Understanding and Implementing Workforce Planning

by Granville Triumph

Place the right people with the right talent in the right roles at the right time so employee needs and priorities are aligned with those of the organization a whole. That’s the definition of workforce planning. With people working and living much differently than they did just 10 years ago, workforce planning is an essential part of today’s business strategy.

Workforce planning is a comprehensive process that creates a framework for making smarter staffing decisions. This enables leadership to:

  • Predict staffing requirements.
  • Improve employee recruitment, training and retention.
  • Respond more quickly to evolving business needs and market conditions that may require changes to the workforce.
  • Better allocate resources.
  • Enhance the organization’s overall capabilities.
  • Improve accountability.
  • Operate more efficiently without sacrificing productivity.
  • Better manage and minimize risk.
  • Groom future leaders.

Four Steps of Workforce Planning

The first step of workforce planning is to research and identify workforce issues that must be addressed. These issues are most commonly influenced by the organization’s strategic initiatives, anticipated changes to the outside environment related to the market, labor pool or legislative action, and maintaining and improving the existing workforce.

The second step is to set high-level, strategic goals for the workforce in order to address core business issues. The third step is to identify specific workforce objectives that explain desired results and help management assess the effectiveness of strategic initiatives. These objectives should be measurable, realistic and set with a specific time frame in mind.

The fourth step is to identify workforce strategies that set the course for achieving workforce objectives and optimizing performance. These strategies are often clustered based on specific issues, such as succession planning, forecasting, leadership development and risk management. Each strategy should include a series of action steps that explains who is responsible for each step, what must be done, and a deadline for completion.

The Bottom Line

Effective workforce planning will help organizations thrive in favorable conditions and make them more prepared for unfavorable conditions. Workforce planning software is available to help managers navigate this critical process and make more informed staffing decisions. By proactively integrating and aligning talent with business goals, you can improve outcomes, gain valuable competitive advantages and lay the groundwork for long-term success.

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