This guide introduces you to workforce planning and provides you with an overview of how to do it. It examines the key stages involved in workforce planning and offers a practical structure for determining your strategy, with illustrative examples to guide practice.
We’ll show you how to develop a workforce plan by walking you through two methodologies for workforce planning: a six-stage planning framework and a seven ‘rights’ principle. The planning framework offers six stages for conducting workforce planning in the right order; the seven ‘rights’ principle lists seven areas of the business that you need to consider.
People practitioners can use this guide to structure their (strategic) workforce planning, to identify the workforce challenges they may face ahead of time, and to put in place the appropriate actions to ensure organisational readiness and success.
What is workforce planning?
In this guide, we talk about workforce planning and strategic workforce planning interchangeably. The difference between workforce planning and strategic workforce planning is that they are conducted within different time horizons. Workforce planning generally focuses on your current resource headcount plans and operational plans for the budget year ahead, whereas strategic workforce planning looks towards a three- to five-year time horizon. As you work on your interventions or analysis, and as you go through this guide, always consider which time horizon is most relevant for you in your specific context first. It will allow for better implementation of the concepts and tips gathered in the guide.
Workforce planning is a continual process that is owned by the whole business and enabled by HR. It is not done in isolation; you need to understand the requirements and concerns of the different stakeholders involved in workforce planning, so identifying who they are and developing strong relationships with your key stakeholders is critical. It is not rigid and it needs to be agile, evidence-based and analytical. By analysing your current workforce and determining your future workforce needs, you are identifying the gap between the workforce you have available now and your future needs. Then you can implement the right solutions so your organisation can achieve its strategic plans. The great thing about workforce planning is that it integrates with other HR interventions such as: organisational development, talent management, recruitment and retention, succession planning, learning and development, and career development.
Strategic workforce planning is a holistic approach to assessing and analysing internal business drivers and goals and provides a framework for organisations of all sizes to meet the challenges they are facing in complex and uncertain circumstances. It is, therefore, essential that organisations constantly review their long-term approach to talent and critical skills. By developing a more robust people plan, organisations can ensure they have the skills and labour to continue delivering on their business objectives, against both expected and unexpected changes.
You need to be familiar with your organisation’s strategy and what factors are contributing to the need for developing workforce plans. This can be achieved by conducting an external analysis of labour market trends and an internal analysis. A good way to conduct an internal analysis would be to ask leaders to share their stories on the consequences of not undertaking effective workforce planning, such as costly redundancy programmes followed by staff being rehired as expensive consultants. While we can’t predict what the future will be, workforce planning will help you prepare for different futures.
Workforce planning helps you to identify business problems and workforce implications and translate them into tailored solutions. It’s not about creating plans. It’s about identifying and, in some cases, creating the right workforce to deliver the desired organisational results.
The benefits of a systematic approach to workforce planning enable organisations to:
- ensure talent is available when you need it
- prepare for the future by anticipating and planning for change
- become more agile and align processes and organisational priorities
- mitigate current and future workforce-related risks.
As discussed, workplace planning and strategic workforce planning happen on different levels in organisations and the focus of analytical thinking and planning activity will depend on the level you are operating at:
- Macro level – refers to the ‘bigger picture’, where you are thinking more holistically about longer-term strategic plans over the next three to five years for the whole organisation.
- Meso level – covers interim or operational plans for the year ahead for your workforce, aligned to next year’s financial budget.
- Micro level – your short-term resource plans, such as thinking about how to fill your current recruitment gaps and immediate needs.
The premise of workforce planning is to create a balanced approach where seven ‘rights’ of workforce planning are working together and are clearly understood by an organisation. Getting these elements in harmony is not a copy-and-paste process and needs specific tailoring for each organisation, depending on its make-up and operational context. You can reflect and discuss the elements of the seven ‘rights’ principle to help you take a more proactive approach when planning what your workforce should look like.
Figure 1: Seven ‘rights’ of workforce planning
- Right capability: This is about assessing the gaps in competencies and skills you have now and will need in the future. Ensure you have the right capability and core skills to bridge your current and future gaps.
