Workforce Planning Overview

Workforce Planning (PDF file) is a process that identifies the gaps between the workforce an agency has today and the workforce it will require in the future to achieve long-term success.

Workforce Planning (WFP) also includes the logical next step – identifying how to eliminate gaps in talent and develop the competencies needed for success.

Using the WFP model, an agency:

  • Analyzes its current workforce
  • Identifies future workforce needs
  • Establishes gaps between present and future workforce needs
  • Implements solutions so it can accomplish its mission, goals, and objectives

Effective managers need tools to project and shape their future workforces. Workforce planning is a management function tied to strategic planning or to business development plans. Human Resources Departments may assist with planning efforts by providing tools, guidance, and data.

Workforce planning puts the agency “one step ahead,” resulting in informed staffing decisions that benefit the agency in both the short and long term. More importantly, it helps organizations identify the most effective and efficient use of employees in creating a workforce that is, and will continue to be, flexible and responsive.

Whether agencies use the entire workforce planning model throughout the organization or use the model for one department or position, the process will begin to establish a new way of thinking about the workforce and the importance of considering the impact the workforce has on the success of the organization.

Many agencies already conduct pieces of the workforce planning process. They may have implemented a new recruitment strategy to address a shortage of qualified workers, or they may have implemented a new performance-management system tied to organizational outcomes in order to focus the organization on specific goals.

Agencies that commit to the development of a workforce plan will gain a thorough understanding of their current workforce and will identify the competencies that will move the agency forward.

Why is WFP important?

Workforce planning creates a roadmap to develop and retain talent. Planning enables agencies to identify the competencies needed in the future and then put in place systems to attract, develop, and retain people with these competencies. Workforce planning helps agencies anticipate and plan for change, rather than be surprised and unprepared for it.

Just as strategic planning is a management function so is workforce planning. Workforce planning is an integral part of any strategic plan. The Human Resources Department can supply considerable help in workforce planning by providing tools and employee data for the workforce plan. Organizations may also want their human resources staff to be part of their strategic/workforce planning process.

Workforce Planning:

  • Allows managers to identify more effective and efficient ways to use staff. This is critical as agencies are asked to do more with less money and fewer people.
  • Helps ensure that replacements are groomed to fill key vacancies. This is especially important as agencies face the dual challenge of more retirements but fewer candidates in the labor market to replace retirees.
  • Provides realistic staffing projections for budget purposes.
  • Enables managers to forecast turnover and plan recruiting and employee development.
  • Ensures that recruitment is focused and effective.
  • Identifies ways to maintain or improve diversity not only in the workforce as a whole, but in leadership positions.
  • Provides a clear rationale for making investments in recruiting, training, retraining, career development, coaching and mentoring, and performance management.
  • Helps prepare for restructuring, reducing, expanding, or reforming existing programs.
  • Allows managers to identify and prepare for new technology-driven competencies.
  • Enables managers to make strategic decisions about programs, budgets, and service levels. These decisions are based on understanding the gaps between the competencies currently in the workforce and the competencies needed for the future.