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Workforce Planning Processes, Models, and a Step-By-Step Guide

Workforce planning

Optimize your workforce for success with these essential tips, from forecasting headcount to succession planning: we'll show you how it's done!

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Priyaanka Arora
November 25, 2022

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Workforce Planning Processes, Models, and a Step-By-Step Guide


To usher in improvements in key aspects of your business, it is essential to undertake a planned approach. Any decisions based on hunches or guesswork are unlikely to yield the desired results.

This rule also applies to your workforce: you need the right professionals in the right positions at the right time. Whether you are at the helm of affairs in a start-up or are a part of a leadership team at a big enterprise, workforce planning must be a key part of operations. 

What is Workforce Planning?

Strategic workforce planning is defined as a process to ensure that an enterprise has the right professionals deputed at the best position suitable as per their profile. Workforce planning also entails analyzing, forecasting, and planning future workforce needs.

While charting out the workforce planning steps, HR leaders also need to factor in the profile of existing employees and if they can be promoted, shuffled, or up-skilled to meet the requirements of the company. 

Some of the essential activities that are an integral part of a workforce planning process are talent gap assessment, existing employee management, and recruitment strategy development.

Having the best talent to execute the business strategy is pivotal for business growth. But still, many companies fail to invest adequate time and resources to analyze their present and future workforce needs. With a well-executed workforce planning process in place, you can accurately forecast your future workforce needs and ensure optimal utilization of resources.

A perfectly executed workforce planning process ensures that the right talent is present in the company to drive growth and achieve the desired results.

Workforce Planning Models

Workforce planning is an ongoing exercise to not only retain, recruit, and train your employees but also regularly assess their performance. Having workforce planning models will certainly help with the entire process. Here are some of the popular workforce planning models that you can select from: 

  • Equilibrium Model: This is one of the most common workforce planning models. In this model, analyze the past data to determine key metrics like churn rate, retention rate, and others. With this analysis, you will be in a better position to future-proof your company based on the present workforce status. But if you are a new company and have no such data to refer to, you can look at data related to your competitors or industry norms. It is never too late to start collecting your HR data. If you haven’t started yet, start now as this exercise will come in handy in future. There are no hard rules to follow here, and you are at will to customize the model to meet your specific needs. Your only focus here will be to plan the company’s future based on present and past trends.
  • Deterministic Model: This is one of the workforce planning models where you focus on developments that are likely to happen in future such as retirements or promotions. For instance, if some managers are due for promotion or retirement, you will need to plan for their replacements in advance. There are many such future events that can be accurately predicted at least a few months in advance. So, you need to take them into consideration while analyzing your workforce requirements to identify any imminent manpower needs in near future as well as in the long term.
  • Flow Model: Here, you need to assess the ongoing developments in the company and then ask some simple questions to determine the course of action. For instance, if your product development team is creating a new AI-powered offering, then you will need salespersons with experience in AI to handle the sales. You can either choose to hire new employees, up-skill existing employees or hire freelance consultants. To get this model right, company leadership must work in coordination with the HR team to ascertain the hiring priorities based on changes taking place in business goals. Ultimately, workforce planning is all about aligning business goals with the right talent.
  • Optimization: This is one of the less popular workforce planning models where you attempt to comprehend how to leverage the present talent to achieve the business goals. This is a backwards-looking approach where you first define your business goals and then start working backwards to learn the changes to be made to achieve those goals. Though, with so many variables in the equation, it is not possible to design this model manually. You will need a workforce planning platform to help you run multiple models and what-if scenarios in minutes. As such, you will be able to better analyze the data and understand the steps to be followed to achieve the goals.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution available for determining the best workforce planning model for your business. Some of these models are extremely easy to implement while others would require using workforce planning software. In most situations, you will need to optimize them to suit your business needs. The best approach would be to try the one you feel meets your needs the best and if it does not work, then move on to the next best option. Remember, the entire workforce planning process is being undertaken to align your employees with the business goals.

Step-By-Step Guide to Implementing A Workforce Planning Process

Creating the workforce plan is only the beginning, the biggest challenge is implementing it. Here are the workforce planning steps to follow for a successful implementation:

  • Define your business goals: Before you go on a hiring spree, it is essential to understand your present and long-term objectives. It will be better if you can be as comprehensive as possible while defining your business objectives. This will help you determine the key metrics that you ought to monitor to measure the performance of the plan.
  • Assess your current workforce: The next workforce planning step will assess your present employees. Through HR analytics you can gain useful insights related to the current personnel including demographics, skills, experience, and many other aspects. This exercise will offer you a better understanding of the quality and quantity of your present workforce.
  • Identify your future workforce needs: In order to understand your future workforce needs, you need to analyze skill gaps in your workforce. This will enable you to forecast your long-term needs and prepare for the accompanying challenges. You can then start looking for the best solutions to meet your needs. The solutions could be hiring new employees, retraining present employees, or hiring contractors.
  • Develop a recruiting plan: Here you need to explore different workforce planning models and select the best option for your workforce plan. The ideal workforce plan would factor in your long-term goals and present workforce profile. The plan should also factor in every contingency and scenario that you might face.
  • Implement your workforce planning process: Now it is time to implement your workforce plan. Here, have processes ready for capturing relevant data and the HR executives must properly understand their new responsibilities. There must be ongoing communication between all stakeholders to overlook the implementation of the plan.
  • Evaluate and adjust your workforce planning process: Workforce planning is an ongoing process that requires constant monitoring. Regularly measure the performance of the plan against the specified goals. There can also be some unexpected events within the company or the industry. In such situations, adjust the workforce planning process to keep the company on track.

Tips for ensuring successful implementation of your workforce planning process

Here are some useful tips to help you ensure the successful implementation of your workforce planning process: 

  • Long-term focus: Workforce planning is a strategic process. So, your focus should not only be on short-term needs but on long-term business objectives. This would help ensure the success of the business in the long term. 
  • Prioritize: With the workforce planning process, you need to prioritize the needs of the company. Critical roles that are crucial to the success of the long-term success of the company must be handled first and then to other profiles. 
  • Decide the future path: You need to analyze the future path you want your company to take. This will help you ascertain the most important profiles that can help the business remain on track to achieving long-term goals. 
  • External advice: Workforce planning is an extensive and ongoing process that would require considerable time and resources. So, you may seek assistance from outside professionals or consultants to help with the implementation of the process.

Reviewing the outcomes of your workforce planning process

After the workforce plan has achieved some of the key milestones, it is essential that you review the outcomes of your workforce planning process. This will help confirm that the plan is aligned with the long-term business strategy. 

Another step in this process will be to measure some key metrics to determine the success and optimize the plan accordingly. You should also invest in an integrated business planning platform that can process the data and prepare detailed reports from which you can draw actionable insights to further optimize the planning process. 

After your initial implementation of the workforce planning process, your business objectives might have changed. If your company has changed the direction of its operations, you will need to take a fresh look at your workforce planning process.

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