Workforce planning is a process, and as with any other process it is helpful to look at it as a series of steps ~ each with an output that leads towards successful completion.
The five step planning cycle presented here can support and guide you through the process of developing your own Workforce action plan to help you meet your changing workforce needs.
Each step is explored in detail, with questions, suggestions and links to additional information and resources provided as you progress.
Step 1 — Business context and environment
Workforce planning needs to be directly linked to your business goals, and so the first step is to think about your own business context. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What are my business goals and vision?
- Where is my business heading? Is it growing, downsizing, transitioning, shifting skills, introducing new technology or is it in a maintenance mode?
- What are the economic conditions that impact on my industry sector and markets and does this impact on my business?
- Who are my customers/clients?
- What is going on internally in my business and how will this impact on my workforce requirements?
- What are the short, medium and long term goals for my business and what workforce skills and capability will I need to achieve these business goals?
Having a good understanding of the current environment and context of the industry your business is operating in, as well as your goals for the future of your business, will help you to plan your workforce needs and develop strategies to turn your goals into business success.
Step 2 — Current workforce profile
What do you know about your current workforce?
For example, do you know the age, qualifications, skills, knowledge, experience, strengths, weaknesses, or any workforce issues of your staff? Perhaps your current staff have hidden potential that your business could use, or perhaps some staff may be underemployed and have the potential for training to up-skill them and transition them into new roles. Do you know what your employees’ plans are for the future, and know their expectations? Who do you expect may leave in the near or distant future?
You can gain a clear picture of your workforce’s strengths and development needs by doing a skills stocktake, analysing the patterns in your workforce data and discussing with your employees what their views are on issues, concerns or areas for improvement.
Refer to and complete the Current workforce profile and the Current workforce skills template. This simple exercise will give you a good base to work from when considering what your future workforce requirements may be and working out what might be missing.
Step 3 — Future workforce requirements
Based upon your business goals and vision, think about where your business is likely to be in two or three years time. Think about what is likely to shift and change. Think about your future products and services, markets, partnerships, stage of your business cycle and what your workforce needs may be. Consider all the possible scenarios that may emerge in the future. Now estimate what may happen to your workforce over the next few years. During this step it is also helpful to consider the following factors:
- the age of your employees and their retirement plans;
- the increasing diversity of the population;
- skill shortages;
- the different workplace expectations across the generations;
- personal circumstance; and
- that an employee’s development needs may change as a job role changes.
Once you have an idea about where your business will be in the next two to three years, and possibly in the longer term, think about what your ideal or desired workforce should look like and what skills they will need for your business in the future.
To help you with this step, refer to and complete the Future workforce skills template.
Step 4 — Analysing and filling the gap
Now you can take what you know about your current workforce and what you want your future workforce to look like and compare the two. This process is referred to as a Gap analysis. This will give you a clear idea about what the gaps are between the skills, staff numbers, job roles and experience of your current workforce and the workforce you will require to achieve your future workforce goals. Once you have this information you can start to build a workforce action plan to manage these gaps and achieve your goals.
Developing your workforce action plan
When developing your Workforce action plan, think about the areas that need to be changed, managed and developed. Then prioritise these into actions, responsibilities and timeframes (short, medium and long term) across the following key focus areas, which are all explored in Developing your workforce
Think about different ways to attract the right people, from the widest possible sources. This may involve redefining your job structures and recruitment and selection methods. It may also mean looking at a more diverse pool of potential employees.
Think about ways to get people working most productively for you. For example, do you have an induction program and training processes to develop your own talented people? Think about how you can plan for succession. Regularly review how you train and develop your staff.
Think about ways to build a positive culture and workplace where people will want to work.
Think about different things you could put into place to keep your talented, valued employees working for you, even during a downturn.
Think about how you can lead and communicate with your employees more effectively. Good leadership and communication skills are at the core of building a positive workplace.
Step 5 — Review and evaluate your workforce action plan
Once you have developed and started to implement your workforce action plan, it is important to think about how you will know if your plan is working.
By reviewing and evaluating your workforce action plan you can begin to build a road map for any future action that may be required. Ask yourself:
- Is my action plan producing the workforce results that I need?
- Do I need to take any different or further action?