Workforce planning can be defined as having the right people, in the right place, with the right skills at the right time – and anybody running a business, both past and present, knows that the key to success is having a productive and effective workforce.

Business owners are likely to experience both high and low seasons, so adequate workforce planning is vital to long-term success. It allows for informed decisions to be made about how many and the types of workers needed for the business to run smoothly, and ensures that any decisions made are in line with the strategic or operational goals of the business.

What is workforce planning and why is it so important?

Without workforce planning, business owners may struggle to look at the bigger picture and effectively plan for the long term. The absence of adequate planning can lead to employers falling into the trap of making reactionary or “knee jerk” staffing decisions that although may seem right at the time, eventually turn out to be ineffective in supporting the future goals of the business – and can be costly in the process.

Simply put, workforce planning is about predicting the future needs of the business and focuses on:

  1. Determining where the business is going
  2. Identifying future workforce needs
  3. Analysing the current workforce
  4. Establishing the skills and capabilities needed to achieve future operational and strategic goals
  5. Developing policies and strategies to assist in achieving those goals

How does workforce planning work?

Part of workforce planning utilises a range of practical HR strategies that can assist with attracting and retaining quality workers. Business needs vary throughout the year, so it’s important to implement effective recruitment, onboarding and retention processes to ensure the right workers are hired, such as:

  • Competitive remuneration arrangements
  • Professional development opportunities
  • Succession planning
  • Flexible work practices
  • Family-friendly working arrangements
  • Other employment conditions tailored to individual needs


What are the benefits of workforce planning?

Having a workforce plan provides a foundation for making more informed decisions about how to get the very best out of workers in order to achieve organisational goals. It assists in identifying the most effective and efficient use of people at work, and enables carefully considered planning in relation to the kind of workforce needed to ensure business continuity. This includes assisting in the management and planning of leave; a much-dreaded aspect of workforce planning for most employers, but nonetheless essential.

Management also benefits from workforce planning by being proactive, as opposed to reactive, and allowing time for the development of different strategies to meet changing market needs. Another big bonus, quite literally, is the improvement in budgets; business owners with more comprehensive information available to them in relation to workforce planning are much more likely to make cost effective decisions.

The professional development of employees is also an important part of workforce planning, and the benefits are two-fold. Employees who are given the opportunity to improve their skills with training and valuable work experience are not only more likely to stay working for a business, but through their enhanced capabilities will achieve better outcomes leading to greater contributions to the organisation.

This enables a better understanding of any issue related to retention and turnover of workers so increases or reductions in staff are managed appropriately and cost effectively with minimal impact on the workforce, individuals and to the business.

Workforce planning is an essential part of any business, no matter the size. It plays a vital role in ensuring businesses are able to deliver on the services necessary to achieve strategic and organisation goals, by having the right people, in the right place, with the right skills at the right time

If you need support implementing HR strategies in order to effectively plan your workforce, contact our team of highly skilled HR professionals for advice. We can help!

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