During John F. Kennedy’s 1962 tour of the NASA facility, he met a janitor who, when asked what he did for NASA, replied, “I’m helping put a man on the moon.” This shared vision and dedication allowed Apollo 11 to become the success it was — and it’s a reminder of the importance of a workforce planning strategy. 

Whether your aim is to land on the moon or increase your market share by 20%, the only way you’ll get there is with the right people, in the right place, doing the right things. 

This is what workforce planning strategies aim to achieve. In this post, we’ll dive deeper into workforce planning and also provide a comprehensive guide to developing effective strategies for your own organization.

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Introduction to workforce planning

Workforce planning is a strategic endeavor in aligning your future business needs and goals with your organization’s most valuable asset: its people. It’s not about simply filling positions. It’s also about getting the right number of people with the right skills in the right places at the right times. 

To do this, you not only have to look critically at your current workforce but also at the future needs of your organization.

The 5 key elements of workforce planning

There are five key elements your organization should consider throughout the workforce planning process.

1. Case Studies

Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Workforce planning examples can offer you timeless insights into strategies that have worked before. Professional business journals such as Harvard Business Review offer in-depth case studies on workforce planning that are comprehensive and insightful. Understanding these examples of successful and unsuccessful strategies will arm you with a blueprint to follow throughout the intricate process of planning your own workforce.

2. Template your approach

A workforce plan template is a modular document that provides a structured approach to workforce planning. Think of it as the recipe, ensuring all critical ingredients and steps of the process are being considered.

3. Documentation

A workforce plan PDF will help you communicate the plan across your organization. It should be laid out in a clear and comprehensive way, providing a reference point for HR professionals and managers.

4. Human resource management (HRM)

The integration of workforce planning in HRM is critical to a successful business strategy. These processes will ensure your ability to attract, retain, and develop the talent needed to drive your business forward. 

5. Scenario planning

Arm your HR team with examples that demonstrate how to anticipate future business challenges and prepare your workforce accordingly. 

Strategic workforce planning process

You begin the process by assessing and forecasting your current situation and future needs. Then, you create a workforce that can fill the gaps. Let’s take a closer look at how this is done:

Assessing current workforce capabilities

Start by understanding what you got. Conduct a thorough workforce analysis, evaluating the current skills, strengths, and weaknesses within your organization. This will then provide you with a clear picture of where you need to bolster your internal capabilities to meet future business needs. 

Understanding organizational goals and objectives

Planning your workforce requires understanding your organization’s goals and strategic objectives. You’ve done the work of figuring out the current skill set of your workforce. Now is the time to identify where you’re headed as an organization and whether this workforce is up to the task. 

The 7 R’s of strategic workforce planning

When it comes to creating the best strategic workforce planning framework, it’s best to consider the 7 R’s of strategic workforce planning:

1. Right size

Your workforce must be the right size to meet your business needs. If it’s too large, you’ll face unnecessary labor costs and inefficiencies. If it’s too small, you’ll overwork your employees and risk missing opportunities due to bandwidth constraints. 

2. Right shape

Getting the right shape for your workforce is about fitting the organization’s culture as much as its structure. Your workforce should be sufficiently robust but also flexible enough to adapt to changes. 

3. Right skills

Balancing the right skills in your organization requires understanding the current and future needs of the business. A well-crafted strategy focuses on helping your workforce develop competencies while also looking outside the organization through well-informed hiring efforts. 

4. Right site

You have the right people. Now you need them in the right place. Every workforce is different and will require different tools, resources, communication channels, and oversight. The goal is to maximize productivity and satisfaction among employees. 

Hubstaff’s workforce management tools are a great way to understand the needs and effectiveness of your organization across these metrics. With Hubstaff, you can: 

Hubstaff GPS, Route tracking, and Geofencing for web and mobile

5. Right execution

This is about bringing it all together. Ensure alignment with management, HR, and your employees throughout the execution of your plan. 

6. Right flexibility

Specialists are great, but sometimes having the right skills (our third R) is about having some flexibility, too. Be sure to hire some Swiss army knives. As your business needs evolve, you’ll be glad to have a flexible and adaptable workforce.

