April 8, 2022

Check Out These 6 Best Practices For Efficient Workforce Planning

Ahh, the life of a business manager! 

How wonderful it must be to receive a good salary package with added benefits while having people work for you. 

If you think along this line, you cannot be more mistaken. 

Being in a managerial position isn’t always a breeze. Other than the usual responsibilities a manager has to shoulder, workforce planning is something not uncommon to the managerial post. It can be demanding, challenging, and can sometimes pose as the ultimate test a manager has to face. 

Wondering what this 'workforce planning' is all about, and what’s all the fuss about? Let us tell you!

What Is Workforce Planning?

Well, workforce planning, simply put, refers to the process of planning and allocating available resources and workforce to ensure a streamlined operation, where employees are designated to posts depending on their competencies.

With workforce planning, the manager can efficiently allocate the workforce's abilities and maximise productivity. This process can be broadly classified into two types – strategic and operational.

While strategic workforce planning (SWP) is responsible for yielding long-term results, operational workforce planning (OWP) prioritises the need of the moment, helping the business to address and deliver immediate results. SWP also aims at attaining long-term goals by anticipating future requirements.

Still not convinced of just how burdensome workforce planning can be? We get you! It doesn’t sound that much of a work. After all, all you need to do is allocate work to the available resources based on long-term and short-term requirements, right? So, how tough can that be? 

Trust us when we say this, it's much more complex than meets the eye, and you will find out soon enough. But first, let us discuss why it's so important.

Why Is Workforce Planning Important?

Configuring a workspace and its capabilities can be an expensive affair, costing in terms of both time and money. 

But with workforce planning, organisations can streamline their business and operation models by taking into account the strengths and the weaknesses in the current workforce, without having to resort to unnaturally high costs

In addition, it helps in laying the groundwork for long-term prospects, plus meeting immediate needs and future goals readily

So, as a manager, it comes down to you to save the time and money of the company you work for with proper workforce planning. With that, we come to how you can go about doing so. 

Top 5 Steps Involved In The Workforce Planning Process

Workforce planning, as crucial as it is, isn't an easy task, often involving several steps. Mentioned below are the top 5 steps involved in the workforce planning process. 

Mind you, these steps are just overviews of how this process can be done. It’s up to you, the manager, to work out the nitty-gritty. 

1) Developing strategic intent

As always, workforce planning starts with an idea. To get started with the process, it's important to develop a strategic intent and plan accordingly.

2) Identifying strategic positions

Identifying strategic positions is crucial in developing a viable workforce planning process. This can be further developed by determining strategic roles and functions and factors like existing business models, etc. 

3) Recognising strategic assets in the workforce

Before proceeding with a potential model of workforce planning, it's beneficial in identifying potential assets that can prove useful in the long run. In addition, it can give you a clear idea of the strengths and weaknesses of your current workforce. 

4) Following up with an action plan

Once you have recognised the capacity and capabilities of your workforce, you can go ahead with a possible action plan to implement workplace planning. 

5) Monitoring and adjusting your workforce planning process

Now that you have implemented workforce planning, keeping a close watch on its progression can provide you with salient information about the plan and help you adjust or configure the workforce planning procedure if needed. 

6 Tips On How To Go About The Workforce Planning Process Efficiently And Effectively

Hopefully, you're convinced by now just how much fun and easy a manager’s job is without the workforce planning a part of it.

Indeed, it can be a daunting challenge. 

But with the tips given below, you can always make sure you’re battle-ready and able to take on workforce planning assignments like a pro!

1) Improving visibility into the current workforce

The workforce is a dynamic aspect of any business framework that's prone to changes. Therefore, before getting started with all the planning, it's important to improve visibility and take into account the nature and structure of the available workforce.

As a decision-maker, improving visibility will also help you access crucial data like financial information and contingent labour. This is also helpful in developing a dependable framework for workforce planning. 

2) Continuous workforce planning process

Workforce planning often forms the basis of all operating models in a business, and implementing a continuous (ongoing) process can have several benefits. First off, it allows HR practitioners to stay ahead in the curve and frequently update the workforce plan with any changes.

It also helps in planning ahead of market conditions as well, including economic and demographic factors, and more. A continuous workforce planning process is also helpful in determining assets within the workforce, identifying strengths and weaknesses, and using the obtained information to attain goals.

