Your Secret to Business Success: Workforce Planning

calendar August 1, 2019

You already know that strategic planning and succession planning are important components to your business success. But what about workforce planning? Are you aware that this is also a critical piece of the business planning puzzle?

Types of business planning

The differences between strategic planning, succession planning, and workforce planning are subtle but important.

Strategic planning defines your organizational mission, goals, and objectives for a specific period of time (typically 3 - 5 years), and outlines steps to achieve them. This is big picture thinking.

Succession planning prepares for the unexpected departure of key leaders, identifies potential replacements, and uses that information to target employees for professional development. This is all about sustainability.

Workforce planning lies somewhere in between. It analyzes your current staffing to determine what human resources are/will be needed to accomplish desired outcomes of your strategic plan, taking staffing strengths, skills, and gaps into account. A good workforce plan will answer the question: Do we have what it takes to get the job done?

You can put together the best strategic and succession plans in the world, but if you don’t have the staff or talent needed to make them happen, they aren’t going to be worth much. This is where workforce planning can be extremely beneficial.

Putting workforce planning to work

Workforce planning will help you determine which organizational objectives are realistic and achievable based on current staffing. It can also identify any gaps that need to be addressed in order to make your strategic plan viable.

The process involves a complete inventory of current positions, skills, and limitations, with a focus on positions that are critical to organizational success. It provides information about team strengths and weaknesses and the financial cost of recruiting and hiring for specific positions and skills.

Once it’s complete, your workforce plan will be an extremely helpful short and long-term decision making tool with regard to structuring your team, developing your employees, and determining when to hire and who to bring on board.

How to do it

As with all business planning, your workforce plan should be created with great attention and care. If you rush through it just to check it off the list, it’s not going to do its job.

A good workforce plan includes several key steps.

Analyze your current workforce

Do you have adequate staff to fulfill each of the requirements and action items laid out in your strategic plan? Do any skills gaps exist? Do you need to do some external hiring or internal training?

Look for strengths and weaknesses

What skills and positions are serving you well? What talent are you lacking? Do you need to expand either of these areas for capacity? Do you have the right infrastructure to support this? How quickly do you need to have your team up to speed?

Put your plan in motion

Based on the information you have observed and gathered, create a comprehensive workforce plan complete with numbers, projections, timelines, and action items. Assign these things to specific teams or individuals for accountability, and communicate them clearly.

Tip: Implementation will only be successful if leadership fully commits to the plan and takes ownership of the process. Without buy in at the top, all of your hard work will be wasted.

Evaluate and adjust

Workforce planning shouldn’t be a one-and-done event. You’ll want to schedule regular check-ins to assess progress and make sure the plan is fulfilling its purpose of supporting organizational goals.

Are your key stakeholders actively participating or have they lost their enthusiasm? Are deadlines being met? Is progress being made? Have things changed in your market, economy, or business structure? Does your plan still seem attainable or do you need to reevaluate?

Planning your way to success

Adding workforce planning into the mix might seem like an added responsibility you don’t have time for. But not adding it into the mix could keep you from achieving the goals laid out in your strategic plan. And maybe even make your succession planning irrelevant.

Conducting a detailed analysis of current organizational resources and creating a plan that ensures you have the talent and tools you need to move forward will greatly improve your odds of success. And after all that work, success will feel even better and more well-deserved.