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AI Piloted Talent Planning

If you compare talent planning aka resource planning - the allocation of talent to the work opportunities in a firm - with flying, you might feel like sitting in a Douglas DC-3, a great aircraft in the 30ies however not up to the mark for today’s requirements.

A similar situation we face in planning. The most difficult job of continuously creating a coherent plan, balancing firm, client, and talent preferences is still left to the planner very much like in the 90ies. A challenging task becoming increasingly impossible given the accelerating rate of change.

AI piloted talent planning moves this job to the machine and helps the planner to make educated decisions very much like the autopilot in a modern aircraft. AI and human intelligence working hand in hand increases efficiency through automation and creates the most efficient plan to extract value from the planning function.

Why is talent planning in 2023 still a manual task in front of a computer?

Many physical tasks have been moved to the computer. Like calculating to Excel, writing from handwriting to the typewriter to a word-processor, accounting to ERP and customer date to CRM. Planning from the physical wallboard to the on-screen planning board. Some of these tasks have become much easier when moved to the computer. Others like planning haven’t in the planning case because the required technology is only available today.

Why has planning not been digitized so far.

Not planning only. Most computerized work is not using compute power available today. Think of word-processing. Until recently you were hacking each word into your computer just like you did in the Typewriter age plus you spent hours in formatting it nicely. This was computerization. Today you write a prompt and Chat GPT will do most of the work. We face a similar situation in planning. Most planning tools are based on an analogue concept of moving boxes on a wallboard transferred to the computer like in word-processing, you must do the planning work yourself. This is not digitization. This is computerization meaning you do the same thing the same way as before sitting in front of a computer. Why is that? Because AI piloted planning is frightening difficult. You address a solution space beyond 10^160 which is impossible to oversee for a human being and for computers until recently.

What is the difference between computerization and digitization?[1]

Computerization is what I described above. Digitization is first about changing the way of thinking towards thinking from the end, thinking first in outcome and second about technology to reach the end. In the context of word-processing the question is: if everything is possible what would be the best possible way to have the text, I want in front of me. The answer could be: by thinking of a text. And with Chat GPT you get very close to that by creating a good prompt.

[1] Computerization and digitization are used as per the common use in professional language and not as per their narrow definitions. Computerization: moving a job 1:1 to the computer, digitization: rethinking a job borderless.

How can the concept of digitization be applied to planning?

In the context of planning the question is: if everything is possible how can I make sure my organisation always works the best plan? What would be the perfect plan? It triggers questions like: can I avoid a plan at all? What if each individual plans for herself? Can I get a plan with no input required? What if the best plan would be here at any point in time with no efforts? What is the value of planning? What is the value of a great plan? What is impacted by planning and what is impacting planning?

How can you digitize talent planning?

By asking the questions above to e.g. professional services companies who are most experienced in planning as the firms performance is highly determined by the efficiency of the plan their talent work. Then apply digitization thinking, create concepts how to create the Best Plan, research for methods and finally technology to create the Best Plan. From there it is only hard work to get to the level where you can create the most efficient plan in the most efficient way for every people centric organisation at any point in time.

Can AI really give me the Best Plan?

For practical purposes yes. Your business logic reflecting your strategy, your values and your KPI’s is configured into an AI planning platform. It will find the Best Plan for you given the technology available today. From a theoretical perspective there is an intensive debate ongoing how you can know if there is a better plan beyond the limits of today’s technology. We do research together with ETH Zurich and ZHAW on this to always create the Best Plan. The interesting thing though is that by applying AI piloted talent planning every plan is different given individual data and preferences.

AI results are not always reliable and valid. How can AI piloted talent planning be reliable and valid as humans are impacted by the plan?

This is a big one. It requires applying physical and mathematical theories into technology to make decisions traceable and plans comparable against defined KPI’s. Equally important is to work with respective bodies who have the methods and instruments to assess planning fairness. Mastering this is a must for large companies with impeccable reputation to apply AI piloted talent planning. An interesting point here is that if you assess plans made by humans only they have significantly more biases than AI piloted planning however we expect the machine to be 100% free of biases.

Is AI piloted talent planning replacing the people?

What we see so far no. It helps to transform the job of a planner from doing almost impossible number crunching planning tasks in front of a screen to becoming a planning expert or advisor to the organisation by applying thought to prepare data and context for educated conversations and decisions. By that, time leaders spend on planning is reduced up to 80% which is a huge gain. Some companies say that the savings in planning where the catalyst do accelerate digital transformation across the whole firm.

Will AI piloted talent planning become an industry standard?

The advantages cannot be ignored. Studies from McKinsey and Boston Consulting indicate that there is a significant EBIT and share price premium for firms who are early adopters in digitization and AI compared to their peers. Already today a firm how does not use AI piloted planning has a significant competitive disadvantage and must find leavers to compensate for to stay competitive. Or how Lewis Carroll put it in his book "Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There ". The red Queen says to Alice: "Now, here, you have to run very fast to stay in the same spot." This statement reflects an absurd rule in the fantasy world in which Alice finds herself. Today given the accelerating rate of change you must move faster and faster indeed to stay at the same spot and even faster to progress. AI piloted talent planning is one leaver with high impact.

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