3) Integrating corporate strategies into workforce planning

Analysing the workforce gap can prove to be a challenge but can be easily overcome by integrating the workforce planning process with corporate strategies. An integrated hiring and recruiting plan are extremely beneficial in this regard.

Not only does this help eliminate the confusion associated with the process, but it also contributes to a more tactical approach, taking into account factors like corporate strategies, departmental budgets, ongoing operations, and more. This allows managers to streamline the SWP process while also helping determine how to expand productivity.

4) Tracking labour market insights

When it comes to workforce planning, it's pivotal to understand the labour market and market demands. This can prove beneficial in meeting the workforce gap and help employees attain professional skills and challenges more readily. So, tracking the labour market insight can provide you with crucial information about your current workforce. As a manager, you can look out for the following labour market insights to get started with the workforce planning process:

  • Upcoming trends in the industry
  • How these trends can impact the job and skill demands
  • Emerging jobs and skills in the industry
  • Upcoming operating models in the industry

Labour market insights are also instrumental in analysing skill and job roles, future operating strategies, and realising business objectives.

5) Busting SWP misconceptions

While SWP has a pivotal role to play in the business framework, it's also important to tackle various related misconceptions along the way. This allows managers to deal with workforce planning objectively and get buy-in from colleagues, HR practitioners, and executives. Some of the most common SWP misconceptions that must be countered are as follows:

  • “SWP is only required by large corporations with a large workforce.”
  • “Workforce planning should be the responsibility of the HR department.”
  • “The SWP has to be finalised from the start and it can’t be modified once it's implemented.”
6) Implementing scenario planning in the workforce planning process

Workforce planning is largely involved with the need to address major changes, like changing market conditions or office expansion and acquisition. Models like scenario planning or what-if conditions can be effective in planning for long-term objectives and improving models like hiring, outsourcing, and managing remote workforces. This also helps managers identify the capabilities and limitations of the current workforce and develop measures to improve productivity.

Sample Scenarios Of Workforce Planning

Now that you have a fair idea about the workforce planning process, here are two sample scenarios of how SWP helped companies, that will further improve your understanding.

1) Thames Water

Thames Water is the largest water and wastewater services company in the UK, supplying over 2,600 million litres of water to 8.5 million Thames Valley households on a daily basis and also removing 4300 million sewages for 13.6 million consumers. A centralised team managed the overall planning of shifts, work hours, holidays, and so on for the 360 field agents.

According to Will Brown, head of planning at Thames Water, “While functional, this solution was limiting, particularly at times when our average monthly call volume of around 300,000 calls experienced seasonal peaks, during which activity levels can grow by almost 50%.”

The process was also impacted when the key planners took leaves or were away from work.

With the help of SWP through an automated tool, Thames Water has been able to streamline its workforce planning in a better and improved way. 

2) Driveline

A company offering personalised support to retail businesses faced a workforce crunch when demand increased by seven times during the pandemic. They struggled to stay afloat and break even since they were spending so much on staffing.

With SWP, they managed to find a solution to their staffing problems, which decreased their operating cost by a whopping 37%. 

What Are The Benefits Of SWP?

If you're thinking about why we're going on about SWP and completely ignoring OWP, it's because SWP is more commonly used, seeing how it gives a long-term workforce planning solution. 

Furthermore, SWP can be extremely beneficial for businesses in both short as well as long-term prospects. In that regard, here are some of the advantages associated with SWP:

  • Long-term planning: One of the primary advantages of SWP planning is that it contributes to future planning and long-term prospects like recruitment strategies and workplace issues.
  • Analyse workplace shortcomings: SWP can also help identify possible weaknesses and avoid future risks.
  • Plan for change: As SWP is concerned with long-term prospects, it takes into account possible changes in the workforce and plans for the same. 

In addition, SWP comes with several other advantages like lowered hiring costs, identifying workforce gaps, improving recruitment and management processes, and more. 

It Isn’t Easy Being A Manager And Properly Planning Your Workforce!

If you're in a managerial role, workforce planning can prove to be extremely beneficial for you and your employees. It familiarises your team with any unforeseen events. Furthermore, it contributes to improving workspace efficiency and productivity and prepares you to handle any challenges that might come your way. 

Do you see now that being a manager isn't all bed of roses? But it's worth the effort at the end of the day because overcoming challenges gives a different kind of high and workplace planning is one such hurdle you need to cross as a manager.

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