5 Steps to Strategic Workforce Planning

Posted by HR Analytics on Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Having a strategic workforce plan enables organizations make smarter business decisions around their human capital strategies.  It is a way of ensuring that human capital is aligning with the goals and the overall mission of the organization.  It prepares organizations for the demands and challenges of the current and the future workforce.  Having a workforce planning strategy is a must if you want to have a high performing organization.  It is a lot more than having a staffing plan or succession plan although these are critical components of a workforce plan.  It is the full range of all HR activities and human capital strategies from hiring to retiring and everything in between because HR is one complex adaptive system where the activities, components, arenas, and everything HR-related all interact with one another.  Having a strong workforce planning strategy could mean having an effective hiring strategy, having a low employee turnover rate, or having a highly productive workforce.  And these correlations don’t usually happen independently nor by chance.  And it usually starts with having an effective workforce plan in place that aligns human capital with the company's mission and business strategies.

There are 5 key steps in developing an effective workforce plan.  

Step 1: Set direction and strategic alignment

-Define the mission of the organization

-Identify the priorities

-Determine current and future trends

-Ensure alignment with:


-business strategies

-human capital management initiatives

-Establish strategic direction

-Ensure operational readiness

Step 2: Analyze

-Analyze current workforce (demographics, competencies, etc)

-Identify the gaps (in hiring and in retaining)

-Analyze supply and demand

-Analyze the budget and the impact on HR

-Scan the environment (your competition, benchmark, emerging HR trends)

-Perform risk analyses (internal and external threats)

-Develop an understanding of the pipeline (future graduates and future recruits)

Step 3: Develop a plan

-Use the analyses to develop strategic plan (data-driven and evidence-based approach)

-Crosswalk HR to budget to ensure current and future alignment



-Identify and commit resources

-Create staffing plan and succession plan

-Ensure the plan is sustainable, flexible, and adaptable

Step 4: Implement

-Ensure coordination throughout the organization and among the departments

-Communicate and get everybody from all levels on board and on the same page

-Consolidate the plans, coordinate and communicate

-Execute the plans (from hiring to retiring)

Step 5: Evaluate

-Evaluate throughout the steps

-Have an evaluation plan right from the start -Develop an evaluation framework

-Define the goals

-Identify the metrics


-Improve, look for areas needing improvement

-Control, ensure continuous improvement

-Continue to ask at least 5 ‘why’s’ and determine root causes of any of the symptoms found

-Conduct formative evaluation throughout the first 4 steps

-Conduct a summative evaluation once the workforce plan has been executed -Ensure that inputs, activities, and resources are evaluated for effectiveness and connection to outcomes

These steps are high level summary steps.  What is meant to be illustrated here is a general framework that can help organizations, regardless of type, size, and mission, get started or at least start thinking about strategic workforce planning.  Each organization is unique and there’s no one-size-fits-all workforce planning strategy.  Remember to take these unique attributes into consideration when developing your strategy because what happens is you're building your workforce based on your company's mission and vision. You're building the workforce that will execute your business strategies and accomplish the mission.  

Having a high-performing organization usually does not just happen.  It takes some planning and some strategizing to make sure that there is clear alignment between your people and the mission.

Tags: workforce planning  workforce strategy  dmaic  strategic workforce planning 
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