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Workforce planning

Author: Wendy Hirsh


  • Although individuals and businesses in the UK are experiencing huge change and uncertainty from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, HR can still apply many of the principles of workforce planning. (See Workforce planning in the time of coronavirus)
  • The aim of workforce planning is to ensure that your organisation has the workforce it needs to achieve its business objectives. It also helps managers share and respond to their assumptions about the future, using an evidence-based approach. (See What is workforce planning?)
  • Workforce planning consists of interrelated building blocks considering: the business context; the current workforce; future demand and supply; and the action required to address resourcing risks. (See Workforce planning in practice)
  • Workforce planning should start with an understanding of the business, which means looking both externally at the shifting context in which the organisation operates and internally at the evolving business strategy and culture. (See Understanding the business)
  • To understand its current workforce, your organisation needs to define workforce groups for planning purposes, pull together baseline data and engage with managers to understand their resourcing concerns. (See Where the business is now: understanding the current workforce)
  • Estimating future workforce demand can be approached through a range of techniques to identify changing skill needs as well as productivity and the size and mix of future workforce requirements. (See Where the business is going: future workforce demand)
  • Assessing future workforce supply involves understanding relevant external labour markets as well as likely patterns of leaving and the availability of internal talent and successors for critical posts or workforce groups. (See Where the business is going: future workforce supply)
  • Following analysis, your organisation will need to identify the gaps between future demand and supply, leading to resourcing options and action to address likely resourcing risks. Action plans need to be clear and realistic, and followed up with monitoring and evaluation. (See What the business needs to do: identifying gaps and taking action)
  • Your organisation can still plan even though it may be uncertain about its direction, future size or the pace of change. Simple "what if" questions, contingency and scenario planning, adaptive approaches to workforce planning and consideration of how flexibility can be designed into both work and the workforce can all help planning under uncertainty. (See Planning under uncertainty)
  • To ensure the organisation develops the capability for workforce planning, clarify who is accountable and make sure that everyone involved acquires the understanding and skills they need. The data required for workforce planning needs to be developed and sustained consistently over time in an easily accessible way. (See Developing the capability for workforce planning)
  • We provide practical tips to help ensure people keep key ideas at the front of their mind as they put the theory on workforce planning into practice. (See Practical tips for workforce planning)