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Strategic Workforce Planning: A Comprehensive Guide

Comprehensive knowledge about strategic workforce planning. Learn what strategic workforce planning is, why it’s important & steps to develop your plan.


By ActivTrak

4 numbered blocks to symbolize the steps in strategic workforce planning.

In today’s fast-paced and ever-changing business landscape, organizations need to stay ahead of the curve. This means strategically leveraging their most valuable asset — their workforce. Strategic workforce planning (SWP) helps organizations align their human capital with their business goals to ensure long-term, sustainable success. 

What is strategic workforce planning?

Strategic workforce planning is the systematic process of determining workforce requirements and devising strategies to fulfill gaps in what's needed today compared to the tomorrow. It involves analyzing current workforce capacity and capabilities, and predicting future talent needs to drive growth, manage risk and achieve your strategic objectives.

What is the purpose of strategic workforce planning?

The goal of strategic workforce planning is to help companies plan for current and future needs. By aligning workforce resources with business goals — through processes such as headcount planning — organizations can be sure they have the necessary skills, capabilities and capacity to meet evolving market demands. Strategic workforce planning helps to ensure organizations have just the right amount of employees at all times to prevent understaffing or overstaffing. It also ensures companies don't end up in a situation where they're missing crucial skills to run operations.

Benefits of strategic workforce planning 

Strategic workforce planning helps organizations prepare for known changes as well as unforeseen issues. Beyond aligning human resources and talent departments with overall business strategy, SWP helps organizations retain employees and minimize the costs of hiring and training, as well as recognize and fix talent gaps, and improve recruiting and hiring processes. Productivity and performance can also be improved with SWP. 

Examples of strategic workforce planning

There are many ways a company might engage in strategic workforce planning including:

  • Gathering data on workforce engagement and productivity through employee monitoring
  • Assessing workforce capacity and workload balance to inform planning and recruiting
  • Addressing employee turnover through employee engagement and training programs
  • Introducing training programs to help employees achieve career goals
  • Developing leaders through workshops and outside training programs
  • Analyzing technology’s impact on employees

5 elements of a strategic workforce plan

There are many ways to implement an effective SWP. Prioritizing these five initiatives will help you do so most effectively:

  1. Defined workforce goals: The first step is to clearly define what your organization needs — whether that’s to grow headcount, improve leadership or increase the engagement and productivity of existing employees. These workforce goals should match your company’s business strategy. 
  2. Cross-team alignment : Workforce changes affect every department, which means everyone has a stake in SWP. Leadership should be involved to ensure proposed plans and processes align with existing strategies and policies. 
  3. Talent management strategies: SWP should include talent acquisition goals and other ways to address skill gaps. Expanding your workforce may entail exploring alternative recruiting methods, or you may find that hiring from within effectively meets your needs. Headcount planning is critical to effectively managing workforce capacity and workload balance to achieve your talent management goals.
  4. Financial planning and budgets: As with any new program, it’s important to budget for your SWP. This may include new-hire salaries, employee performance bonuses, recruitment bonuses and more. 
  5. Technology needs: Technology is an important part of any SWP. Determine which programs or apps you’ll need to monitor productivity, recruit new talent, train employees and measure success. 

4 Steps to create a strategic workforce plan

Workforce planning is an ongoing process. There are several interconnected steps to ensure a holistic approach to your plan: 

1. Identify business goals

The first step in SWP is to clearly define your organization’s business goals and objectives. Strategic goals must include the company’s mission, vision and values, as well as its short- and long-term goals. Aligning  your workforce plan with your business goals ensures that your human capital strategy supports your organizational strategy. 

2. Analyze the current workforce

To effectively plan for the future, you must understand your current workforce status. This involves the composition of its skills, experience, demographics and performance. By identifying your workforce strengths, weaknesses and gaps, you can develop strategies to optimize talent utilization, address skills shortages or surpluses and reward high performers. One way to do this is to conduct a skills gap analysis. Another way is to use employee monitoring software such as ActivTrak to improve visibility into employee productivity and engagement. 

3. Predict future workforce needs

To anticipate future workforce requirements, consider external factors that may impact your talent needs. This includes economic conditions, technological advancements, regulatory changes and other market dynamics. Proactive headcount planning  will help you identify gaps in skills and roles, and make data-informed business decisions. 

4. Documentation

Analysis of current and future workforce needs will help you develop and document a comprehensive strategic workforce plan. This plan should outline the strategies and actions you’ll need to acquire, develop and retain necessary talent. It should include recruitment and selection strategies, training and development initiatives, succession planning and performance management processes. It should also consider diversity and inclusion goals to foster a culture of equality and belonging within your organization. 

Put a strategic workforce plan into action at your organization

Strategic workforce planning can help your organization gain competitive advantage in talent acquisition, retention and performance. But it requires visibility into workforce productivity and performance to optimize business outcomes. 

ActivTrak’s employee monitoring platform helps you spot trends in workforce productivity and performance to help you better allocate and balance workloads. ActivTrak also provides insight into employee disengagement to help you prevent burnout and improve employee retention. You can also see which technologies help or hinder employee productivity, as well as which processes may need adjustment to help employees more effectively do their jobs.

 Get in touch today for a free demo and learn how ActivTrak can help you with strategic workforce planning.

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