What Are the Steps in Effective Workforce Planning?

Workforce planning is usually at the top of the to-do list when it comes to strategy, but when it comes to assigning resources, it often falls below more pressing needs. Still, given that your employees are arguably the most valuable asset your organization has, it’s worth prioritizing. Part of the problem is that many organizations just don’t know where to start, making that first leap into the process seem overwhelming.

Let’s break down the process, step-by step.

Understand what workforce planning means to your organization

Effective workforce planning is achievable for any organization, with the right methods and strategy. Having a “hire to retire” mindset is a great place to start. The planning process takes into account your current workforce and tries to anticipate future talent and recruiting needs. But it’s not just about staffing—it’s a holistic approach to recruiting, hiring, employee onboarding, and organizational design to help guide your organization’s resources and decisionmaking.

Evaluate your current workforce

The best place to start is by looking at the resources you already have: your employees. Is your organization fragmented into fiefdom-style departments, each with its own process and hierarchies? The org chart is a good starting place, but the number and structure of employees isn’t the only thing to consider. As you review your workforce, ask:

  • How long has each employee been here?
  • Are there long-term employees who may be approaching retirement age?
  • Does the current landscape match the organization’s needs now and in the near future?
  • What are the current gaps?
  • Are there any trends or recent changes in the industry that could create gaps for us?
  • What is the current cost-to-hire?
  • Do we have strong internal candidates to fill any gaps or openings?

Doing a comprehensive talent assessment now will save you money, time, and energy as your workforce plan changes.

Think about the future

No plan can perfectly predict the future, but based on your internal assessments, you can start to plan for that future. Time to pull together your business plans and goals, and compare them to your talent assessment.

  • Do you have the resources you need to meet those goals?
  • With your current workforce, are you well-equipped to weather trends and changes in your industry?
  • What is your supply, versus the likely future demand?
  • Are there employees with the potential to be “groomed” for future business needs within the organization?

Your organization’s business plans and existing strategy can be measured against trends in your field to anticipate what your organization’s likely needs will be.

What gaps will you need to fill—and how do you fill them?

Having reviewed where you stand and what your organization’s future might look like, what are the anticipated gaps that could interfere with your organizational strategy? There are a number of ways to approach these as you go through the workforce planning process.

  • Identify opportunities for training and developing current employees.
  • Evaluate your recruiting practices—are you recruiting in the optimal places to fill your organizational needs?
  • Ensure each part of your organization has a transition plan for transferring knowledge and coverage.
  • Target your recruitment toward talent gaps, not just immediate staffing needs.

The workforce planning process doesn’t exist in a bubble. When done as a fully resourced and focused part of your organization’s strategy, it can help ensure that your best asset is ready for anything that comes.

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