- Right size: This is about having the right headcount or number of people you need. Make sure you have a sufficient quantity of people with the right capability in posts.
- Right shape: This is about having the right workforce composition in terms of structure, purpose, ratio of managers to professional and administrative staff and the right demographic mix. Make sure you have the right structures and levels in your workforce to avoid duplication or inefficiency.
- Right location: This is about having people in the right place geographically and structurally. It’s also about availability of people with the right capabilities at the right locations to meet current and future demand. You should consider whether there is an opportunity to build strategic hubs, relocating some operations abroad. Or whether you could outsource/insource operations or facilitate more hybrid working.
- Right time: This is about having the right people at the right time and for the actual duration that you need them. Have a think about the new talent and new skills you need and the timeframes for which you require them.
- Right cost: This is about sufficiently considering the right costs when making workforce decisions. If you focus on this right, have a think about when you have recently reviewed your financial investments in areas such as: benchmarking pay and reward, training and developing people, accounting for recruitment costs to hire, or outsourcing services.
- Right risk: This is about taking into consideration the risks in relation to your workforce, such as: retirements or predicting which staff will leave. Check how clear your organisation is on the risk involved if a vacancy is left open or the impact of not having enough people in achieving your goals.
Ensuring you take into consideration these seven ‘rights’ is a great approach to workforce planning. Reflect on which ‘rights’ are the most challenging to get right and which ‘rights’ you should be focusing on.
To get these seven ‘rights’ right, we recommend a six-stage workforce planning methodology (see Figure 2). We take you through each stage of this framework in the sections below.
Six-stage workforce planning methodology
Six stages to workforce planning
What is it?
The first element of your workforce plan is establishing your baseline. This stage is about recognising the external pressures on the labour market, the future of work, your current priorities, and internal talent breakdown of your organisation. It’s also about (re)looking into an organisation itself. Organisations must have a clear picture of their current workforce and an understanding of the organisation’s operating model, organisational strategy and workforce, otherwise it’s very challenging to plan for future changes.
Why is it important?
Understanding your baseline is important because it helps you take stock of external and internal factors that impact your organisation.
External factors are the outside influences that your organisation can’t control, that challenge its capabilities. These include the political, economic, technological, legal and environmental. Internal factors are the factors that your organisation can control, such as its growth plans, ambitions, budgetary constraints and planned future changes. Planned future changes may include new products or services.
What can you do?
A PESTLE analysis
A PESTLE analysis can help you identify your external pressures. It is one of the most effective frameworks for recognising the ‘big picture’ context in which an organisation operates. Horizon-scanning should be a priority to understand the drivers that could influence the direction of the organisation.
It looks at six key factors – political, economic, sociological, technological, legal and environmental. Monitoring and assessing each of these external factors and the impact they may have enables you to formulate business thinking and planning. See the CIPD factsheet on how to conduct a PESTLE analysis.
Figure 3: PESTLE analysis
A SWOT analysis
Carrying out a simple SWOT analysis alongside a PESTLE analysis will help you identify internal elements for a baseline stage – areas of strengths and where there might be opportunities or threats to your organisation.
External factors like those considered in a PESTLE analysis will interplay with internal factors in the matrix of issues that can impact organisational strategy. Conducting these analyses will support identification of the critical roles, among others, in your organisation. Knowing critical roles will help you prioritise your further actions. You will find more information on critical roles later in this guide.
Data and information gathering
- Where does data sit? There are multiple data sources you can use to gain insight for workforce plans, such as: organisational data, reports from published research, or talking to stakeholders. You need to know exactly where to obtain relevant data. Is it within a single system or multiple systems? Can I access it, or do I need to access it through others? Is the data within single reports, or does it require data meshing?
- What is the quality/reliability? You need to understand the risks when making assumptions based on the credibility of the data you have. Are there known issues with the quality and reliability of the data? What assumptions am I making?
