together with Deloitte, a framework and model were distilled, which will be translated into tools and systems in the next phase. We now have one model for one of our sites, and the next step is to determine which parameters need to be adjusted to apply the model to future sites worldwide.”

Yves: “Everything starts with strategic workforce planning. It forms the foundation from which you can work in a targeted and focused manner. It clarifies the specific profiles that Umicore needs to achieve the desired growth, which roles need to be filled first, etc. Then it is up to the organisation to take action.”