The most common definition of workforce planning (WFP) is "having the right people, in the right place, with the right capabilities at the right time".
The key principles of WFP are about:
- Identifying future business directions and workforce needs
- analysing and understanding the make-up of the current workforce (through demographic staff profiling, SWOT analysis, environmental scanning etc.)
- determining the necessary skills, capabilities and competencies required to achieve strategic and operational goals in the future
- developing policies and strategies that will assist in achieving these goals.
Therefore, at a basic level, WFP is about predicting future workforce needs.
WFP provides leaders with a framework for making informed staffing decisions which are in line with the organisation's strategic and operational goals. This is opposed to reactionary or "knee-jerk" staffing decisions that may seem right at the time, but eventually turn out to be ineffective in supporting the strategic directions of the organisation.
WFP also provides a mechanism for integrating a range of human resource strategies that can assist with the attraction and retention of staff in a systematic, equitable and strategic way, such as through the use of:
- competitive remuneration arrangements
- professional development opportunities
- succession planning
- flexible work practices
- family-friendly working arrangements
- other employment conditions tailored to individual needs.
A workforce plan provides a strategic basis for making human resource decisions. Some of the benefits of WFP include:
- the ability to identify more effective and efficient use of people at work
- enabling effective planning in relation to the "demographics" of the workforce to ensure business continuity
- enabling proactive management as opposed to just-in-time management or management by crises
- the development of a range of alternative courses of action to meet changing market environments
- assisting to ensure that all managers have sufficient information available to allow them to manage their business costs effectively
- developing better business managers
- assisting in the management and planning of leave (e.g. annual, long service, personal etc.)
- planning for skills development of existing staff
- targeting training expenditure to achieve value for money and benefit to the individual and the organisation
- understanding issues associated with retention and turnover so increases or reductions in staff are managed appropriately and cost effectively with minimal impact on the workforce, individuals and to the business.
The alternative to WFP is to make staffing decisions in an ad-hoc or reactionary way that does not support the longer-term goals of the organisation. This type of decision-making may lead to:
- a workforce that is inflexible and does not have the necessary capabilities to deliver future services necessary for an organisation to achieve its goals
- operational goals that are inconsistent with the organisation's wider vision and strategic focus
- an inability to attract and retain high quality staff, due to irrelevant or inconsistent human resource policies and practices
- a workforce without diversity that does not represent the wider community
- staff development resources being funnelled to activities which do not support the strategic goals of the institution
- under-utilisation of staff
- increased staffing costs
- a lack of leadership and succession planning
- poor management decision-making.
Human Resources supports workforce planning through the provision of:
- management information reports on workforce data
- advice on such processes as needs analyses and skills audits
- advice and guidance relating to equal opportunity requirements
- advice and guidance relating to employee relations requirements
- advice and guidance relating to change management.
Frequently Asked Questions
For more workforce planning, please see our FAQs and other resources below.