- How often does it change? Consider what timeframes you are working towards – are they immediate, mid or long term? How current do you need the data to be? How often does the data change? When was it last updated?
- What are the gaps? Identify where the gaps are and agree with key stakeholders what parameters are acceptable to work with or not. Are there known gaps in some data sets? Are there complete gaps in data?
Where to look for data sources
There are numerous areas in an organisation you can collect data on your employees from, including:
- asking employees to update their HR records
- following up on record updates and tracking compliance
- running voluntary and mandatory surveys using software other than their HR systems (for example Survey Monkey)
- auditing their HR records and checking passport copies, relying on right-to-work checks completed when a person began employment.
How to gain deeper insight into your workforce
Once you better understand your organisation and your workforce, you can then segment your workforce data so that you can focus on roles that matter the most and that will make the greatest impact to organisational performance. You may segment your workforce data into: demographics, structures, hierarchy levels, job families, job roles, competencies, contract types, and so on, to gain a better overview of your current workforce. By generating insight into the makeup of your workforce, you can then identify any gaps or issues.
Once you have segmented your workforce, you could then further segment your workforce into key groups based on skills and value. How unique are the skills you’ve segmented to your workforce or marketplace? Do the skills add value to your organisation and contribute to its success or competitiveness? From there you can then identify and agree the critical roles based on their impact (as outlined earlier in this section). Remember – your critical roles are the roles that carry the greatest impact to your business, so make sure to do a critical role analysis to find out what they are.
A critical roles analysis
To take a longer-term strategic approach to talent, you need to identify the critical, strategic roles that will disproportionately drive value for your business in the future. This includes a thorough analysis of such roles and what makes people successful in them – including required qualifications, knowledge, skills, attributes, and experience.
You can identify critical roles by analysing their impact and ability to deliver your strategic goals by asking three key questions:
When asking these questions, consider:
Which roles have a strong impact on your business? Look at roles that would immediately and severely affect your business if the role were made vacant today.
Which roles have a unique skillset or knowledge base? Analyse the roles that help deliver business strategy. What is it about a particular skillset or knowledge base that makes them critical or unique to your organisation? Consider current and future roles.
Which roles have poor internal bench strength? Gauge how long it would take for an internal succession candidate to become ready to fill the role.
Which roles have low external candidate availability? Evaluate how difficult it would be to fill this critical role with an external candidate.
Which roles need to be filled urgently? Based on past conversations and eligibility to retire, indicate how soon you anticipate needing to fill a role.
A simple critical roles analysis can be started within your organisation. Looking at different roles and why they are critical, consider any additional demographic challenges and external scarcity of resource:
What is the role? Is this role unique to your organisation? How involved is it in strategy development? How senior is this role?
Why is this role critical? Is there only one person who can perform this role? Do they have specialised knowledge that is hard to replace?
What is the current workforce demographic? Do you have others with the right skillset internally? How many other people could do this role in your organisation or be upskilled?
What is the current external view? Is the role rare in the marketplace and difficult to hire for?
What is it?
The term workforce supply means the labour availability, numbers, roles, skills required and the timeframe to meet the business needs.
Why is it important?
Workforce planning is also about managing the supply of talent you have (or attracting it, then managing it). You need to be aware of the current issues around the changing nature of work and organisations in order to manage your workforce supply effectively. You need to determine your workforce needs and evaluate whether you have an internal supply of talent to meet your demands.
Forecasting is also important at this stage, as is understanding the labour market. An accurate internal supply forecast is critical in identifying risks that need to be closed. Knowing which individuals are at highest risk of leaving provides an organisation with sufficient time to address future workforce gaps with minimal disruption to the business. Forecasting your supply enables you to target replacements and knowledge transfer for critical roles and prioritise the gaps based on numbers required or those which are more difficult to fill externally.
What can you do?
Assess your workforce supply
You can determine your workforce needs on both a quantitative basis – by evaluating the supply by job role after turnover, retirement and internal job movement – and a qualitative basis – by reviewing capability and performance of people currently in jobs.
