workforce planning

Contributor(s): Shaun Sutner

Workforce planning is the strategy used by employers to anticipate labor needs and deploy workers most effectively, usually with advanced human resources technology.

Workforce planning is a subset of workforce management, a critical element of most large organizations' software-based human resources and enterprise resource planning systems.

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Workforce planning models

Organizations -- including corporations, nonprofit groups, universities and government agencies -- use workforce planning to design the best-performing employee-management groups they can to reach goals, such as profits, productivity or efficiency.

Workforce planning falls into two broad categories: operational and strategic.

Operational workforce planning is on a person-to-person level and streamlines daily, employee-related operations. This approach can help managers develop work schedules and employee hours to maintain business productivity and continuity.

A good operational workforce planning strategy includes elements of talent management and can help ensure talent is well-distributed among divisions and departments, as well as identify organizational needs and the number and types of employees required to do those jobs. It also can pinpoint staffing gaps, which job functions and processes are no longer necessary and whether workers should be reassigned to other roles. Workforce planning also includes developing and putting into practice policies to help employees remain satisfied with their jobs.

Strategic workforce planning deals with broad-based issues that develop over months and years and can encompass all the aspects of an enterprise. Examples include the following:

  • Forecasting knowledge drain as employees leave the organization;
  • Anticipating future talent needs;
  • Determining and evaluating likely future sourcing options; and
  • Establishing an effective workforce analytics strategy.

Benefits of workforce planning

Using workforce planning software, organizations can schedule employee hours and shifts using accurate labor and sales forecasting that matches demand to labor needs. Workforce planning technology can also help managers better prepare for retirements and design a talent acquisition strategy to replace retiring employees.

Executives involved with compliance with federal, international and local laws can use workforce planning software to ensure their staffing strategy dovetails with compliance plans, including having enough people to fill jobs with labor and safety requirements and to control health insurance costs.

Workforce planning vendors

Some HR technology vendors, notably Kronos and Ceridian, have made workforce management and workforce planning software their main offerings. Infor and ADP also have workforce planning modules, and Workforce is a pure-workforce management software vendor whose platform integrates with the SAP SuccessFactors human capital management (HCM) suite.

For small and medium-sized businesses that need workforce planning, Paycom, Paylocity and Paychex offer that capability, along with other workforce management and HCM functions, such as payroll and time and attendance.

Mobile workforce management app shows a manager's WFM channels and AI tool for planning employee time off.
Kronos Workforce Dimensions software offers workforce planning features
This was last updated in December 2017

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How has your organization incorporated workforce planning into its overall HR software strategy?
I find WPF an essential part of the organization. In fact it is central to all we do from the beginning of the sales cycle till we need to staffa project. I would love to hear back how people experience the difficult balance of Workforce planning.
This is a fantastic article on workforce planning. New research, conducted by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), reveals that workforce planning and analysis could add £10.4 billion to GDP in the UK and a whopping $92.2 billion in the US. They've surveyed 400 senior-level decision makers in companies with more than 1,000 employees in the UK and the US. This neat infographic summarizes the results:

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