Back to Resources

Future-Proof Your Organization With Strategic Workforce Planning

March 2, 2023
min read
Dylan Sharek

A high-performing workforce is a vital asset, especially as economic uncertainty, supply chain disruptions, and labor shortages continue. But, employing an accurate number of individuals with fitting expertise at the right time is no easy task. 

Because of this, organizations are using workforce planning to improve employee oversight and human capital management long term. This helps companies answer burning questions like what skills are missing from their workforce and how they can keep top talent around longer. 

Read on to learn everything you need to know about strategic workforce planning and the top solutions you can introduce to fill skill gaps and achieve business goals efficiently. 

What Is Workforce Planning?

Workforce planning is the analysis and evaluation of a company’s talent needs, both now and in the future. The process involves assessing the tools, resources, and skills present within the current workforce, identifying future needs, and discerning skill gaps to address. Organizations also focus on implementing initiatives to find and retain talent, all of which aim to promote long-term organizational success. 

Why does this matter? By taking a closer look at your current workforce, you can staff your organization more efficiently — avoiding potential shortages or labor surpluses and meeting variable demand as needed. When workforce planning is done successfully, businesses can increase productivity, cut labor costs, improve resource allocation, and reduce time-to-market because they have the right people with the necessary expertise in the right positions at the right time. 

More and more organizations are shifting to strategic workforce planning models for more comprehensive future-proofing strategies. However, Innovative Benefit Planning reports that fewer than 50% of companies have an effective strategic workforce plan in place. With this in mind, we’re taking a look at what companies need to know about tackling the workforce planning process with confidence.

The Main Criteria of Effective Workforce Planning

When evaluating your current workforce strategy and future labor needs, take the following benchmarks into account:

  • Number of employees: Recognizing the size of your workforce is an important first step in strategic planning. Companies are trying to avoid improper staffing levels, but they also want to make sure they can meet demand as it quickly changes. 
  • Available budget: Talent is expensive, but employing the right employees with the proper competencies to do their job is worth the investment. Assessing the budget that’s available to carry out future workforce plans effectively will be key to achieving a high return on investment (ROI) and maximizing profits. 
  • Skill sets at hand: The mix of skills, capabilities, knowledge, and experiences that your current employees provide sheds light on where your business lacks expertise and where employee development is necessary. This helps companies more accurately define skill gaps in the workforce planning process. 
  • Flexibility: Agile workforces are becoming increasingly important today, especially as instability and unpredictability continue across industries. Organizations must consider the agility, resilience, and adaptability of their current workforce and use strategic planning to promote improvement accordingly. 

Evaluating these criteria offers an in-depth understanding of your existing workforce’s skills, experience, and potential talent gaps — which is a necessary foundation for impactful workforce planning. 

Industry Trends To Consider Throughout the Process

As organizations create a unique strategic workforce plan, it’s critical to look at major industry trends that can impact the process. For example, the manufacturing industry demonstrated strength and resilience in 2022, but going into 2023, companies will have to keep an eye on inflation and economic uncertainty and how that will affect their talent needs. Other major manufacturing trends to take into account include:

  • Investments in advanced technology.
  • Using a wide array of talent management strategies.
  • Utilizing digital technology and time-tested mitigation efforts to promote supply assurance.
  • Focusing on corporate social responsibility (CSR).

On the other hand, the freight and transport industries are navigating unique outlooks such as the growth of e-commerce, the availability of big data for supply chains, the use of user-generated content, and the implementation of CRM platforms. 

While expectations for 2023 vary across industries, two major common trends to monitor include:

  • The rise of skills-based hiring: Business leaders are prioritizing experience and skill sets over more formal, traditional academic qualifications. Research from Remote indicates that skills-based hiring increased by 63% in 2022. This is only expected to accelerate in 2023 as skills remain a valuable form of currency in the labor market. 
  • Calls for flexibility: Workers today, including current employees across organizations, are pursuing more flexibility. This refers to more than remote or hybrid working opportunities but also adjustability in terms of hours. A report from the Wall Street Journal emphasizes this, finding that 95% of surveyed employees want flexible hours and 78% are looking for location freedom. 

What Are the Benefits of Strategic Workforce Planning?

Effective workforce planning helps HR professionals and organizations:

Prepare for future workforce needs 

As industries face economic uncertainty and fluctuating demand, it can be difficult to anticipate long-term workforce needs. Because workforce planning efforts help organizations analyze their human capital management, they have a much clearer forecast of what their future requirements will look like. 

Decrease hiring and operational costs

The talent acquisition and hiring process is not only time-consuming but also costly. A detailed overview of current workforce and operational needs helps organizations fill roles with suitable talent. Proper workforce management also ensures the right people have the skills and experience to fill their roles effectively from the beginning of the recruitment process, which optimizes productivity and minimizes operational costs.  