These are the areas you need to address to ensure an effective workforce supply:
- How good are your policies and processes at attracting and resourcing the supply of talent you need?
- How strong is your employer brand in attracting and retaining both internal and external talent?
- How effective are you at developing the existing talent you have and creating a future pipeline of successors?
- How effective are your reward and recognition policies at retaining the talent you need?
- Are you forecasting that supply of talent is likely to be an issue for your organisation?
Review the labour market
A labour market refers to the type of work that people who join your organisation are currently doing, and the geographical area they come from.
You can assess the labour market by asking the following questions of your organisation:
- Where do current staff live who are already doing this work?
- How far are they travelling?
- Are there other areas people may be willing to travel from?
- When you have filled jobs recently, what were people doing before and where did they come from?
- When people have left you, where have they gone? That is, to which kinds of employers in which locations?
What is it?
The term workforce demand means the labour required for an organisation to meet its business goals in the future. One of the hardest aspects of creating a strategic workforce plan is establishing a robust and useable supply and demand equilibrium. This is especially the case when there is uncertainty.
Why is it important?
This stage of workforce planning is about recognising how demand is structured, what drives it and what your workforce needs may be in the future. Demand planning helps you create a more accurate plan and enables you to use data to make more informed staffing decisions and evaluate changes that could impact staffing levels.
What can you do?
Speak with your senior leaders
To analyse demand, you will need to speak with senior leaders and gain knowledge of the following:
- Your organisation’s strategic vision: what is the plan for the next five years? Will there be any transformational changes, such as outsourcing or new systems?
- Your business’s growth ambition: what plans are there for growth or acquisitions, or are you restructuring and reducing operations in areas?
- Your customer requirements: what creates your competitive advantage? How are you responding to trends in the marketplace so you add value for your customers and meet their needs?
- Any applicable regulations: what existing or future legal frameworks might impact your organisation’s ability to operate?
- The potential scope for process improvement and transformation: what are the plans for automation and accelerating digital transformation? These may be able to offset skills shortages.
- Relevant technical innovation: how are you aligning your talent strategy to technological breakthroughs and how business models are changing?
Estimate your workforce requirements
There are a wide range of methods for estimating workforce requirements, and the approaches used will very much depend on the size and nature of your organisation:
- Asking: simply asking managers and department heads what they think will be needed and when is always a sensible starting point.
- Budget-based: use cost per employee to work out how many people you can afford to employ if the budget for an area of work has already been set. This is easy to use for annual planning in support functions, for example, but it does not necessarily challenge how resources are being allocated or link to levels of activity.
- Ratios: what is the proportion of employees to activity levels or of one group of employees to another? This works well in stable circumstances, where employee demand moves in line with activity levels.
- Benchmarking: this looks at ratios or costs in other organisations or between parts of the same organisation. It can stimulate questions, but does not necessarily represent good practice or take account of different work contexts.
- Extrapolating trends: for example, forecasting based on past increases in productivity, assuming these trends continue into the future. This is a good method to use for longer product/service cycles and where technology is not changing too rapidly.
- Forecasting: this is based on more sophisticated models, taking into account a range of factors including variations in demand across the year. This is helpful for broad-brush planning, but is only as good as the assumptions put into the model.
- Workflow analysis: this is based on a detailed analysis of the activities taken for each task. This activity is useful if your organisation is undergoing transformational change where the roles, responsibilities and capability requirements of individuals/job families are likely to change.
- Defining job families: employees working in positions belonging to the same job family require little training to perform one another’s jobs. Therefore, job functions within the same job family require similar competencies, such as knowledge, skills and capabilities.
- Zero-base demand estimation: this estimates the workforce you might ideally need rather than being based on what you have now, informed by a mix of the methods above. Organisations are often so blinkered by their historical job design, staffing patterns and numbers that they avoid the need to change these assumptions. Zero-base approaches can help to unlock new thinking about work design, productivity and flexibility.
- Scenario planning: this tackles uncertainty directly by looking further ahead at alternative views of the future. It is useful in assessing the risks of different organisation futures, but cannot predict what will happen.
