Everyone should plan workforce to get the capabilities you need to succeed. It leads to more effective, productive organizations with more dedicated, fulfilled, and better paid individuals. Everyone wins when everyone plans!

Workforce planning is simply how you get valuable capabilities. For employers it means having capable people when and where they are needed. For everyone it means better jobs and higher pay. Overall, it is the key to robust, resilient businesses and institutions.

Capabilities can take years to develop—especially advanced, specialized abilities that tend to be very valuable. Therefore, individuals, who own and are responsible for capabilities, must (a) know well in advance about employers’ requirements, (b) have developmental resources that fit their situation, and (c) take a flexible, foresightful approach to adapt to change needs. All of this takes planning.

Demand for workforce comes from acquiring and organizing resources to produce a good or service. All that acquiring, organizing, and producing requires capabilities—abilities + capacity. Workforce is all and any of the people who provide those capabilities, including executives and owners. An organization cannot achieve its purpose without workforce.

The key to workforce demand is customer value, which is essentially the same as an organization’s purpose: why people should support an organization, financially and otherwise. Everything an organization does and has must be linked directly to customer value. Workforce plans identify capabilities an organization needs to be effective and efficient.

Plan workforce by assessing jobs' fit with purpose. Look for gaps and overlaps, particularly where individuals are playing multiple critical roles or where there is turnover or uncertainty about roles. Get frank input from the people who do and know the jobs. What are the challenges and rewards of the job(s)? What do they mean for customers? How will jobs change as the customers and organization change?

Planning workforce involves answering these questions to reduce uncertainty about how you can create customer value. Simply engaging those who do the work is a key starting point. Get input from various perspective, including customers and external experts as well as those who actually do the jobs. Most importantly, be clear that this is about the work, not the worker. We must plan workforce as individual workers, too, but that’s for a future post.

How do you do workforce planning? Do you even do workforce planning? Why or why not?

by Greg Laudeman