Workforce Planning Best Practices: What You Need to Know

January 29, 2019 by Josh Hrala

When the topic of workforce planning comes up, many organizations claim that it is high on their to-do list. However, many organizations simply never start the process because it can seem daunting and time-consuming, especially the first time around. By using workforce planning best practices, though, you can seriously take the stress out of the whole the process, allowing you to properly align your talent strategy with your business goals and needs.

The good news, too, is that workforce planning best practices aren’t hard to maintain. In fact, by using them, you will be able to complete the process sooner than you may think.

To help, we’ve created an easy-to-use workforce planning best practices guide that you can download here:

New call-to-action

Let’s explore some of these practices together by first starting with the very basics.

What Is Workforce Planning? Why Is It Important?

Chances are, if you are reading this guide, you already know what workforce planning is. However, sometimes organizations mean different things when they talk about it. So, before we begin, let’s set the record straight.

Workforce planning, in simplified terms, is the act of aligning your talent with your business goals. You need to ensure that you have the right people performing the right jobs to make sure that your business is marching steadily toward success.

To do this, you need to have a firm understanding of what your talent pool looks like, what needs you have, and how your business may change in the future.

Workforce Planning Best Practices

Though this sounds like a no-brainer – of course you want to have the right talent to meet your goals – the process can seem incredibly hard to those that have never performed it before. In fact, many organizations say that workforce planning is one of their top priorities and also one of their biggest burdens because they keep putting it off.

What this means for you is that if you were to start workforce planning right now, you’d have a leg up on your competition (for the most part). And, with a plan on paper and some easy to use tools to back you up, the process really becomes quite easy.

With all of that background detail out of the way, let’s start to explore the workforce planning process in detail.

Workforce Planning Best Practices: Company Wide Collaboration

Now that we are on the same page about what workforce planning is we can start examining some of the best practices.

The first is to utilize your entire organization when starting your process. Instead of HR or a single person from upper management taking the full brunt of the work, spread it out.

You should ask for input from all levels of your organization by using a workforce planning template that your managers can use to gather the information you need to come up with a plan of action.

Download Our Workforce Planning Template!

You should also work closely with your budget team and finance department to understand how much your organization can spend on fixing issues you may find.

When all is said and done, this type of collaboration can help you easily collect a massive amount of data on your workforce in no time, freeing you up to start crafting a plan for the short and long term.

Workforce Planning Best Practices: Use Historical Data

In order to come up with that plan, you need to find a way to predict the future. Palm readers and fortune tellers aside, you can do this easily by looking closely at the data you have already collected.

Examine the patterns that occur at your business, paying close attention to times when your business succeeded and what your staffing levels were like at that time. It helps to break this down into segments (department, project, etc) so that you can see how all of the pieces fit together.

Workforce Planning Best Practices

When done correctly, you can see how your staffing choices have impacted past success, giving you possible insights into what you need to do in the present or future to meet your goals.

Workforce Planning Best Practices: Metrics, Metrics, Metrics


We can’t say it enough. There is nothing more impactful than cold, hard stats.

This means you need to calculate how you retain staff members to accurately come up with a churn rate for your organization. This step is important because it can show you how many new hires you will have to make this year regardless of projects. Then, once you have determined that rate, you can start to add what new hires you may need based on your goals, giving you a fuller picture of how your talent acquisition strategy is working.

Workforce Planning Best Practices

You also need to look at development plans, tracking the trajectory of your current staff members to ensure that they have the ability to move up and learn more at your organization (which should help you lower your churn rate in the process).

This type of analysis will also help you understand what gaps you have in your current workforce, which can either be patched over by using internal candidates to fill new roles or by hiring on a new person.

Regardless of the situation, you should track these stats as closely as possible so that you can accurately future-proof your organization and avoid common workforce planning pitfalls.

Workforce Planning Best Practices: The Buy In

This goes without saying, but you need to get executive buy in for a project that is this widespread. Workforce planning will impact every department at your organization, meaning that if you do not have the buy in of your leadership team, things will not change and you have, therefore, wasted time.

Plus, your upper management teams will be able to seriously help you look into the future because they are typically the ones setting the vision and goals. Ask them where they see the business going in five years. What new products will they want to sell? What gaps in talent do they see right now?

New call-to-action

Asking them a bunch of questions can be impactful to your plan, allowing you to align your workforce planning initiative with their goals (which are also the goals of the business). This is what workforce planning is all about.

Once all that is done, you’re ready for the final tip:

Workforce Planning Best Practices: Keep Going!

Workforce planning needs to be continuous if you want it to succeed. This is where a lot of people fail because they do the whole process once and forget about it after making initial changes.

Your workforce will change over time regardless of what you do. People will leave. People will retire. People will be promoted. At the same time, your business will change as well. Did upper management pivot to the new product? Did the market have a hiccup?

Workforce Planning Best Practices

Every time something changes, you should try your best to keep an accurate record of it on file. This is where step one really comes in handy. You should empower your managers to keep track of their own teams, reporting back to you the details every few weeks or months.

After you set the groundwork, keeping things updated doesn’t have to be a big challenge. It all comes down to sharing the workload and staying aligned with your business goals.

Workforce Planning Best Practices: The Recap

Using these five best practices can make your workforce planning initiative a lot easier to implement while also creating a system that will thrive long into the future.

You need to make sure you work as a team with your managers and staff members, pay close attention to historical data, track metrics, get the leadership buy in, and keep the process going even after you have performed the initial set up.

Want to learn more about workforce planning best practices? Download our resource here:

New call-to-action
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.

In need of outplacement assistance?

At Careerminds, we care about people first. That’s why we offer personalized talent management solutions for every level at lower costs, globally.

Speak with an Expert

Log In Contact Us