workforce planning

Your Practical Guide to Workforce Planning and How to Deliver Results [2021]

Life on Earth hasn’t survived for billions of years by remaining stagnant. It has adapted and evolved to survive in changing environments and climates. So too must your organisation. You need to make sure your business is constantly changing and evolving to meet consumer and industry demands or it will be left behind. This is where workforce planning comes in.

Workforce planning can help you identify the areas that need to change or grow in order to ensure that your organisation meets its long-term objectives. In many ways, workforce planning can be thought of simply as supply and demand. Once we know what we have, and then we understand what we need in the future, we’ll know what is required to fulfil our workforce plans.

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What is workforce planning?

Workforce planning (WFP) allows you the to predict future workforce needs and align your workforce with your organisational goals. It includes analysing your current workforce and identifying future workforce trends and the gap between current and future resources. The commonly quoted definition is “having the right people, in the right place, with the right capabilities at the right time”.

Infographic of workforce planning purpose

Where does workforce planning fit?

Workforce planning is required to be front and centre for any organisation with designs on hitting company goals. CEO setting the strategy? Incorportate workforce planning. Leadership completing business planning based on the strategy? Incorportate workforce planning. CFO’s office conducting financial planning based on business goals? Incorportate workforce planning. You get where we are going. All organisations thrive based on having the right people. And workforce planning is integral every step of the way.

So, what does this mean for HR leadership? HR strategies, as it relates to company strategy, should have significant weighting given the outputs from workforce planning. HR strategies, worked on over many months, should be fit for purposes for not just your current workforce, but future workforce too.

How workforce planning impacts the resourcing agenda

Recruitment and resourcing of new talent into a business is a reactive game. A need arises and the organisation is immediately on the backfoot in looking for the right candidate to fill this need, and all this in the shortest possible time and at a cost to hire that is acceptable to the business.

Proactive recruitment is nothing new, and for all intents and purposes proactive recruitment is the cornerstone of external agency recruitment. So how does workforce planning fit into the resourcing agenda? By having a deep understanding of what talent you need in the future, and what you cannot access from your current employees and/or upskilling these current employees, you have a clear map of required talent. This then gives your talent acquisition team a clear plan of what talent pipelining to begin.

How can workforce planning benefit your organisation?

Here are the top 10 benefits to strategic workforce planning:

  1. Company strategy will not be held back by lack of current employee understanding or talent pipeline requirements.
  2. Better investment decisions in talent are made due to alignment of strategy with workforce plan.
  3. Organisation costs decrease as talent gaps are identified early and addressed (reduced recruitment spend plus strategically aligned employees learning investments).
  4. True visibility on current employee universe so as to ensure maximum deployment of your current talent.
  5. Business continuity is protected against changing macro factors due to visibility of talent to quickly deploy the right people.
  6. Ever wondered how workforce planning improves productivity? WFP empowers people leaders to manage their business functions effectively knowing they have full talent visibility.
  7. Organisation attrition is transparently talked about and discussed in the sense of business impact, with transparency creating action.
  8. Enables better staff management through full visibility in annual leave, long service and average personal leaves.
  9. Leads to higher employee engagement as investments in their future tally up with the organisation requirements creating a stronger bond towards common goals.
  10. All this leads to organisations having a competitive advantage in their market and improving performance.

How do you document your workforce plan?

The Australian Public Service Commission is advanced in their understanding of how to document your workforce plan. They have created the following suggested outline that asks all the right questions of how to document your workforce plan (including skills, performance, strategy, the right steps and covers internal and external factors).

“Suggested workforce plan outline

1. Introduction

a. Project plan and planning approach

b. Stakeholder engagement plan

c. Workforce segmentation document

2. Demand analysis

a. Demand analysis (current and future)

b. Alternate futures analysis

3. Internal supply analysis

a. Workforce profile

b. Skills and capabilities profile

c. Employees survey

d. Internal supply analysis (current and future)

4. External supply analysis

a. External supply (current and future)

b. Future external supply

5. Gap analysis

a. Gap analysis

6. Workforce strategies

a. Risks and options analysis

b. Action plan

c. Approval.”