These methods have different strengths and weaknesses and may suit different workforce groups or circumstances. They can also be used in combination. Most organisations need to understand workforce costs, but should not simply extrapolate costs without considering possible changes in work methods and productivity.
What is it?
Gap analysis involves working out the difference between supply and demand – what workforce your organisation has available and what it will need in the future. It is important to be clear about the gap and the challenges facing your organisation. Simply put, a gap analysis is comparing what you currently have with what you ideally need.
Why is it important?
A gap analysis is important because it helps you identify gaps (or surplus) between your current situation and the future state.
As Figure 4 illustrates, the gap evolves over time and enables you to forecast the quantity of people you might need: if you do nothing, the gap between what you have and what you need will get bigger. Proper interpretation of the gap between supply and demand will help you prioritise and focus activity on your action plan. It is not a one-time activity. It needs to be reviewed regularly, for different time periods, depending on the organisation’s need and conducted analysis.
Figure 4: Gap analysis
What can you do?
Deconstruct your gap analysis
When carrying out a gap analysis, ask the following questions:
- What are the current gaps between supply and demand and how are you managing these gaps? For example, are you using more contractors or drafting in resource from elsewhere?
- What are your future gaps between supply and demand and how are you managing these? For example, are you increasing hiring or training more people?
Address its key areas
Areas that you may need to address once you have carried out a gap analysis include:
- Availability lower than need: gaps where the likely availability of people is lower than your needs, so more staff need to be brought in, upskilled or developed. Maybe you are struggling to recruit enough people to fill vacancies or need to place current people into gaps via secondments.
- Negative gaps: where there is a surplus, or more people in certain groups or locations than needed. You may need to consider redundancy, relocation or redeployment if you have too many people and the work has ceased or changed.
- Skills gaps: where there are critical skill gaps or areas where you need to train or reskill, but you may also need to shift the kind of workforce you are employing over time.
- ‘Business as usual’: what are the continuous action areas where recruitment, staff development and redeployment will be required to keep additional needs in line with emerging changes in business requirements?
- Resource challenges: workforce groups where recruitment, retention or both present challenges and alternative resourcing options may therefore need to be considered. These gaps may cover all jobs in a particular group, or they may apply especially to some locations or teams.
- Workforce reductions: workforce groups and/or parts of the business where workforce reductions may be necessary; these must be well managed.
- Change in people and skills needs: change in the business strategy could lead to radical change in people and skills needs. Strategy change may be the result of competitive pressures, a new approach to product manufacturing or marketing, caused by emerging technology (fintech) or the desire to reduce costs (as in offshoring).
- Relocation and outsourcing: in extreme cases, resourcing difficulties may challenge the overall business strategy or prompt major areas of work for relocation or outsourcing.
What is it?
The action plan is where you establish the best way to close the skills and capability gaps identified between supply and demand.
Dave Ulrich and other HR thought leaders developed the workforce planning framework using a number of levers that can help HR and business leaders explore alternatives to closing the gaps. This framework consists of five talent management levers – buy, build, borrow, bind and bounce – and two demand optimisation levers – bot and balance. Sometimes we refer to these as the ‘7Bs’.
The five talent management levers
buy: acquiring the necessary external talent (recruitment, entry schemes, graduates, apprentices, pay and reward)
build: developing internal talent (progression, succession planning, L&D, talent schemes, high potential, diversity, culture)
borrow: contracting, outsourcing or bringing in (secondments, contingent labour, professional services, seasonal temps)
bind: retaining key employees and capabilities (pay and reward, contractual, tenure, return of service)
bounce: removing employees and using performance management (redundancy, redeployment, exits, secondments, partnership schemes).
The two demand optimisation levers
- balance: appropriate combination of the rest (operational transformation, budget, service levels, performance improvement, technology, organisational design)
- bot: use of automation to augment or replace existing capacity or capability (robotic automation, machine learning, cognitive automation).
Why is it important?
