Employee development

Workforce planning: how to build a future-ready organization

Strategic workforce planning involves having the right people with the right skills at the right time. In this article, we explain the 6 stages of workforce planning and how to anticipate future workforce needs to prepare action plans that align with business strategy.

Ryan Carruthers

Published on 

January 18, 2022

Updated on 

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The work world is changing. A report by McKinsey forecasts over 17 million people will need to transition to new jobs in a post-COVID economy. And many of these will require additional training for their new positions. 

Statistics by PWC show that 74 percent of employees are prepared to learn new skills in an effort to stay employable. 

With all these changes taking place in the world and the economy, it’s an ideal time to create or update your organization’s workforce plan. Undertaking workforce planning requires some time and effort, but it’s crucial to creating a future-ready company. 

What is workforce planning?

Workforce planning refers to the ways that organizations plan and manage their talent. It includes analyzing what human resources are available within a company, forecasting what is needed regarding employees and working hours or tasks, and developing a plan—a workforce plan. This enables organizations to make the most of the talent they have and prepare a strategic plan to fill gaps in talent or employee working hours. Engaging in workforce planning is not only prudent, but it can help you connect to company objectives. 

Why is workforce planning important?

The role of HR has changed. Now more than ever, HR teams need to build future-ready organizations. They need to ensure the people and skills are in the organization when needed most. A good workforce plan can also help your organization with succession planning. Creating a workforce plan enables you to create a practical plan and strategy to guide you. 

A workforce plan ensures that HR is ready and prepared for possible changes rather than being surprised by shifts in talent availability. It acts as a framework when it comes to staffing planning decisions. Employers will stay up-to-date on what they need in future employees with a workforce plan. They will be better equipped for the hiring process and to make training decisions. 

Who is responsible for workforce planning?

It’s easy to wonder who should be taking charge of workforce planning. Managers and supervisors may feel it falls on their shoulders to organize, but the truth is your HR team should complete workforce planning. Within your HR team, appoint someone to manage the process. Senior leaders should also be involved to ensure the workforce plan aligns with the organization’s other strategies and objectives. 

What are the stages of workforce planning?

Workforce planning takes a little time and effort, and there are different stages during the process. These include:

1. Aligning with organizational strategy

It’s vital that the workforce plan aligns with organizational strategy. What direction the company wants to head in the next five or 10 years will directly impact the workforce plan. 

2. How much talent is available for hire?

Another essential element for workforce planning is determining what the labour market looks like right now and the forecast for the future. In other words, if your organization needs to hire employees, what does the competitive landscape look like?

3. What talent your organization needs

As part of the workforce planning process, your team will determine what talent your organization will need for future growth and development. This may include employees with specialized skills, technical knowledge or even strong marketing talent. Once you know the skills your organization needs you can move on to the next steps of upskilling or reskilling employees with those skills.

4. What’s the gap between supply and demand?

Compare the talent you currently have to what you’ll need for the future of the organization. Working this out gives you a good idea of the supply (your current talent) and demand (the skills you need). 

5. Close the gap

Once you know what your supply-demand gap is, you’ll need to develop a plan to close the gap. Your organization will have two choices. You can either hire new employees or develop a training plan for your current staff. Some companies consider building employee development plans, which help your employees gain the skills you need. 

6. Monitor and update as needed

Creating a workforce plan is one thing, but you’ll also need to track the plan and change it if necessary. Your HR team will create a strategy for ongoing monitoring. They should also define steps to update the plan or tweak it if things change. 

How to build a workforce that’s ready for the future

One of the best ways to build a more resilient organization is to connect employees together, whether with peers, mentors, or experts at their company. Social connections at work create employees who are happier, less stressed, and more engaged. It can also help you build a team that works together well. No matter what the future brings, you’ll need a team that collaborates and communicates effectively. 

Creating a connected culture at work isn’t as difficult as you’d expect. Here are a few ways to get started. 

Match employees with mentors

A workplace mentoring program allows you to build connections between employees. You can also use it as a way to train your employees and equip them with the skills you need, as defined in the workforce plan. 

In a separate article, we outline several considerations to keep in mind when matching mentors and mentees. If you’re at the stage of pairing employees the article is worth bookmarking for tips.

Another benefit for organizations with mentoring programs is that it reduces turnover. Employees are more likely to stay with a company if there are opportunities for growth and development. 

Start peer learning programs

Encouraging your employees to learn from one another through peer learning programs is a great way to embrace knowledge sharing. These types of programs are ideal for helping your employees build collaborative working relationships. 

Peers will gain a new understanding and respect for one another through these sessions. There are several key benefits of peer learning that make a compelling business case for why companies shouldn’t leave peer development up to chance.

Encourage a learning culture

Cultivating a learning culture at your workplace will help your teams develop additional skills and talents that can lead your organization into a strong future. Invite employees who have deep knowledge of industry subjects to share their wisdom with others at your company. You can do this by organizing formal workshops or training sessions or offering optional online training where employees can learn at their own pace. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that e-Learning programs aren’t a silver bullet for employee training. Companies still need programs that connect employees with one another, not just learning content.

Workforce planning at your organization

Workforce planning is crucial to building a future-ready workforce. And a key part of executing the stages of workforce planning is to connect employees together. Not only does it aid training and development, but it builds better workplace cultures. That, in turn, helps attract and retain talent, a crucial part of workforce planning. 
Find out more about how Together can help you build a strong and resilient workforce for the future.

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