An Outline of a Strategic Workforce Plan

In the June Journal of Corporate Recruiting Leadership, I’ve got an article about strategic workforce planning — a multi-functional discipline encompassing several human resources functions spanning a long-term planning period.

You’ll get much more detail there, but I wanted to whet your tastebuds with this sample paradigm for a workforce plan.

I. Workforce Analysis
a. Organization’s vision and strategy
b. Comprehensive internal employee analysis of core workforce
c. Analysis of labor market relative to your organization’s core workforce
d. Recruitment patterns
e. Turnover patters
f. Retirement patterns

II. Labor Projections
a. Forecast of anticipated core workforce needs
b. Demand of core workforce in the broader market — competition
c. Alignment to organization’s strategic plan

Article Continues Below

III. Gap Analysis
a. Documented disparity between where your organization is and where your organization needs to be over time (5 years, 10 years, 15 years)
b. By core workforce job category
c. Aggregate hiring needs

IV. Close the Gap (talent management)
a. Succession plan
b. Workforce development plan — training and education of staff; partnership with community education and training institutions
c. Retention plan
d. Recruitment plan
e. Compensation and benefits strategies that target the core workforce (total rewards)

John Elliott has nearly 20 years of HR leadership practice; most recent portfolios include HR directorships in tertiary and quaternary healthcare delivery systems and academic teaching hospitals. He joined Dartmouth-Hitchcock in 2007 and his current responsibility is director, recruitment Services.


6 Comments on “An Outline of a Strategic Workforce Plan

  1. John,

    Great outline…and I look forward to reading your full article.

    Quick question…

    In my experience, to get companies to take this type of approach to workforce management depends on the type of company they are. I have seen success, to some degree, when the “company’s business” was a “consulting” type model or a service type business model where if they don’t have the right people on staff/bench…they don’t have revenue.

    For companies that delivered products, rather than services, most companies think transactional and that’s as far as you are going to get. HR/Recruiting will remain a “spend” and not a form of “revenue.”

    Any thoughts on getting company buy in where a company makes and sells a product to think of workforce management as a strategic/tactical process and not just reactive?

    Also, I don’t see workforce management in the toolbox of too many recruiters…if any. What type of person would lead or see this type of program through the hurdles of gaining success (long term) at a company?

    Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

  2. John — Great to see this topic on ERE this week. We use a similar framework when we train companies on how to do WFP. One of the differences is that we distinguish WFP from Succession Planning a bit more. This can be a very murky area and where there is murkiness, there is risk of some leaders becoming less engaged in the WFP process.

    I have found it helpful to say that WFP seeks to solve the gaps in capacity/capabilities for specific ‘roles’ (e.g., Sr. Engineer), whereas SP tends to be focused on specific ‘positions’ (e.g., Sr. Engineer of Aerospace Hydromechanicals, currently held by Jane Doe).

    Sean — The output of a robust WFP should be an input to the recruiting strategy, so I don’t think the recruiters themselves will be expected to own/drive the WFP process. The WFP is often executed through a ‘Center of Excellence’ model — a team within the HR function that gets the tools and processes lined up and engages the business line managers along with the HR Business Partners and recruiters. The COE will need a range of skills to do this, ranging from business acumen, to communication/influence, business strategy knowlege, and some level of analytical skills. In the end, the business line managers need to own this with support from HR/COE, otherwise it will not be nearly as successful. This has been proven out in our WFP research.

    Nicholas Garbis, Sr. Consultant
    Infohrm — Global Leader in Workforce Planning, Analytics, and Reporting.

  3. Hi, Sean,

    You bring up a great point. I believe we have to bring the right metrics forward and educate Executives on the economic impact of HR services and deliverables. It’s hard to do and honestly, I’m not sure we have done a good job of quantifying the strategic and economic impact of HR. Metrics such as Human Capital ROI, Human Capital Economic Value Added, Human Capital Operating Margin Factor, etc., to name a few.

    I think some companies may see Recruiting as a expense because we have not demonstrated the ROI of Recruiting. Some will always see HR as expense simply because we don’t directly generate revenue. My mantra is, “we generate the revenue generators”.

    Workforce planning is so much more than Recruiting. It’s multi-functional, inter-disciplinary and complex. That’s probably why it’s not in many recruiters toolbox. I believe it will take a Executive champion who believes their organization needs SWP (strategic workforce planning) and someone who is credible, comfortable with the quantitative pieces, strong in data analysis, good communication and presentation skills, credible, strong collaborator, good persuasion skills, knowledgeable in the various elements of workforce planning, and a lot of energy and passion.

    Thanks for your comments and questions.

    Very best!


    Thanks for your comments and questions.

  4. Hi, Nicholas,

    Thanks for you comments. I’m thinking succession planning is one element of a comprehensive, long-term, strategic workforce plan. I’d like ot know more about your experiences in this area. Also, I like your definitions. I think we (HR) have opportunity to define these and other terms better. I’d like to know more about your firm and services.



  5. Since we generate the revenue generators, you might consider adding a political element to the WFP model. The political climate and its concomitant new regulations clearly impacts longer term planning and in the cases of, for example, new tax plans can actually cause one’s talent pool to become very, very shallow – seriously, what highly compensated executive in their right mind would want to relo to New York these days?

    The Holy Grail of WFP is being able to conduct a detailed PEST analysis – the Political, Economic, Social, and Technological issues that may impact short and longer term recruiting success. Combine this with a classic SWOT analysis and you have the complete picture…

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