Understanding these levers is important, as they can help you formulate a plan and weigh up the alternatives for closing talent gaps. It is a framework that helps HR and business leaders plan their talent needs for the future by critically thinking about what they need to do to ensure they have the right capabilities to deliver the organisation’s strategy.
The five talent management levers
To buy is an effective method of acquiring new talent, to bring in new capacity and capability on a ‘permanent’ basis – in other words, to recruit. If the other workforce levers discussed below are unable or unsuitable to meet your organisational needs, hiring new recruits, though an expensive option, may still be considered. Consider which roles do you tend to buy in.
In an environment where costs and return on investment will need to be carefully weighed, hiring costs, onboarding and time to productivity for a new recruit will all be important factors in your decision to buy. And that decision should be made with reference to the seven ‘rights’ for your organisation.
Build and develop the talent you have rather than looking to external hires. Building is about developing needed capability internally. This includes all internal and external training courses and development programmes, supporting professional qualifications and studies. Review what talent-building activities you have in place.
Building rather than buying will have a number of benefits. Internal candidates will already have working knowledge of your organisation and its processes, and potentially many of the skills and relationships required to be functional in the role. Developing according to your needs can provide your organisation with a more tailored workforce. Visibly investing in people development and providing a pathway for progression will have the added benefit of improving your Employee Value Proposition (EVP). That said, building is likely to involve talent planning and investment over a longer term, and could be resource-intensive – for example, in creating development programmes, provisions for coaching and mentoring, and so on.
Borrow involves borrowing or utilising talent on a temporary basis, such as using contingent labour, consultants or secondments, or outsourcing skills. Consider where the opportunities are to borrow talent.
A way of reducing reliance on the external labour market would be to deploy staff from areas of workforce surplus (or where hiring is easier) to cover current or potential gaps. It will be necessary to test staff’s willingness to change work area and the extent to which retraining might be necessary, as well as its costs.
One option, particularly during times of uncertainty, is to increase the proportion of contingent or casual workers. These could be agency staff, or temporary or fixed-term employees, although these often come at a higher cost. The advantage this offers is ‘numerical flexibility’ – employers can flex workforce numbers more quickly in line with changing demand. The judgement that needs to be made is whether you can secure sufficient resources through these means, and whether this option will be better than permanent hires as set against your assessment of workforce demand.
Bind is to prevent workers from leaving (either a particular role, business area or organisation) and is a way to fix capacity and capability within the organisation. Typical approaches are to increase pay and reward, other retention schemes to improve conditions and incentivise longer service (for example additional annual leave), or include restrictive clauses in contracts. Consider how effective your retention strategy is at helping you retain key talent.
This is the opposite of bind – it is to move someone around or out of the organisation quickly enough. This is where you move capacity and capability either internally or externally. Consider how effective you are at moving people around.
This can include:
- redeployment (and use with build, reskilling of workers)
- exits (redundancy, and removing low or underperforming individuals through your performance management process)
- partnership schemes with other organisations (often in the same group) to move resource around.
The two demand optimisation levers
Balance ensures demand factors are reduced and balanced to align with the business strategy and your ability to implement change effectively. Consider how you can achieve the right balance or combination of the different approaches.
The importance of balancing and considering your costs is key to providing evidence as a base for any of your workforce initiatives. You need to highlight what the benefits are to the business and where you will be adding value.
Consider the following areas when it comes to balance:
- How well are you able to balance the demands in the way your organisation is designed?
- How balanced are the levels of hierarchy in your organisation? Are there too many layers and are demands on the spans of control untenable?
- How are you going to balance the demands of your strategy if it is not aligned?
Bot is the use of automation to augment or replace existing capacity or capability in the organisation.
An obvious way to reduce exposure to labour availability problems is to reduce dependence on people through some form of automation. Clearly, this will be a more appropriate option for some jobs, or parts of jobs, than others in the short term, but it is possible that many routine and repetitive jobs can be replaced by technological interventions over the medium term. By contrast, roles that involve ‘genuine creativity’, ‘building complex relationships with people’ and that are ‘highly unpredictable’ would not be suitable candidates.
