5 Biggest Workforce Planning Risks & How To Avoid Them

5 Biggest Workforce Planning Risks & How To Avoid Them

May 07, 2019
Avoid these common pitfalls when beginning your Workforce Planning journey.

There are 5 big workforce planning risks you may face. These are time / labour waste. Running an expensive process. Getting inaccurate or unreliable data. Low engagement rates and not targeting the correct level of your business.

Introduction to Workforce Planning

Workforce planning can be daunting. Especially for those who work in large businesses. How do you capture the recruitment demand for hundreds of thousands of people reliably and for a reasonable cost? When tasked with workforce planning, most people drum up all the things that could go wrong. Which means this time next year they’ve made no progress. So, I’ve written this guide to navigating the big 5 risks you will face when planning your resourcing needs for the next 12-18 months. Enjoy!


I get it. You barely have time to do your day to day job. Recruitment is TOUGH! So what makes your boss think you now have the time to spend capturing EVERY COMING ROLE in the business for the next 12-18 months?

You’re right. Kind of. You don’t have time to sit down with every hiring manager and talk for an hour about their recruitment needs. Each month. For the rest of your days. It’s not possible.

I’ve spoke to one team who ran the recruitment for a multinational organisation. Their solution was to run recruitment events in each area. Events that take months to plan. In these events they would make each hiring manager take a day out of their week to come down and talk about their recruitment demand. 

Then run the same event next month!

Remember, I also said this was a multinational? So, multiple events running across the globe. Sounds simple…

Not only does something like this take huge time and resource to plan and successfully execute… you’re also taking time out of your managers busy days.
This is the biggest problem you’ll face when starting out with a workforce planning process. It needs to be quick, slick and automatic! By automating your process, you can leave it to run in the background. This allows you to get on with your day job while your process is ticking away. The dream, right?!

Save yourself some time and don’t sit down with each manager every month. Using email to contact them is fine.

Find yourself a tool like Foresight that can be set up and left to its own devices. Then check back in a month to analyse what data you got and make adjustments as needed.


Workforce planning is expensive, right?

Sure, it can be, but it doesn’t have to be.

First of all avoid expensive companies that claim to run this process for you. Sure, they help you avoid risk number one by outsourcing your workforce planning. But they tick none of the other boxes in terms of risk management.

For the meagre sum of £60,000 – £100,000 these companies will run you an Excel based process. Yuk!

What these processes lack in engagement, they also lack in reliability of the data.
I’ve seen these packages first hand. It’s not nice explaining to your boss how you managed to blow a ton of cash on a process you could’ve run in 1999. Oh, and you have nothing to show for it. You’d have been better off creating your own Excel spreadsheet and sending it out to your managers. 

If you want to start out bootstrapping it. Use Excel. In bigger organisations (and often smaller ones) it’s a nightmare. Hiring managers know best. So they’ll ignore questions. Delete and change questions. Often you’ll get back nothing in return. BUT, it’s cheap.

Chances are if you’re reading this, you’ve got more than a couple of hiring managers to work with. You need to make use of the tools out there that can lock down the cost of capturing the data for minimum one year. You’ll be able to _show the ROI_from the process with these tools. That way you know where you stand and you can budget accordingly.

Also remember, capturing all known hiring demand for the next year will mean you GET THE BUDGET YOU NEED NEXT YEAR!


When it comes to targeting the right level of the business, many people aim too high. They want to go to their Head of level. 

There’s a couple of reasons behind this thought process. Firstly, they feel it will be easier. There are fewer people in this group, so that means less work. Secondly they believe this level of businessperson will have the information they crave.

To respond to those in order, it might be quicker to contact these people, but you’ll quickly get the response, “Why am I being sent this? My direct reports should be filling this out.” Does the head of Finance know about every maternity leaver as soon as it happens? 

BUT! There’s an underlying reason these recruitment pro’s don’t want to go to their hiring managers for this information. THEY DON’T TRUST THEM.

Some of you will agree on this point. Whether you say it or not is a different blog post.

Let’s face it, these managers run the business every day. Some of these managers have IQ’s of genius level. SOME. But in recruitment we don’t believe they have the capability to fill out a survey. Which leads me on to the next biggest risk in Workforce Planning…

Engagement rates

If hiring managers aren’t responding to your requests for their hiring demand, look at what you’re doing. Put yourself in their position. Ask yourself, “How would I feel if I were sent this?”

The reality is very few companies are approaching workforce planning properly. Then when they get back rubbish data, they say, “See! The hiring manager don’t know what’s going on!” Or, “Our business is just too dynamic!”

Sorry but while your business might be different, that doesn’t make it special. If companies ranging from Onfido to Vodafone can capture their recruitment demand, so can you.

There’s a right way to approach hiring managers, and a million wrong ways.
Firstly, you need to warn and educate them. Don’t send them a cold email with a spreadsheet attached saying, “Please fill this out when you get a second. Thanks.”

The gold standard of warming up a hiring manager is to record a video explaining who you are, what you’re doing and what benefit it will bring to them. Explain when the hiring manager will be receiving the survey so they can keep an eye out for it.

If you’re camera shy, you can draft an email.

Make the process slick and intuitive. The less brainpower required from the manager, the higher your engagement will be.

This is where Excel falls down. Sure it ticks the boxes in terms of cost and you can write all the information you need in cells A-Z, but hiring managers don’t want to. It’s clunky, unintuitive and even accountants don’t use it any more. What’s more, YOU are left with creating and collating those Excel spreadsheets. Which is not pretty with hundreds of potential hiring managers. 

Save yourself the headache and get a cost effective tool. You’ll get provable ROI from them anyway, so you can justify it to the business and then some.

Accuracy / Reliability

Let’s split these off into two segments.

When I say accuracy, imagine I’m talking about the time since the roles in the workforce plan were captured.

Roles captured are time sensitive. One of the biggest objections to capturing recruitment demand is the old adage, “Things change too often in our business…” If this is true, you need to increase the frequency of your data capture. Not go blindly into the future and blame miscellaneous “change!”

I recommend most of our clients to capture their recruitment demand quarterly. This allows enough time for hiring managers not to feel like they’re being burdened, while regularly capturing their workforce plan.

A side-benefit to this time frame is that it puts hiring managers in a proactive mindset. They’re being asked to think ahead for the first time ever. After a couple of cycles of this process, our clients cannot believe the difference!

Now, let’s talk about the reliability of the data. This refers to how much you can trust what your hiring managers have input.

First of all, start by asking things hiring managers will know. Ground level stuff like maternity / paternity leavers. Leaver and Growth roles etc. These are the roles that always come through last minute and throw everything off balance. They are also the positions your hiring managers will know.

To ensure these roles are accurate and actionable FOLLOW YOUR USUAL APPROVAL ROUTES. You aren’t asking hiring managers to imagine what they would like to hire and then fire on all cylinders to get the role filled without asking any questions.


All businesses face the same issues when starting out on the workforce planning journey. Whether you’re a team of 5 or a team of 500. Believe us when we tell you.

How do you fit another task into your already rammed schedule? With automation!

Costs can spiral out of control. If you have zero budget you can start out on Excel, but be warned, it is hell. Cut to the chase and get a tool that is cost effective and with demonstrable ROI.

People often target at too high a level. Make sure to connect with your managers. They have their ear to the streets and know what is going on with their team.
Engagement rates fall when processes are unituitive. Keep it fast, slick and easy to get hiring demand and get out of there. 

Use your usual approval routes to maintain the accuracy of your data. Re-forecast every month / quarter to refresh your hiring demand.

I’ve seen businesses make every mistake possible when approaching workforce planning. In the end, it’s only you and your staff that suffer. Save yourself the headache and get a tool to do it for you. This doesn’t have to be Foresight. Just get something and get started today!

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