7. Right culture

Your workplace culture is the product of your workforce. Consider this carefully when hiring. That means prioritizing DEIA efforts, building trust, and prioritizing employee well-being

7 R's of strategic workforce planning

(Source: Canva)

The 5 activities of workforce planning

I hope you like lists because we’ve got another one. Now that we understand the R’s of workforce planning strategy let’s get into the five core activities that will help you operationalize your workforce planning. 

1. Data analysis

Leveraging data can help to inform your decisions, predict trends, and identify opportunities for improvement. Hubstaff offers advanced tools for tracking your organization’s data that lead to improved decision making, productivity, and employee satisfaction.

2. Forecasting

It’s crucial to anticipate the future business needs of your organization and the implications they will have on your workforce requirements. 

3. Strategy development

Develop methods for addressing skill gaps, leveraging strengths, and mitigating risks across your workforce. 

4. Implementation

A great plan is nothing without great execution. Successful implementation of your workforce plan includes recruitment, development, and restructuring initiatives.

5. Monitoring and evaluation

Continuously tracking and evaluating the effectiveness of your workforce planning strategies will ensure you’re always improving and making adjustments as necessary. 

Now that you know the fundamentals, let’s break down the steps to developing your own strategic workforce plan.

Forecasting future workforce requirements

Forecasting is essential to understanding where you’re headed, what you need in order to get there, and how you currently fall short. Organizations should develop data-driven insights to anticipate the skills, roles, and numbers of employees needed to meet future business objectives. 

Anticipating future business needs

Forecasting your workforce requirements begins with understanding your future business needs. Consider the goals of your organization as well as market trends, advancements in technology, and cultural shifts that will cause changes in demand for specific roles and skills. Your focus should be on identifying new roles as well as recognizing how existing roles will evolve to meet your needs. 

Technology and automation

We live in a fluid, high-tech world. Understanding and anticipating the technology and automation landscapes is crucial to ensuring your organization doesn’t go the way of the dinosaurs. 

As the world changes, your workforce must be prepared to adapt to these shifts—upskilling and reskilling as required to meet new demands. Furthermore, leveraging technology isn’t about replacing employees. It’s a method for enhancing productivity and innovation while also ensuring your workforce has the capabilities required to give you a competitive edge in the marketplace. 

Developing a talent acquisition and retention strategy

Attracting and holding onto the right talent is one of the most difficult challenges an organization faces. Even though there are plenty of fish in the talent sea, turnover is a killer of productivity and margins. In this next section, we’ll cover how your organization can get the right people, with the right skills, in the right roles at the right time.

Recruitment planning

It’s important to develop a strategy for attracting high-quality candidates to current and future roles. A strong employer brand can help with this. HR teams should also consider how they can effectively utilize a range of recruitment channels to pluck out the plums from their industry’s workforce supply. The key is creating a compelling value proposition for candidates that aligns with your organization’s goals and culture. In a perfect world, it also helps them get excited about the role. 

Retention strategies

Retention strategies can focus on anything from enhancing employee engagement and satisfaction to optimizing their work environment. Career development and progression opportunities also help to reward performance and ensure employees feel they’re advancing in their careers. The result will be motivated and productive employees who are aligned with your organization’s objectives. 

We’ve laid a foundation for forecasting workforce requirements and developing the talent acquisition strategy needed to get there. Let’s turn our attention to how HRM can be leveraged to implement a workforce planning strategy effectively. 

Employee Retention Ideas

(Source: Canva)

Implementing workforce planning in HRM

A great plan is a great start. But in order for you to develop the workforce that works for your organization, you need to establish alignment within your Human Resource Management (HRM) processes.

Workforce planning in HRM

There are a series of strategic actions you should consider when integrating your workforce planning in HRM. Let’s take a look at them below:

  • Talent Management. This includes developing, retaining, and utilizing talent to effectively achieve your organization’s goals and objectives.
  • Succession Planning. Remember that your workforce includes the leadership team. Identifying and developing potential leaders within your organization will help you foster the growth of a robust and capable group of future leaders.
  • Diversity and Inclusion. Studies have shown that a diverse and inclusive workforce can increase the effectiveness of your organization by offering a wide range of skills, perspectives, and experiences. It’s also 2024, and just objectively the right thing to do.
  • Employee Development. Offering your employees training and development opportunities will ensure they remain competitive and productive in a fast-changing market landscape.