If your labour source is interrupted or becomes more expensive, automation could provide a cost saving as well. However, decisions should reflect consideration of employment relationships, ethical responsibilities and appropriate workforce consultations.
What can you do?
Consider which levers you will pull to start developing action plans
What should you stop doing, start doing or continue doing under each of the workforce planning levers? The ideal state is to achieve a combination and balance of these levers to meet workforce demands. Remember the critical roles you identified earlier and recognise how you are using or could use the levers for better critical roles management. It is essential that the business owns the action plan and that HR enables and facilitates the plan.
Determine what you need to execute the plan
The initial plan needs to do three things:
- Detail the outcomes from the plan and the timelines.
- options (for example if sharing with key stakeholders, it can be beneficial to provide three options for them to choose, based on cost/timeframe)
- scenarios (for example, if our objectives are that, this is the plan; if our objectives are different, this is the alternative plan).
- Describe the journey to stakeholders. You need to be able to articulate the story in a compelling way.
Ensure success by establishing your key stakeholders
You need to consider who the primary stakeholders are that you need to influence, get on board, and collaborate with to help you with your workforce plans.
Typical stakeholders include:
- operational leads
- HR business partners and centres of excellence
- commercial and procurement
Understand what key components are needed
A typical action plan will include some of the following components:
- a demand management plan – to manage and optimise demand on an enduring basis
- a recruitment plan – of all permanent and contingent requirements
- an L&D plan – with all the learning interventions
- a redeployment plan – including promotions
- a relocation/estates plan – and possibly an outsourcing plan – all aspects
- where demand will be serviced by an external provision
- a number of non-business-as-usual projects – including automation and other one-off interventions.
Execute the plan using an action plate template
Once you’ve established what you need in your plan, you can then bring it all together. Use an action plan template, like the one below, to do so (you can print the table or recreate and adapt the table to suit your needs). An action plan template helps you understand what your key workforce issues and gaps are by consolidating them into one place.
In doing so, it helps you answer questions such as:
- What are the workforce gaps and issues to be addressed?
- What talent interventions will you use to address these?
Once your plan’s established, you can then move on to delivering it.
You need to ensure your work on creating the right workforce is in collaboration with key partners/stakeholders at every stage of the workforce planning methodology.
Consider the following:
- Managing stakeholders: communication, governance, monitoring and reporting, and execution are key components to the management of a wide range of different stakeholders.
- Roles and responsibilities: draw up a detailed RACI (responsible, accountable, consulted and informed) of who’s responsible for which part of the workforce plan.
- Plan the stages and work packages: get expert stakeholders to do this for each strand, from conception and initiation, definition and planning, execution, monitor and control, to benefit realisation, and report back to you as the workforce plan owner.
- Manage assumptions and risks: you to do this throughout the process and continue to monitor assumptions to ensure they are not flawed or wrong, resulting in higher impact.
- Utilise people analytics: to make real-time change to deal with specific challenges while the plan is in action on where you think you might have a problem; use data to explore if this is a reality.
- Manage a living plan: the plan is something that lives and continues to change: revisit assumptions, create a new baseline, iterate the plan, and manage change control.
As with so many aspects of business management and HR activity, it is better to make a start than endlessly defer or become trapped in analysis paralysis. Begin simple workforce planning by talking to managers about where the organisation is going and their resourcing concerns. The focus of your discussion should also include critical roles. Help them investigate what is going on and what might work better. If things feel very uncertain, work with managers to develop some simple scenarios to find out where actions may need to be contingent on unfolding events.
Remember, workforce planning is not a prescriptive process, nor is it intended to be an exact science. It’s about improving business performance and reducing organisational risk by narrowing the gap between a business having the people it really needs and who it actually has.
‘People are a business’s most important asset’ is a well-worn catchphrase, but one that is nonetheless true: ‘The right people, with the right skills, in the right roles, at the right time.’
Appendix: Workforce planning checklist
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