How to streamline your workforce planning technique

Using a workforce planning process is key. There are four essential steps when it comes to perfecting your workforce planning technique, with each step adaptable to your organisation.

Infographic showing the four essential steps to perfecting your workforce planning technique

Step 1: Create a workforce plan guide or map 

Before you get started, you need to decide if you are creating a strategic workforce plan or an operational workforce plan. Ask yourself what your organisation’s strategic priorities and business plans are, as well as what the current macro environment affects are in the market.

Secondly, consider what the talent acquisition market looks like. How easy or difficult is it to currently attract or retain top talent? What are the high-level drivers you need to consider in this area?

Step 2: Gain a deep understanding of your current workforce data

The common challenge you will face here is data availability, data visibility as well as how to create meaningful insights from the data you are even to get access to. When you begin to collate the data you need, consider that you will need information such as:

Once you feel you have a robust picture of your current state, you can then transition to the future state.

Step 3: Create a roadmap of requirements

Based on the results from step 1, know what strategic priorities you have, but you also want to know what the workforce will need to look like in the future to deliver them. You’ll look at the jobs required for the future as well as what the right skills and competencies are that you will need to have within the organisation.

You can then marry the current state established in step 2 to the future state and have a clearly demonstrated gap analysis that shows where you need to be investing in the upskilling of current employees. You’ll also get an idea of what types of candidates you’ll need to attract to your organisation in the future.

Step 4: Establish a plan to meet requirements

Once you know what your current state is, what your state needs to become, and what changes need to happen to reach that future state, you can create a plan to get there. Work on your plan with key stakeholders to determine what plan is best suited to your business and its business objectives. The strategy you decide on should identify which gaps need to be addressed, as well as which areas need to be given priority.

How are workforce planning objectives implemented by management?

The act of completing the workforce plan in itself is not the endpoint for the workforce planning team. While having accurate and timely information and data is an important step, the underdiscussed, and under-executed, next step is a robust roadmap for success with management.

The first step is to engage management with the findings of the workforce planning cycle. After that, create a detailed roadmap of actions to be taken to ensure that the workforce plan is actually acted on. A clearly defined roadmap of actions, with full accountability and work-in-progress meetings will ensure the plan is fully utilised. Keep in mind this includes not just upskilling your current employees, but also ensuring you build a relevant pipeline of talent.

What are the pitfalls to workforce planning activities?

Workforce planning activities such as the steps outlined above aren’t always foolproof. In other words, they come with a number of pitfalls to be mindful of. Depending on how you carry them out and with what, you might be opening your workforce planning process to error and inefficiency.

For example, it’s common to find the following in the workplace:

These can raise a few red flags such as:

Manually produced and stored methods of data collection and communication such as these are easily lost or changed. However, switching to technology that automatically updates and stores information in a secure environment can ensure that all the above pitfalls are avoided. It will remove the chance of human error, miscommunication and unsecure data. Plus, it will also streamline and speed up the process of your workforce planning activities.

Conclusion

Workforce planning is a company priority, and it impacts the overall ability of the organisation to deliver on its primary goals. In other words, where workforce planning is not prioritised at all levels of business and simply falls into the human resources “to-do” bucket is where a company’s plans begin to unravel.

Whilst we know there are numerous benefits such as ensuring that you are a high-performing organisation, driving employee engagement and improving talent acquisition, we also know that it is not a simple job to be done.

Key steps in delivering enviable workforce plans include:

The ultimate goal is to understand internal and external factors to ensure long term decision making is empowered.

Any questions? We’d love you to get in touch so we can help you take action.

Book a call today with the team at Panorama and let’s discuss how to drive efficiencies in your workforce planning through digital transformation of WFP processes.