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What Is Strategic Workforce Planning? A Complete Guide

By January 19, 2022February 1st, 2022No Comments

By definition, strategic workforce planning means creating a hiring process that will make sure the right candidates are brought on throughout every step of your organization’s growth. Business leaders aim to develop a process that will proactively identify future hiring needs while filling current ones.

Human resources and business managers collaborate to determine a business’s long-term goals. They then develop a business strategy to make sure the current and future workforce are equipped to meet those goals. This means that thorough workforce plans can be a great help to growing businesses.

Let’s look at what makes a good strategic workforce plan and how your business can get started on theirs.

What Is the Purpose of Strategic Workforce Planning? 

Workforce plans are meant to set a team up to scale by making sure all internal needs will be addressed and growth will be seamless. Companies do this by anticipating future hiring needs and working to make sure the right people will enter the company at the right time. This also means identifying any skill gaps that currently exist within the workforce or may arise as the business grows.

The Four Components of Strategic Workforce Planning 

The main components of strategic workforce planning is making sure:

  • The Right People: Hires will be beneficial to the company and work well with the company’s culture, values, and needs.
  • With the Right Skills: New hires will have the right work experience and skill set to do their job correctly.
  • Enter the Right Job: New hires or promotions will be placed in a job that correctly uses their skill set and furthers the company’s goals.
  • At the Right Time: Hires or promotions will be immediately able to produce work that furthers the company along.

Strategic Workforce Planning Examples

A few examples of what strategic workforce planning might look like include:

  • Recruitment of new team members
  • Leadership development training
  • Global expansion initiatives
  • Career path development
  • Workflow optimization and streamlining

How Do You Create a Strategic Workforce Plan? 6 Steps For Success

Each business is unique and therefore has its own hiring needs and goals, so no workforce plan will look identical to another. However, there are a few guidelines that every business leader can follow when developing their own plan.

1. Analyze Your Current Workforce 

The first step to workforce planning is assessing what you already have. Look at your current roster and identify strengths and weaknesses. Determine what is going well within your organization and how you can become even stronger.

There are three main workforce issues that should drive workforce planning: your strategic plan, outside factors changing your workforce, and maintenance of your current workforce.

  • Strategic plan: Figure out how your workforce is meeting or not meeting your current goals and the steps that need to be taken to get to a point you’re satisfied with.
  • Outside factors: Determine which outside factors — like new competition, diversity initiatives, adopting remote work, or other factors — are going to affect your workplace.
  • Workforce maintenance: Decide how to strengthen your workforce with better training, new focus on employee wellbeing, or initiatives to boost employee engagement before you start looking to grow.

Tip: Internal surveys can help you gauge your employees’ satisfaction while you work to pinpoint issues affecting your organization.

2. Set Long-Term Goals For Your Organization 

Setting direct, actionable goals can help you figure out how and who to hire as you work toward them. Your goals should focus on your most crucial business needs and help set a trajectory for the way your business will grow.

Most businesses follow a S.M.A.R.T. framework for goal-setting. That means the goals will be:

  • Specific: Each goal should home in on one aspect of your business to make the goal direct and meaningful.
  • Measureable: Tie a tangible way of measuring success to each goal so you can prove you’re making progress.
  • Attainable: Shooting for the moon isn’t always the best option — your goals should be within scope for your organization within the designated time frame.
  • Relevant: Goals should align with your company’s business model, needs, and objectives to make sure you’re staying on track.
  • Time-Sensitive: Goals should be set within a specific time frame so you can keep moving forward and setting new goals.

Tip: Setting long- and short-term goals can help keep morale up by creating more opportunities to celebrate company wins.

3. Anticipate Roadblocks or Future Needs 

The key to an effective workforce plan is doing a little guesswork to anticipate future needs or potential roadblocks. By planning for these in advance, you can be ready to meet them head on.

Consider where you are now vs. where you want to be. How many staff members are currently needed to execute a project or meet a deadline? And if your business grows at the rate you’re anticipating, how many will you need in six months? If the projected number is larger than the current, you need to make sure you’ll have the staff on hand to meet deadlines.

Tip: You can also gauge your current roster’s bandwidth and burnout levels to determine how many new staff members will keep the team productive while prioritizing their wellbeing.

4. Fill In the Gaps 

Once you know where you are, where you want to be, and any obstacles that might stand in the way of getting there, you can start to fill in the gaps and finalize your workforce plan.

Identifying these gaps can help you fill roles with people who will help support your growth. It can also help you determine whether the needs can be filled with a greater number of employees filling your current roles or if you’ll need to develop new roles altogether.

For example, if you’ve been working as the boss with all of your employees as your direct reports, you may need to hire managers to act as middlemen so you can focus on other tasks and let them handle project management.

Tip: Once you start feeling like you’re never logged off, you should consider promoting employees to management positions.

5. Seek Help From Experts 

Developing a relevant, efficient, and actionable workforce plan may not come naturally to some business leaders. Third-party agencies that specialize in workforce optimization can help you nail down your business plan as you scale.

Consulting an agency to help identify your workforce needs and assist in hiring for those needs can help you make sure you’re not only preparing yourself for the future but also setting yourself up for a successful one.

Tip: For those growing globally, a third party is even more important. Globalization partners can make sure you stay compliant with labor laws while selecting the right candidates for your growth.

6. Implement and Adapt As Needed

Just like an adaptable workforce is important, so is an adaptable workforce plan. Your plan might give you a solid trajectory for your growth, but that doesn’t mean you won’t need to make adjustments as you scale.

More than likely, you’ll be confronted with situations and needs you didn’t foresee. And while your plan will be able to tackle the bulk of these needs, some may arise that weren’t accounted for. In these scenarios, you may need to revisit and restructure your hiring plan.

Tip: Keeping track of your goals and growth within those goals can help you pinpoint when you’re getting off track as early as possible.

What Are the Advantages of Workforce Planning? 

An effective workforce planning strategy can help make a good workforce great.

Addressing Current Workforce Gaps 

A workforce gap is a mismatch between what skills you’re going to need from your workforce as you scale and what skills your employees possess.

Looking toward the future can help you pinpoint any skill gaps in your current roster. This can not only keep your organization on track to grow, but it can also make sure your current roster isn’t going to become overloaded when expansion does start to happen.

Keeping Goals Met

New business leads, deadlines, and deals can feel like a snowball rolling down a hill for a growing business. And if you’re not careful, you could get buried. Workforce planning makes sure that the new employees will continue to be onboarded as the company grows and more needs arise. This makes sure business goals will continue being met and the business can keep growing smoothly.

Preparing for the Future

Workforce planning allows HR professionals and business leaders to create a long-term strategy that will see the company through years of growth. Once the strategy is in place, business leaders can then get back to focusing on their day-to-day tasks knowing that the organization is ready to grow when the time comes.

It’s Best to Plan Ahead 

Preparation is key, especially when looking to grow a business or go global. When taking your business overseas, you’ll need to not only have a firm workforce plan intact but also make sure you’re hiring the best candidates and staying compliant with labor regulations in your new locale.

A global partner can help you make smart hiring decisions and stay compliant with overseas regulations, so you can focus on your growth.