Jake Ballinger

Jake Ballinger - FP&A Writer

August 2022 - min to read

What is Workforce Planning?

What is Workforce Planning?

If you want to get products and services to market quickly, you need the right people to make it happen.

You also need to empower those people with the proper process and skills to perform at their best. Doing so keeps your teams productive, gives them room to grow within the organization, and increases the profitability of your business. 

We know that in the current hiring landscape, that might seem like a tall order. Three out of four companies report shortages and difficulties when hiring. 

If you’re going to succeed, you need a plan. 

This plan is fleshed out during the strategic exercise of workforce planning. It helps companies to hire, cultivate, and retain great talent in line with their goals.

Let’s look at the fundamentals of workforce planning. In this article, you’ll learn:

  • The meaning and methods of workforce staffing
  • The benefits of hiring and training with a workforce plan
  • The building blocks of a workforce plan
  • How to structure the best plan for your organization


  1. What is strategic workforce planning?
  2. Why should you use workforce planning?
  3. Benefits of workforce planning
  4. How to develop a workforce model
  5. Free template: headcount planning

What is strategic workforce planning?

Workforce planning is the process of ensuring your business has all the resources and talent it needs to hit its short-term and long-term goals. It allows your hiring team to operate with the correct roadmap, talent teams to cultivate and advance employees in valuable ways, and align all these processes with the immediate and long-term goals of the organization. 

HR and talent professionals engage in two types of workforce planning: operational and strategic


The focus of operational workforce planning is to streamline day-to-day operations at the individual employee level. This helps department heads: 

  • Build effective work schedules and sprints for their teams
  • Develop an understanding of the process and daily expectations
  • Increase productivity for teams


In the broader view of the workforce, strategic planning ensures that hiring and retention numbers line up with the business's goals. With strategic workplace planning, workforce-related teams:

  • Plan headcount for long-term objectives or special projects
  • Evaluate the employee lifecycle from hiring to separation
  • Analyze the current workforce for best fit with future project plans
  • Hire to fill specific gaps in competencies or skill sets 

Succession planning

Another common form of workforce planning is developing a plan for the expected flow of employees into and out of the organization. This may include planning for deepening the org chart over time (keeping external growth going by growing internally).

It may also consider top-tier and executive employees leaving the organization due to career changes or retirement. Succession planning makes long-term goals of cultivating talent from within, and promoting those assets through the org chart as higher-level players move on. 

By building a workforce management process that considers both the individual contributor and the larger mission, businesses ensure they have the right people to achieve their goals. 

Why should you use workforce planning?

Taking a strategic approach to workforce management makes the best of what you have and helps you hire more effectively for what you need. A workforce plan aligns the company's mission with its recruitment and training to create better business outcomes and a productive, engaged workforce. 

Using strategic workforce planning, companies ensure: 

Adequate headcount: Being understaffed is the root cause of much organizational friction. It can slow the progress of projects, create mistakes and inefficiencies, force individuals to work outside their skill set, and (if persistent) create turnover as frustrated staffers head for greener pastures. 

Using a workplace plan to ensure adequate staffing avoids the negative feedback loop of employees leaving an already overtaxed work environment due to burnout.

Staffing alignment: As with understaffing, poor staff alignment can cause friction and frustration. By aligning your hiring and training to the individual, you allow every employee to work within their zone of genius. Employees apply their skills to the most appropriate aspect of the project. This creates more productivity and reduces stress within the organization. 

Strategic hiring: Once you’ve identified the resources in-house, you can hire strategically to fill the talent gaps within your organization. This ensures you have the right resources at hand to get the job done. 

Benefits of workforce planning

Planning your workforce needs provides many bottom line and organizational benefits to your teams:

Faster project timelines: tailoring your workforce to your project needs allows production to move along faster. It puts the right resources on hand to do the work and suitable talent to ensure work is performed accurately and within scope.

Better budget alignment: human capital is one of the top categories for spending in an organization. Carefully planning your workforce needs allows you to properly utilize hiring budgets and maximize the cost efficiency of building a team.

Lower turnover: everyone knows the stress of an understaffed or incorrectly aligned workplace. By creating alignment in your workforce, daily operations are easier to manage, and employee satisfaction remains high. Satisfied employees tend to have a longer tenure within a company. This also preserves the knowledge base employees possess.

Better training: If you know why you’re hiring new employees, you can better train them to excel in their new roles. Workplace management helps HR and department managers get employees off the ground with the right skills and resources to perform their jobs effectively.

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How to develop a workforce model 

Workforce planning is a continuous process of assessing current resources against your future project needs. When assessing your current resources for an upcoming project, the following steps help determine needs: 

1. Look at your current talent pool

Create an overview of your current talent pool. This could be within a specific team, department, or multiple departments. Formulate a matrix to look at what each contributor brings to the table. Examine factors such as:

  • Education and certifications
  • Time of service
  • Career roadmap
  • Previous job roles
  • Management skills
  • Project management
  • Performance reviews

Evaluating your talent pool on various factors surfaces insights on where they might fit into a new project or team. 

2. Assess future projects

Considering the employee evaluation above, analyze future projects on the roadmap. Make a detailed list of the timelines, conditions, and specific outcomes needed for success. 

3. Evaluate project-talent alignment

Consider the current and potential skills that each employee brings to the project at hand. Identify areas where training or enrichment could better prepare an employee to fill the role within a project team. Once you have slotted all available talent into needed project roles, you can begin to plan for gaps.

4. Create a hiring plan

Your previous assessments should reveal any areas where a strategic hire is needed. Formulate a plan for how many new job requisitions will be needed, outlying their necessary skills and qualifications. Relay any specific needs to the hiring team.

5. Recruit and hire

Based on the job requisitions you provide, your hiring team will be able to resource suitable talent to meet the project's demands. Hiring teams may need assistance reviewing specific resumes to ensure alignment. Taking a collaborative approach to the higher produces better outcomes.

6. Analyze and adjust

Getting talent in the door isn’t the final stop for your workforce management plan. A new employee review process during the probationary period confirms the correct hire has been put in place. It can also identify areas where training can benefit the employee and the project outcomes.

Start your workforce planning with a free template

Using technology to support your workforce planning can save you time and frustration. This free headcount planning template lays out the basic information to organize and evaluate your current employee workforce.

We built this template to work out of the box with both Excel and Google Sheets. 

...but there's a catch.

You still have to load your own salary and planning data.

The good news?

If you're a Cube user, that's super easy. Just fetch your data from Cube. (Reminder: it only takes one click.

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