Identify skill gaps among current employees

A comprehensive workforce planning model identifies critical skills gaps in an organization’s workforce. These insights set the stage for boosting learning and development opportunities, improving talent acquisition efforts, and creating a competitive advantage. 

Improve succession planning

Succession planning — the process of identifying critical positions within an organization and developing an action plan for individuals to assume those positions once they’re vacant — is vital to ensure that strong leaders are in place, even if a sudden change occurs. But, AIIR Consulting reports that while CEOs and business leaders account for a 30% variance in an organization’s profitability, only 35% of organizations have a formalized succession planning process for critical roles. 

The workforce planning process reveals employees with potential for leadership and roles where subsequent leaders are needed, boosting succession planning efforts. This guarantees workforce changes and acquisitions can occur with minimal disruption to business operations. 

Ensure the effective allocation of talent investments

A strategic workforce plan helps companies identify the employees and organizational roles that deliver the highest ROI, which promotes greater investments in the right areas and positions of the business. This also indicates where extra help or resources might be needed to add value to a business and help it reach its full potential. 

Drive employee retention

When you don’t have the right number of employees at your disposal and current workers fill roles they’re not suited well for, employee turnover is inevitable. Workforce planning offers insight into labor needs and positions in which current team members can reach their full potential in the organization. This promotes employee engagement and satisfaction, which goes a long way toward supporting greater retention rates. 

6 Workforce Planning Steps for Success

  • Determining strategic direction and goals: Understanding your organizational direction and strategic goals helps lay the groundwork for workforce planning and future decisions. Consider where you want your business to go, the primary goals you’re targeting, and what you’re hoping to achieve throughout the process. Workforce planning is a top-down process, and it starts with a clear vision that you’re trying to reach. 
  • Evaluating current talent: The next step involves looking at your current talent. When analyzing your supply of workers, think about the abilities and potential of in-house employees and compare this with your understanding of organizational needs and recent success: This process is supported by demand planning and internal supply planning. Going through this step should help you answer questions like if you have the right-sized workforce, if employees need additional training, and what new resources could improve performance. 
  • Considering future projections: With an understanding of your inventory of talent and your business goals, you can create an effective action plan for the future. Consider, for example, what steps you need to take next, how many people your strategic goals will require, and whether you have the right leaders in place. As you think about the future, be sure to take into account variable demand and potential changes in staffing. 
  • Identifying skill gaps: According to a workforce development research report from ATD, 83% of employers reported a skills gap in 2022, and 78% claimed they expect to face such skills gaps in the future. But, an effective workforce planning model can help organizations identify potential gaps and even skill surpluses to address. To do this, you can compare the skillsets present in your current workforce with the capabilities and expertise needed to achieve your future objectives to define what’s missing. 
  • Developing a solution: Using your assessment in previous steps, you can now establish a solution. For example, to address certain skill gaps you might provide additional employee training or recruit candidates that have expertise in a certain area. Or, if you determine you need more workers you can look for workforce solutions that will help you fill critical roles quickly and effectively. 
  • Implementing an action plan and monitoring results: Lastly, carry out your action plans and solutions. No matter what initiatives you introduce to solve unique organizational challenges, it’s important to monitor your results: This includes establishing metrics and benchmarks that can help you accurately measure outcomes. As you continuously track your progress against your original objectives, you can assess what’s working and what isn’t to make adjustments as needed. 

Moving Forward — How Can You Use This Information Effectively?

Comprehensive strategic workforce planning boosts multiple business goals and strategies including:

  • Proper structural organization
  • Succession planning
  • Workforce and staffing budgets
  • Resource allocation
  • Employee deployment
  • Maintaining capacity and meeting demand
  • Minimizing risk

But, how can organizations make the most out of workforce planning insights and improve workforce management?

Companies can work with a dependable partner like Bluecrew to solve current and anticipated labor needs efficiently and effectively. Bluecrew’s platform gives your organization access to advanced workforce-as-a-service solutions — including a well-qualified Elastic Hourly Workforce and workforce management tools — to support your employment needs. 

Our technology platform makes finding and managing pre-screened W-2 workers simple, transparent, and accessible: streamlining your systems for recruiting, employee scheduling, time tracking, forecasting, compliance, and more — all at your fingertips. 

Talent is a key element of business success, and when workforce planning informs your labor needs, Bluecrew can help you meet them. To learn more about how our platform is solving today’s workforce challenges with tomorrow’s technology, contact Bluecrew today.

You might also like:

Want the simplest, fastest way to scale your hourly workforce?

Bluecrew puts the power to see, hire, and manage pre-screened W-2 workers at your fingertips.

Start hiring

Looking for a job that has it all?

We’ll match you with jobs that have top pay and great benefits. You pick work that fits your schedule.

Start working
Bluecrew's platform and mobile app let clients to post jobs and see rosters of temp workers at any time