Our 6 Steps To Strategic Workforce Planning Success

Workforce planning

Workforce planning answers some of a business’ most essential questions: Who do you need to employ now, and in the future? What should they bring to the role? What will they get out of it? How do you keep them?

HR leaders need to answer each of these questions for effective workforce planning to take effect. At the same time, though, they are also questions that address a much bigger issue…

How does workforce planning result in ‘workforce meaning.’ Why do people come to work and why do they stay?

Create clean HR reports in only a few clicks. Discover HR data with Personio.

What is Workforce Planning?

Workforce planning consists of analyzing and planning for the future of your workforce. This is done against your current supply of human capital, while assessing any gaps in your organization, ensuring you have proper talent management in place, and altogether finding out if you have the right people in the right roles.

Not only that but that those people have the right skills. This, then, helps them succeed in their roles to support your organization. Essentially, it’s about employing and deploying talent to keep things running smoothly.

More specifically, though, workforce planning encompasses:

AnalysisAnalyzing your current workforce.
ProjectionDetermining the future needs of your workforce.
IdentificationFinding gaps between where you are now and where you want to go.
DesignImplementing solutions to accomplish your goals.
Fulfillment Accomplishing your plan through your top talent.

Workforce planning might come across as a vague term. Especially when it comes to overall business strategy. But. it has a very straightforward purpose and reasoning behind it.

Workforce Planning: Technically Defined

Let’s start with the technical definition. The CIPD defines workforce planning as, “a process of analyzing the current workforce, determining future workforce needs, identifying the gap between the present and the future, and implementing solutions so that an organization can accomplish its mission, goals, and strategic plan.”

That’s a real mouthful. In simpler terms, to paraphrase AIHR Analytics’ description, workforce planning is about making sure your company has the right people. These people then need to have the right skills, doing the right jobs, at the right time, to help your business succeed.

Optimize Workforce Planning with Proper People Data


How much data do you have on your people? Using Personio, you can gain access to automatic insights and reports at the click of the button. Now you have clean data to power confident decision making.


Why Is Workforce Planning Important?

In today’s talent-based economy, the key element that keeps successful companies running is people.

But, as the SHRM states: “Despite its importance, this asset is often not carefully planned, measured, or optimized. This means that many organizations are not sufficiently aware of the current or future workforce gaps that will limit the execution of business strategy.”

As anyone who has ever experienced staff shortages will know, not having the right talent in place can cause enormous strain on a business. The professional services and HR consulting firm, Mercer, explains it well: “A weak pipeline or hidden talent issues can shake your organization’s very foundation before anyone has realized there might be a problem.”

However, if organizations are able to look ahead and plan what roles, skills, and people will be needed to meet their business goals now, and in the future, they are more likely to thrive.

Of course, this is often easier said than done. It involves a systematic, rigorous, and disciplined process combined with a:

  • Future-forward view of the world
  • Solid grasp of business strategy
  • Deep understanding of human talents and capabilities
  • Strategic, time-conscious, and thoughtful process

The future of work requires companies that are resilient, agile, and better able to adapt to change. In short, companies who have embraced strategic HR. Click here to download our whitepaper on business resilience.

Who Is In Charge Of Workforce Planning?

Together, line managers and HR teams have a role to play in both employing people and helping them stay with the organization. That said, the decision of what the workforce should look like in the future is often a mystery revealed only to board-level executives.

Strategic workforce planning is often designed to meet scenarios three-to-five years in the future. Therefore, it must be aligned with business needs and objectives. It also requires the knowledge and time to prepare a plan that looks at future business strategy and includes scenario planning.

This makes workforce planning particularly tough for HR leaders who already wear many hats and are notoriously short on time. Unfortunately, it’s only possible to be truly strategic once HR operations are running smoothly.

This means that finding the time and space to do workforce planning properly means getting the nitty-gritty admin of HR out of the way. That said, there are tools that can help make workforce planning a bit easier on you.

Do You Need Workforce Planning Tools?

Workforce planning tools can help offset some of the uncertainty surrounding workforce planning. That’s because it is an attempt to bridge the gap between where your workforce currently stands, and where it can go.

Check out our article about the top five workforce planning tools you can try today.

Six Strategic Steps to Optimize Workforce Planning

The National Institutes of Health Office of Human Resources has a helpful toolkit. It includes six stages of workforce planning which you can take a look at here.