Workforce planning models and steps

Organizations rely on various models and methodologies when considering how to effectively implement their broader workforce planning strategies. This provides them with a structured approach to analyze, forecast, develop, and implement strategies to address the workforce demand of the business.

Let’s take a look at some common steps in the workforce planning process.

  • Analyzing Workforce Data. Assessing current workforce demographics, skills, and capabilities will help you understand your existing talent landscape.
  • Identifying Future Needs. Forecasting is crucial for determining how business goals, market trends, and technological advancements will affect your organization’s future staffing needs.
  • Skills Gap Analysis. Identify areas of focus based on gaps between current capabilities and future needs.
  • Developing Strategies. Define the strategies that will help you address the gaps outlined above.
  • Implementation and Monitoring. Continuously monitor data throughout the implementation process so you can improve your strategies and adapt them to changing needs.

Now that we understand what it takes to implement a workforce planning strategy let’s explore how tools and templates can help you get the job done.

Workforce planning tools and templates

Workforce planning can be complex. Fortunately, there are many workforce planning tools and templates that can help you throughout the process.

Utilizing workforce plan templates

Templates serve as a framework for documenting and organizing your workforce planning strategies. Here are some things to consider when developing your own template:

  • Workforce Analysis. There are many tools for assessing current workforce composition and capabilities. This is an important step in identifying gaps.
  • Demand Forecasting. Templating the approach to predicting future workforce requirements can help you replicate the process as your business landscape evolves.
  • Skills Gap Analysis. Consider developing or making use of frameworks for identifying discrepancies in your organization’s current skills and future needs.
  • Action Planning. It’s important to develop guidelines for implementing your workforce planning strategy. This will include your approach to recruitment, development, and retention strategies.

Strategic workforce planning example

Let’s explore how an organization would make use of the 7 R’s to develop and implement their own agile workforce planning strategy. In our example, we’ll consider the frameworks and guides discussed above.

Imagine a company looking to pivot towards a more sustainable business model. 

  • Step 1. To do this, they would first identify the ‘right size,’ analyze current capabilities vs. future needs, and identify gaps in their sustainability knowledge.
  • Step 2. Focusing on the ‘right shape’ will then help them better integrate sustainability across their business.
  • Step 3. Next, they’ll need to focus on the ‘right skills’ and discover a need for capabilities in sustainable sourcing and green logistics.
  • Step 4. Reorganizing for the ‘right site’ will allow them to adopt flexible, remote roles that promote global collaboration.
  • Step 5. Then, the ‘right execution’ will be implemented as they upskill their current workforce on eco-friendly practices and hire new talent to fill any gaps.
  • Step 6. Then, the ‘right flexibility’ comes into play. Even a well-executed project will have snags. Build a contingency plan, prioritize employees with flexible skills, and prepare to roll with the punches.
  • Step 7. Finally, make sure you have the ‘right culture’ along the way. No matter how intense the project gets, don’t lose sight of your values. After all, culture issues lead to quiet quitting, retention issues, and a slew of other problems. 

Using the 7 R’s method, they’ll now be able to work towards solidifying their position as a sustainability leader in their industry.

This is a high-level example, but you can see how the guides and frameworks discussed would help to expand on each step.

Benefits of effective workforce planning

Here are some of the benefits of effective workforce planning. 

  • Agility. Your organization will have an increased ability to adapt to market changes and emerging trends.
  • Talent Development and Utilization. Effective workforce planning will help you maximize the productivity of your workforce.
  • Reduced Costs. Spend less on recruitment and increase productivity across your organization. 
  • Employee Engagement. Promote satisfaction, loyalty, and productivity amongst your workforce.
  • Alignment. When a workforce is aligned with an organization’s long-term goals and objectives, there’s no limit to what it can achieve.  

Landing the rocket 

Missions like Apollo 11 become a success because their entire workforce, from Neil Armstrong to the janitor, are all aligned towards the goals and objectives at hand. Whether your business is 400,000 people or 4 individuals, consider a strategic workforce plan to help you close skill gaps to reach new heights. 

Category: Workforce Management