What are the Steps in a Workforce Planning Process?

In our online training course - Getting Started with Workforce Planning, Al Adamsen takes us through the principles behind workforce planning and how apply these principals within your organisation to create a strategic workforce plan. In the video below, Al gives an overview of the core steps involved in building an effective workforce planning process.

The Workforce Planning Process

The workforce planning process outlined in Getting Started with Workforce Planning advocates four simple steps. The process starts with taking an audit of your current state. This is essentially doing an assessment of who you have within your organisation and the skills they possess, but also what you foresee in the future. This is the second step, Future State Visioning. It is essentially determining what you think the organisation is going to look like in 12-18- or 24-months’ time. Step three is the Gap Analysis. This is identifying the gap between where you believe your workforce is going to be and where your workforce is actually going. What is that gap and what scenarios do you put into play to actually fill that gap. Finally step four is Action, this is putting these plans into play.

Step One: The Current State Analysis

Doing a current state assessment in workforce planning is absolutely critical, yet many just jump in and do planning without really understanding what resources they have in the first place. Doing a current state assessment is beyond just headcount planning, it involves thinking about the skills people have, how they're going to be growing over time, what intentions they have, in other words do they actually want to move up?, do they want to change job over a certain period of time?, if so should that inform how we facilitate movement within the organisation?. So, we have to understand who we have in place right now where they're going, and how they’re developing. By doing that we will be able to plan more accurately downstream. So, let's get really clear on our defining the workforce that we have currently.

Step Two: Future State Analysis

Now, with a clear understanding of who we have in our workforce currently, in terms of numbers, skills and intentions or any other dimensions you deem appropriate. We can now do a really effective and valuable future state visioning exercise. In other words what is the workforce of the future going to look like? What is the ecosystem that we talked about earlier going to look like? What skills are we going to need? How are we going to acquire those skills?

Now that we understand who we have in our business, we must go back and project our internal talent demand. We need to determine, what will we need to get work done, given our business strategy? Let’s assume it’s a growth business, we're going to see that we need to acquire people with certain skills. We must then determine whether the skills we require are inside the organisation, or outside the organisation? To do that, we’re going to need to assess the internal supply of talent, as well as assessing the external supply of talent. It’s important to understand what makes more sense to the organisation. Whether it be to develop or move people internally or maybe acquire talent externally? We also have to be attentive to where that talent is, that talent might not be in our market, it might be elsewhere. So, again understanding are talent demand given our business strategy, auditing our internal supply and forecasting that, and also forecasting and assessing the external supply of talent.

Step Three: Gap Analysis

Now that we have a good understanding of who is in our workforce, the talent demand given the work that needs to be done and we've audited the internal and external size of talent, we can now do a gap analysis and scenario planning. There are four main reasons for doing workforce planning and elements that we should explore during the gap analysis;

1.     What's the internal development and mobility strategy?

2.     What’s our external recruiting strategy?

3.     How are we going to work with external partners?

4.     How are we going to design the organisation differently?

Step Four: Action – Execute & Adjust

The final step in a process is Execute and Adjust. Let’s not forget workforce planning is a fluid ongoing process. The decisions that we make month to month and quarter to quarter are going to affect the plan downstream. As such we have to be very conscious about how we measure monitor and communicate decisions in the workforce planning process and that requires governance.

Online Training on building an effective Workforce Planning process within your organisation.

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If you’re looking to get started in workforce planning checkout our newest online training course, Getting Started with Workforce Planning. This introduction to workforce planning will ensure that as a HR professional, you not only understand how to create a strategic workforce plan, but also how you can gain buy-in and manage your workforce planning activities. The course covers the following key areas:

  • What is workforce planning?

  • How to create a strategic workforce plan

  • How to consider external talent supply and demand

  • How to involve and get buy-in from key stakeholders for your workforce plan

This course aims to provide a solid foundation to the principles behind workforce planning and shows you how to create a strategic workforce plan for your organisation.


Al Adamsen is a globally known adviser, educator and thought leader in the areas of talent strategy, workforce planning and analytics, talent measurement, and organisational change. He is also the founder of Talent Strategy Institute and the PAFOW conferences and has held HR leadership roles at Ernst & Young, Gap Inc., Infohrm, and Kenexa (now IBM).