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The Complete Guide to Workforce Planning, part 1

WHAT IS WORKFORCE PLANNING (WFP)?

A popular definition of WFP is “getting the right people, with the right skills, in the right place and at the right time.”  To this we may add “with the right contract” and “at the right cost”. The word “right” has different meanings however. “Right people” means the needed number in particular roles. “Right skills” means people with the capabilities needed for those roles; “right time” means they are available at the time when they are needed. “Right contract” means that their employment status fits our resourcing strategy.    

The attraction of this definition is that it focuses on outcomes.  It is also very memorable which appeals to who like snappy phrases.    However, there has been a big on-line debate about the usefulness of this definition.  This argues that “right place” is not particularly useful for those jobs that can be partly done from home, as part of flexible working to meet employee needs and the organisation’s aim of reducing office costs.   

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SECTION TWO – THE DATA NEEDED

This section covers:

•    The definition of job families as Workforce Planning units
•    The essential HR information needed for each job family

A workforce plan needs information from HR and financial systems. To commence a project in WFP requires a definition of the different kinds of information that needs to be readily available.  Most modern HR Information Systems can provide what we need if the coding structure has been set up accordingly.   It also depends on correct information being input in the first place and consistent use across the organisation

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SECTION THREE – APPLYING PRODUCTIVITY RATIOS

This section covers:

•    How to relate the delivery of goods and services to the human resource requirement
•    Building in allowances for the working year

3.1 Relating the work needed to the resources required
In this Section we will look at the factors that lead us to decide on the “demand” for each job family, i.e. defining the units of delivery required of goods and services over periods of future time. These units should be defined by the business or strategic plan. However often in practice the “strategic plan” is confined to qualitative aspirations, especially in the public sector, and we return to this issue in section 4. But what we need to answer is: what is the human resource required to deliver a unit of work? This is the essence of WFP. We say “human resource” because it is not the same as “people” or headcount”, as there are many variants of employment. For planning purposes we need to define a “unit of human resource” – and this is most commonly done as an “FTE” or “full time equivalent”.

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SECTION 4   WORKFORCE DEMAND

This section covers:

•    Choosing the planning period
•    What we mean by “workforce demand”?
•    The factors that  influence demand
•    Planning for Uncertainty
•    The Impact of Organisational demand
•    Matching staffing to workload at different times
•    Planning for Skill mix

4.1   Choosing the planning period
We must first decide how long ahead we are going to plan for. Strategic WFP is by definition looking beyond the current budgetary period. For most organisations the Workforce Plan will be derived from and match the strategic business plan. This is typically 3-5 years, generally revised annually. Plans may include critical events ahead, such as the opening of new facilities or the launches of new products and services, each with workforce implications.  

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