workforce planning

A guide to workforce planning

A guide to workforce planning

February 07, 2023
A guide to workforce planning - why, how, where to start and what you’ll need! A 5 minute read.

A guide to what it is, why it is needed and most importantly how to do it within your organisation:


What is it?

We agree 100% with the CIPD that workforce planning is needed by all organisations to have:
“The RIGHT people in the RIGHT roles, with the RIGHT skills, at the RIGHT time (and cost)”
Sound difficult? It’s not as tough as many would lead you to believe, no matter how big your company is!
To be able to achieve this, as an HR leader you need the following to be working seamlessly:
 chair icon
External Talent Acquisition
 checklist icon
Internal Talent Deployment
Proactive Performance Management
Talent Retention
The leaders of these process areas in your HR function will have slightly different day to day priorities, but they all share the same core problem:

They operate completely reactively.

They have little to no idea about what demand / issues they will be facing from one day to the next. They have no ability to plan and action, no ability to prevent problems, and as such play a strategically low value role in the success of their company.
But wait...
That makes no sense? Every CEO opinion poll tells us that “people are a company’s greatest asset.” Yet the core HR functions tasked with finding, developing and retaining talented people, are operating in the dark.

Things need to change.


The data you need:

This is the easy bit! Ignore the naysayers that will paralyse you with tall tales of lengthy, expensive “strategic” projects to build a workforce plan.
There is a core set of data that you need as an HR leader to start making remarkable advancements in business productivity:
  • What “actual” future people gaps is your business facing (recruitment demand)
  • What performance issues is your business facing?
  • What flight risks is your business facing?
For each of these, a number is simply not enough, you need to know the:
 orange briefcase icon
Job Title
 money icon
Band/Salary Level
 location pin icon
 calendar icon
Required Date (most important!)
Without this key information, no workforce planning process is going to bear any value whatsoever, so there is little point wasting your time!

Think about it:

  • How do you plan proactive hiring campaigns if you don’t know what you need, where and when?
  • How do you mitigate performance issues, if you don’t know who is a concern and who is the manager?
  • How do you retain key talent at risk of leaving if you can’t identify where they sit in your organisation and what the reason is?

Where to start:

It’s not so much a question of where, but rather who...
The people managers in your business hold all the answers. It’s common sense really – For HR to drive organisational performance, we need to understand what is happening in the business, team by team.
  • What people issues are each manager facing in the next 12 to 24 months?
  • Who in their team is leaving?
  • Who do they think is a succession risk?
  • How might they need to grow their team?
  • In what roles should performance be better?
Understanding this for one manager is a start, understanding it for every manager gives you a joined up workforce plan!
So, in order to build a workforce plan, you need to connect and communicate with your operational people managers and find out what is happening in their respective worlds. Then retrieve from them the data points listed above. Simple…

Turn data into productivity...

Getting hold of this data is ground-breaking, it is like having a fog lifted from your view. BUT, merely having this data is no actual use to anyone.
Now you and your colleagues must act on it.
The opportunities available for improvement are many, here are a few obvious starting points to whet your appetite about the art of the possible:
1. Recruitment: Plan candidate attraction strategies and prompt managers to begin recruiting at the perfect time to ensure delivery and a reduction in Empty Chair Time
2. Internal Mobility: Plan developmental moves for colleagues approaching “move ready” status
3. Performance: Intervene earlier on performance concerns to mitigate engagement and output downturns and costly exits
4. Retention: Act quickly on information about Flight Risks to re engage and retain key talent

If you are not convinced yet...

Then ask yourself what it would mean for your business to achieve:
  • Higher business productivity (from less Empty Chair days across the business)
  • Less requirement for costly external recruiting
  • Internal Talent mobilised in optimal roles
  • A more stable, productive, engaged workforce
If you are not sure if these are prizes worth striving for, ask your CEO!

Sold? This is how you do it:

Step 1

Create your audience, this is quite literally every person in your business that manages at least one other person

Step 2

Decide who in your business will meet with these managers on a semi regular basis (quarterly is best)

Step 3

During each meeting ask the following:

Do you have resignations we don’t know about yet?
Are any of your team retiring that will need replacing?
Any team members planned to take maternity / paternity leave?
Are there any internal moves planned that need backfilling?
Are you concerned about any team members looking to leave?
Do you have any performance concerns in your team?
Do you need to grow your team?
Do you need to resource any projects in your team?
Do you plan to hire any Grads/Apprentices?

Step 4

Collate the information gathered from each meeting to form your Cross-Business workforce plan

Step 5

Distribute data to the relevant HR teams and start actioning

It is no more complicated that that! You may potentially start with a segment of your manager population, learn what questions work best, then add more managers into the process each quarter.

To help you plan the resources you need to run this manual process for your business, plug your own numbers into this calculator:

How many people managers do you have?


Total time required
  • 0 Days
  • 0 Weeks
  • 0 Months
  • 0 Years
Total heads required



Understanding your results:

The point of this calculator is to show you the people resource needed to perform the simple process outlined above for your own company. Clearly the amount of resource needed increases linearly with the number of managers that need to be spoken to.
Assumptions are made that individuals will be working 8 hours a day and there are no meeting cancellations / rescheduling etc needed (it is purely a guide after all)
The reason that we calculate “number of heads to deliver in 2 weeks” is because the process of gathering data from managers needs to be done in a relatively short “window” so that actions can be made from the data. In larger organisations, without enough resource dedicated to the task, you may find yourself perpetually gathering information and never “doing” anything with it!

A better way...

A better way...

Here at Foresight we have been helping companies achieve the above for more than a decade!

 better way to recruit
From our experience, if you work in a company with less that 1000 employees you can do this manually, and the improvements are well worth the time investment!
Above 1000 employees and it is very difficult without the help of technology!
But fear not. That is why we are here!
Our Foresight platform automates everything and even acts on your data to tell managers what to do next for you!
Meaning your company gets all the benefit, for none of the time investment.

You're at a Crossroad:

You're at a Crossroad:

You have seen what is possible, you now have three choices:

 a cross road


Go back to your everyday and try to forget what you have just read, but know that going forward your HR operating model is not delivering the value to your business that it should be.


Take all of this information and run a manual process. We wish you the best of luck and hope it works so that you can begin driving huge value to your business. Contact us if you need any advice!


Contact us to learn how we automate everything and begin improving your entire Talent Management proposition within 3 months.


Book a Free Workforce Planning Consultation Call: