What Is Workforce Planning

One big differentiator of high performing organizations is maximum and constant leverage on the power of people. To a great majority of people outside the human resource management space, this may sound too simple. But the big challenge is this, having great potential is not a guarantee for getting the biggest market share or making the most profit. This is where strategic workforce planning comes into play.

Perhaps, if it feels like one of those overwhelming HR industry jargons, don’t worry. Below is a simplified definition. Probably, with an increased understanding of what it is, you’ll have a better opportunity to accomplish the exact goal you have in mind for reading this post.

What Is Workforce Planning?

In simple terms, it is a systematic process of planning for maximum utilization of existing human capital as well as unfolding future needs. As part of strategic labor cost control, workforce planning ensures there is no shortage of worker or skill set when required. On the other hand, it takes into account a plan that eliminates into incidents of surplus pool of talent that may costly and underutilized at the same time.

While it seems like a purely HR function, people from other departments are often required to make useful inputs. This ensures seamless compatibility of talents and skillsets from hiring to onboarding and actual performance of specified jobs.

So whenever you are intending to make a real commitment in this regards, do not exclude workers from other departments or job roles within the organization. This is one big mistake that many starters often make. You can do better than them. Regardless of industry or location, there are several key factors usually involved in successful workforce planning. Let’s dig in a bit into the core fundamentals.

Components of Strategic Workforce Planning

Proactive Thinking – This is the basic foundation of successful workforce planning. And it follows the proactive principle of act or be acted upon. I first learned about this from Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The major premise is that you don’t have to wait for external forces to push you or your organization into doing what you can.

With regard to workforce planning, you can follow the same principle to identify talent gaps in your current operations as well as forecasting future needs.

Resource Utilization – Unless you are actively taking the initiative, it will be nearly impossible to uncover where there are surplus and underutilized talent that may be costing you money. In this case, you don’t have to limit your thinking or plans to future hiring needs. At some point, a simple and planned redeployment could surprise you in terms of positive impact.

Responsiveness To Opportunity – Both within and outside your workplace, responsiveness demands a higher level of alertness towards demand and supply of talent. On a different perspective, this has to do with the speed of response to emerging recruitment opportunities in your industry. This is important because top talent doesn’t come to market every day. A little delay in your hiring process could result in a loss.

On-Demand Hiring – Here is another component in a strategic workforce planning process. The unpredictable rise in customer demand or support request could put you off while your competitors are moving fast at the speed of light. The fact here is that on-demand hiring and redeployment plans could help you get through the unpredictable times successfully. I guess you’ll rather choose to be prepared than surprised. Besides, you should be looking for ways to align talent needs to overall business growth plans.

People Analytics – Obviously, people analytics is becoming a popular and distinct function within HR. But the thing here is that if your organization has a kind of people analytics program in place, you can leverage the workforce related data sets to gain strategic planning insight.

Interestingly, the above mentioned components will give you a broad view of how to get steps. From analysis to planning and execution of workforce plans, these are the key components. However, you don’t have to follow them in a specific order or even take any of these points into account at all.

Benefits of Successful Workforce Planning

Increase Utilization of Talent

This is one practical benefit of taking a proactive approach to get maximum value from the workforce. First, it starts with constant analysis and identification of skill gaps and surpluses. With your findings, you’ll be positioned to make better decisions regarding who is working is what role and for how long.

Growing Competitive Advantage

To make it more practical, competitive advantage in any form doesn’t have to be static. It has to be ingrained in your organizational culture. These are the reasons why HR should take the lead. For example, having strategic plan anchored on proactive thinking could give you a slight speed edge when it comes to recruitment of top talent in your space. In the other way round, this could enable your organization to take advantage of business or market opportunities more than the majority of your competitors.

Consistently Progressive Business Cycle

For any reason at all, if you take a reactionary approach to workforce related issues, your business could be struggling through a constant of instability. On a complex scale, this may affect your customers, clients or suppliers. When that happens, a sudden loss in any of these dimensions will affect your level of progress and consistency. This is one of those areas where proactive workforce planning will help you weather storms when they arise. Consequently, the multiplier effect will always prove positive on your business.

Understandably, you really have to get started in order to experience these and other benefits of workforce planning. Do it very well and you may be able to discover other surprising benefits in the process.


As you can see from the above paragraphs, workforce planning involves many different variables. Worthy of note is the fact this is not an exclusive HR function. Hence, monopolizing everything within HR is likely to produce limited or bad results at the end. Finally, the two broad perspectives to look at it from are the present and future needs. So don’t dwell too much in the future that is probably not 100% within your control.

Hansica Kh.