Start by answering these questions:

workforce planning top questions

1. What Is The Plan?

Where is your business going? Where do you want it to go? What are the current goals of top-level management? Workforce planning needs to start from the top down, and it needs to be set out by some kind of vision or overall goal to work toward. Whether that is doubling headcount or increasing the amount of leaders.

How do you formulate a proper HR strategy, overall? Here’s our guide to the process. 

2. Who Do We Have Now?

The next step is to analyze the talent you have on hand. Who do you currently have working for you? What skills or training do they have? What seniority levels do you have a lot of? Take into account everything you currently have, ideally in the form of data and over a period of time to see how you’ve grown to this point.

3. What Do We Do Next?

Think about the space in between your current inventory of talent and your ultimate goal. So, what do you need next? Do you need more people? Different kinds of skills? More leaders? This will begin to inform you in terms of what you should do and what concrete measures you may need to implement.

4. Talent Gaps

Let’s dig a bit deeper. If we think about what we need to do next, first we need to think about what’s missing. What are the most pressing talent gaps in your organization? Which ones would help you reach your goal sooner? For instance, would hiring the perfect high-level executive help to recruit even more mid-level talent? Which gaps, when solved, turn into their own amazing opportunities for growth?

5. Fixes & Initiatives

To address those gaps, what will you do? Will you focus on campus recruiting, formulating a more compelling remuneration package or rewards for top talent? What kind of fixes will help address those gaps, help you take the next in your workforce plan, ultimately to achieve your goal.

6. Measure Results

Did your fixes work? How much closer are you to your goal? Here, analytics and reporting are absolutely essential, as they can track your progress over time against your goal. And, in a click or two, you should be able to have a report that you can use and bring to executive management.

Here’s how to create reports in an instant with Personio.

What Does Great Workforce Planning Accomplish?

Great workforce planning can help align what a business does, why they do it, and how their employees can add value to their day-to-day work. Of course, this is all when it’s done right.

That means making it clear who to hire, what skills and attributes to find, and determining whether someone is the right fit or not (and the why behind that decision).

It also involves ensuring that employees develop. In addition, that their development reflects on your business’ ability to get the best out of them. This can start with proper performance management cycles, which you can learn more about by clicking here.

Unfortunately, according to HROToday: “Most organizations rarely take the time to get to know people before they decide if they should hire them or not, and what role is the best fit for their behavioral DNA.”

Perhaps this is related to the burden of the administrative nature of the recruitment process?

Let’s say that, if HR leaders were able to remove some of that burden, they could focus more on hiring the right people that don’t simply meet skills requirements. They can find the right people to support the organization’s future goals.

How Does Workforce Planning Benefit Employees?

Now you understand the basics behind workforce planning. Next, let’s consider how it all relates to what your employees want and need.

Mercer puts it this way in their Global Talent Trends Report 2020: “It can’t just be about employee capacity and business unit alignment, [workforce planning] must recognize employees’ potential and engagement and be intertwined with the company’s technology roadmap.”

That’s a big ask. So, do you know what your employees want in the first place?

Sadly, the same report which gathered insights from 7,000+ people from nine industries and 16 regions says that two in five HR leaders say they don’t know what skills they have in their workforce today!

Even if we are able to track the skills that our employees currently have, running a thriving business by matching skills to business needs and pay grades is no longer enough.

Successful workforce planning requires a combination of:

VisionLooking ahead to the future of your organization.
PlanningTaking steps to best accomodate that future vision.
StrategyConcrete measures and initiatives that get you there.
HumanityAn understanding that people, your talent, will get you there.
EmpathyA focus on the human qualities of skills, work, and success.

Finding The Meaning Behind Your Workforce

Why do people come to work? Gone are the days where people simply worked to earn a living. Employees crave meaningful work. Therefore, when work has a purpose, it energizes people. Ultimately, that means employees are more likely to want to come to work, stay in work, and get more value from it.

They are also less likely to suffer from depression and other mental health issues. In fact, research shows that “Energized employees are five times more likely to say they are thriving and less likely to burn out (60% compared to 81% of energized employees).”

Turn Potential Into Performance

Ensure that potential is realized throughout your organization with effective performance management software. Develop your employees and watch your bottom line soar!


Starting Workforce Planning With HR Software

When you have all of your employee data in one, secure place, with the data and reporting to match, you can kick off workforce planning with an incredibly sturdy foundation.

So, the first step may be to implement a software that works for you. Personio can help. Click the button below to learn more about how we can provide all your employee data, in a GDPR-compliant fashion, with all the features to match.

Your Workforce Data
In One Place

How Personio Helps