What Are the Steps in Workforce Planning?

January 25, 2019 by Josh Hrala

Workforce planning is one of those things that all HR leaders want to have completely handled, but can often fall to the wayside because other, more time sensitive things, can pop up. Despite this, workplace planning is vital if you want your company to thrive. So what are the steps in workforce planning? What should you do to start an initiative like this at your organization?

To help answer these questions, we’ll break down the simple question “what are the steps in workforce planning?” into five separate parts that can be easily applied to your organization.

First, though, the basics:

What Is Workforce Planning?

In short, workforce planning is a process used by organizations to help align the needs of the organization with its workforce. The process is continuous and should be used to keep a balance of talent that fits your goals.

In other words, workforce planning helps you understand what needs your business has and what changes to the workforce need to take place to ensure that they are all covered. This could mean ensuring that you have enough production staff to meet order requirements or even specialized staff members that can help keep regulatory issues up to snuff.

What you’ll find is that there is no 100 percent, surefire way to plan your workforce because every organization is different and requires different things to thrive.

So, for the sake of this guide, we’re going to use five key points that are more one-size-fits-all. However, you need to take these tips and apply them where applicable to your organization.

With that said, let’s get started.

What Are the Steps in Workforce Planning?: Step One

The very first step in all workforce planning initiatives is to do an ‘environmental analysis,’ which consists of looking at internal and external variables that are – or could be – impacting your business.

By performing an analysis of your business, you will understand, in basic ways, what talent you need to have present at your organization to meet your goals.

Environmental analysis (sometimes called environmental scanning) helps look at the bigger picture inside and outside of your organization. For example, are there any new regulations that you need to start to follow that were dictated by your local municipality? Did the EEOC issue new employment guidelines?

This could also extend to your suppliers, your business partners, etc. Basically, this type of analysis looks at the totality of your business and everything it touches to give you the big picture.

From there, you can start to move inward.

What Are the Steps in Workforce Planning?: Step Two

After you have looked at the totality of your business and have a good understanding of the internal and external factors that may impact you, you need to create a summary of your current workforce.

To pull this off, we recommend creating profiles of your staff by listing what their role is, what skills they have, how they are performing, etc. You should also take a look at the teams and how they perform together and what their goals are.

A good way to do this is to use a template. You can download ours here:

Download Our Workforce Planning Template!

In a perfect world, these teams would all be working towards a business goal. However, as most organizations come to find out, sometimes projects are no longer needed but the staff remains. This is the real goal of workforce planning as a whole: to find out how the workforce is working to meet business needs.

This second step should look into whether or not your current staff is working and performing well enough to meet your goals, whatever they may be. Once that is analyzed, you can move on to your future goals as well.

What Are the Steps in Workforce Planning?: Step Three

The third step in the process is all about looking at the future. You should write down what goals you have and skills and talents you may need to reach them. Then you can compare this list with the list you created in step two, allowing you to see if your current staff members are meeting all of the requirements to efficiently meet the new goals.

During this process, it’s not uncommon to find that you may need to hire new talent or train your existing talent in a way that helps your business moving forward.

For example, if your organization wants to move into a new product, you may need to find people with the knowledge to support that product. However, you should also take a look at your current talent pool to see if anyone is interested in learning something new. After all, many workers want to be developed as much as possible and may be willing to undergo training sessions to help with the new project.

Since this can get complicated pretty fast, the next step also has to do with future-proofing.

What Are the Steps in Workforce Planning?: Step Four

For this step, you need to take everything you’ve learned in step three and start to make an actual list of needs that will help ensure you are covered before you start new projects or initiatives.

By thoroughly examining what needs you have, you can start to understand if current employees will be up to task. For example, even if someone wants to be in on the new project, do they have skills needed to be successful?

Take this scenario, for instance: your new product is a mobile app that goes with another one of your products. To make the app, you need someone who is great at design, UI, coding, and a plethora of other skills. Even if someone on staff has rudimentary coding knowledge, they probably aren’t right for the job.

If that person is really interested and invested in this idea, though, it can help by having them work in some capacity on the project, allowing them to develop skills that they want to develop.

The goal here is to really nail down what you have and what you need while also seeing if there are ways to develop your current staff for the future. It can be tricky, but at the end of the day, your staff members will love the development options and will also appreciate that they do not have to completely learn a new skill for a brand new product.

What Are the Steps in Workforce Planning?: Step Five

Finally, we have reached step five in the process. This step is all about looking back at the previous steps that typically occur a little while after changes have been made.

If you have uncovered weaknesses in your workforce by analyzing your goals and your talent pool, you will likely make changes to help make your workforce as productive as possible. However, this isn’t a one-and-done kind of initiative.

In order for workforce planning to be effective, you need to constantly be checking in to see how things are working. Do your new hires fit into your organization on a cultural level? Are the developmental initiatives helping your workers become better at their roles? Have you cut down on redundancy?

In a way, workforce planning is cyclical. You analyze, make changes, and analyze again. This goes on and on, which is also a reason why so many organizations fail to utilize workforce planning at all. Those that do, however, have a leg up on the competition.

The Steps in Workforce Planning: Takeaway

Workforce planning is different for every organization. The steps detailed above are high-level insights into how workforce planning operates and what its goal is.

Put simply, workforce planning is all about making sure your business goals align with your talent pool. Ask yourself if your workforce has what it takes to meet goals, launch that new product, or fix any issues that have arisen. If they can, great! If not, it’s time to make some changes.

When correcting workforce planning issues, always take a look at your current workforce first. There are probably staff members in your current talent pool that want to learn new things, take on new projects, and better themselves. These people are ideal for new projects (within reason) and their development can seriously help your organization thrive.

Want to learn more about the steps involved in workforce planning? Check out our guide here:

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Josh Hrala

Josh Hrala

Josh is an HR journalist and ghostwriter who's been covering outplacement and offboarding for over six years. Before pivoting to the HR world, he was a science journalist whose work can be found in Popular Science, ScienceAlert, The Huffington Post, Cracked, Modern Notion, and more.

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