Workforce Planning

Workforce Planning in an organisation helps you to realise the potential of your existing and prospective resources. Neathouse Partners can help you plan.


James Rowland

Commercial Director James leads Account Management, Sales and Marketing at Neathouse Partners.


24 August 2018


11 July 2024
3 min read

Workforce Planning involves ensuring that an organisation has the right number of employees, with the right skills at the right place in order to deliver an organisation’s short and long-term objectives.

It is a process that should be continually ongoing.

However, Workforce Planning is not an exact science.

The process is designed to align the workforce objectives and the business requirements more closely.

It must be distinguished from HR planning and the general creation of plans relating to people policies.

Workforce Planning must embrace changes in the composition of the workforce and job design. It may include:

  • Succession planning;
  • Flexible working;
  • Recruitment and retention planning;
  • Job design.

What Is The Point Of Workforce Planning?

Workforce Planning is a key aspect of people management and development, which is closely linked to business strategy.

It is a tool that should be used constantly to give the best outcome.

Research has found that managers only really use workforce planning when they are forced to, due to a restructuring or change in demand.

This, in turn, leads to snap decisions being made as they do not have all the relevant data.

Workforce Planning works best when it is considered fully and implemented over a period.

Hard And Soft Workforce Planning– What’s The Difference?

‘Hard’ Workforce Planning is primarily concerned with numbers.

It places a large emphasis on management information that can help understand the cause and effect of certain phenomena.

The numbers need to be analysed and understood within this context.

‘Soft’ Workforce Planning is more about developing a strategic framework, within which information can be considered.

There is there emerging realisation that good quality management information is a key factor in identifying and maximising the drivers of performance.

In order to achieve the best outcome for your organisation, it is best to take a stance somewhere in-between the two which ensures that good quality data is considered in the appropriate context to get the best input into the decision making process.

The largest budget for most organisations will be staff.

If you have a financial plan in place, you should be considering workplace planning.

If you do not have a workplace plan, it will hinder your ability to deliver your service plan.

Key Drivers Behind Workforce Planning

While many drivers will, of course, differ from industry to industry, there are a few drivers who are universally common.

Drivers can be divided up into internal drivers and external drivers.

Internal drivers:

  • Organisational or business strategy

Any changes to organisation strategy can have a significant impact on workforce planning.

  • Operational requirements

The need to effectively plan, budget and manage the recruitment process.

External drivers:

  • Customers and stakeholders

Different stakeholder groups can have an influence on the planning process depending on the context and sector.

In the private sector particularly, there can be pressure to satisfy the shareholders who expect to see annual returns, which take priority over long-term Workforce Planning.

Workforce Planning must also incorporate customer needs, with many businesses acknowledging the importance of customer retention and how it plays a part in their business plan.

  • Market forces

Includes social trends and other factors that are likely to influence future demand and the skills needed to deliver them.

Market forces also include labour market issues that might impact on the supply of appropriately skilled employees.

Workforce Planning: Where To Start And Implementing A Plan

Four main stages should be followed when implementing a Workforce Planning:

  1. Business strategy

Business strategy is influenced by three elements: organisational strategy, people strategy and operations planning

  1. Analyse and discuss relevant data

It may be useful at this stage for HR and business managers to structure their observations and predictions around resourcing requirements.

  1. Agree on the objectives of the plan

It should be agreed what the plan is trying to achieve and by when, and also when the plan should next be reviewed.

  1. Agree on the required actions and implement the plan

The plan will need to be communicated to all managers so that they know what action they must take to ensure the successful implementation of the plan.

Workforce Planning In Practice

For Workforce Planning to be effective in practice, it needs to focus on getting results, with the plan being reviewed constantly.

All managers should be in consensus about the plan and should be aware of their responsibilities to help achieve the plan’s successful implementation.

Managers should be supported throughout the process, and any comments or criticisms they have should be taken on board and fed back into the plan.

There is no one model for Workforce Planning that can be applied to every organisation in every industry.

Workforce Planning is about the development of processes and practices that suit individual organisations ways of working.

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