Much of the criticism levelled at traditional HRP concerned its inflexibility and inability to cope with changing circumstances. Many of the more contemporary variants attempt to address these problems in some way. For example, contingency planning provides greater flexibility by considering the implications of a number of different scenarios while other approaches (e.g. succession planning) focus on specific issues rather than attempting to tackle everything at once. It seems likely that this drive for greater flexibility will continue and HRP will become increasingly dynamic.
Boxall and Purcell (2003) argue that ‘it is vital to accept that change is inevitable and that some preparation for the future is therefore crucial’. They further suggest that short-term planning is necessary for survival but long-term planning is a good thing providing it does not make the organization inflexible. Schuler (1998: 176) makes a similar point, suggesting that planning will become more tentative and short-term to deal with the rapidly changing environment but long-term needs are still important because some changes take time.
These arguments can be seen to underpin the need for both traditional HRP techniques for short-term forecasting and for more contemporary variants such as scenario planning for longer-term plans. HRP appears to have moved a long way from the mechanistic approach associated with traditional manpower planning. Contemporary approaches are less concerned with maintaining stability and more with shaping and managing change. Brews and Hunt (1999) argue that unstable environments make HRP more, rather than less, necessary but the key focus needs to be on adapting to change:
When the going gets tough, the tough go planning: formally, specifically, yet with flexibility and with persistence. And once they have learned to plan, they plan to learn.
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