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Sample Workforce Planning Tool: How to Get Started

January 31, 2019 by Josh Hrala

Using a workforce planning tool is the easiest way to tackle a new workforce planning initiative at your organization.

Not only can tools help you get the process started by helping you easily examine your current workforce, they can also help you continuously monitor how your talent and business goals are meshing together, which is vital if you want your long term workforce planning initiative to thrive.

So what is a workforce planning tool? Do you have to spend thousands of dollars to get started on this journey and depend on an outside vendor to meet your goals?

The short answer: nope! You can design and implement a workforce planning tool using nothing more than Excel, Google Sheets, or your favorite spreadsheet program. Also, if you’d like to check out our free workforce planning tool – ready for you to customize – you can download it here:

Download Our Workforce Planning Template!

To help you understand how to use a workforce planning tool in greater detail, let’s explore the topic in a bit more detail.

What Is Workforce Planning?

First, a refresher: workforce planning is an initiative to better align your workforce with your business goals in the short term and long term.

In other words, workforce planning is a thorough, continuous examination of how well your talent matches your needs by first looking at what talent you have available now, what talent you may need in the near future, and what talent you will need further down the road.

By implementing a workforce planning initiative at your organization, you can find where you need to strengthen your talent pool, where you can cut redundancy, and what talent you are lacking.

While this sounds simple on paper, many organizations have said that workforce planning is one of the hardest things for them to perform because they perceive workforce planning to be a daunting, time consuming process.

In the end, this means that a lot of people want to start workforce planning but never do, which is sad because with proper planning and tools, workforce planning can give businesses a serious boost.

This is also why we recommend using an Excel-based tool to start workforce planning as early as possible.

Here’s how you can get started:

Using a Workforce Planning Tool: The Four Steps

Workforce planning tools, in short, are just ways to track data. You need to gather intelligence about your current workforce, and then compare it to your business goals in the short term followed by the long term.

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You can start this whole process in four easy steps (which you can read about in greater detail here). Let’s take a look at an overview of them now:

Step One: Environmental Review

The first step in the workforce planning process is to review your ‘environment.’ This means you need to look at all internal and external factors that are affecting your business now and in the future.

These factors could include regulations, the general economy, vendors in your supply chain, and many more. The goal of this step is to paint a very big picture of everything going on so that you know what’s happening and what’s important for your success.

Step Two: Review Your Workforce

Step two is to look inside your organization and create an accurate depiction of your workforce. This is really where a workforce planning tool starts to come into play. You need to list out all of your staff members, their roles, their skills, their development plans, what projects they are currently working on, etc.

You really can’t have too much information so we recommend collecting as much as you can. To pull this off, it’s best to have managers use a workforce planning tool to collect data on their individual team so that you can add everyone together to create a map of your current workforce.

With these profiles in hand, you will be able to understand if you currently have any gaps in your talent pool, if there are any employees who need developed or trained, and if you have any redundancies.

Step Three: Review Needed Skills

Step three is all about looking at what skills you need to keep achieving your business goals. Do you have a project coming up that requires a designer, but you don’t have one on staff? That could be a possible hire in the future.

Or, do you have a staff member who does design work as a freelancer outside of their day-to-day? They might jump at the idea of doing design work for your organization and will probably cost less money. You were able to know that they have design skills because you’ve already created a profile of them in step two!

The short of it is that step three is about looking at your goals and understanding if what you have right now in terms of talent is enough to help you meet them.

Some people divide this step into two parts: identifying needs and then ensuring you have the talent, but others lump them together. It’s completely your call here.

Step Four: Continuous Monitoring

The fourth step is the weirdest because it’s not really a step at all. Instead, it’s a reminder that you will have to continuously monitor your talent if you want your workforce planning initiative to thrive long term.

Workforce planning is not a one-and-done project. Every few months (maybe once per quarter?) and every time you have a new hire, create new profiles that showcase what talent you have available. Then, compare that talent to your business goals to make sure that they align in the proper way.

Using a Workforce Planning Tool: Takeaways

As you can see from these steps, a workforce planning tool is really anything that can help you keep track of a massive amount of talent data.

We recommend using a template – like the one available at the end of this article – to help get you started crafting your very own workforce planning tool that you will have the power to customize and use at your organization as you see fit.

In the end, if you keep proper track of your talent and your goals, you will give your business a serious boost and a leg up on the competition.

Download Our Workforce Planning Template!
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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