Workforce Plan - Overview

A Workforce Plan is a strategy document that a business develops to outline HR needs to meet the future goals and objectives of the business.  From recruitment to performance management, it outlines how the business will ensure the right people are in place to deliver business results.  The components of a plan should include strategies on the attraction and recruitment of new employees, training initiatives to develop skills and leadership capabilities, and resources to build a safe and engaged workforce.  The plan feeds into all aspects of HR and ensures the strategic direction of the business can be executed by the workforce.  Investing time in creating a comprehensive workforce plan will provide a foundation for business success.

Important components to include in a Workforce Plan:

  • Attraction & Recruitment Strategies that help a business choose the right candidates to hire. Following the process of a job analysis will allow the business to target the required skills and knowledge that will specifically address the gap in the current workforce.
  • Skills Development of the current workforce to align with business objectives. Use employee data and specifically performance metrics from the Performance Management program to create training opportunities that increase productivity.
  • Leadership Development opportunities that allow the business to adapt and grow. Develop supports for current leaders through training and coaching and use performance metrics to identify future leaders.
  • Safety Culture is key to a manufacturing workplace. Use Safety data and input from the Safety Committee to mitigate risky behaviour and reward safe practices.
  • Engagement and Retention initiatives that align with the values of the business. Collect feedback from current employees through surveys and other forms of communications to understand improvements that can be made to the workplace.
  • Strategic Direction that ensures HR data drives sound HR and business decisions. Update the Workforce plan as objectives change or when external factors demand.

Similar to the way a business plan details objectives, goals and action plans, a workforce plan uses data to align HR strategies with these objectives.  The data can be collated and collected by means of a simple Excel spreadsheet to a more sophisticated HRIS system designed for the specific needs of the business.  The different types of data a business should consider are:

  • Diversity of the workforce (age, gender, ethnicity)
  • Headcount
  • Voluntary vs involuntary turnover
  • Time to hire days (from posting to first day of work)
  • Absenteeism rate
  • Employee survey results
  • Performance Management data
  • Training data
  • Safety data

This type of data collection is called People Analytics.  A business can leverage this data to identify and address trends with its current workforce and to understand how to forecast future needs.  The workforce plan should be constantly adjusted to align with changing business objectives and goals and as the workforce evolves.  It should be reviewed and updated along with changing strategic objectives, innovation or development of a new product, or the implementation of a new process or piece of machinery.  It can also be helpful as part of any action plan created as a result of a workplace accident or injury.

Job Analysis

A job analysis is a process of collecting information to provide an understanding of all tasks and activities needed for this new job, to conduct a comparison with other jobs, both internally and externally, to establish what education is required for the job, and determine the job’s working environment.  A job analysis can also be done for an existing job when required to support the implementation of new machinery or new processes or to identify training gaps.  Here are some reasons why a job analysis may be required:

  • Workforce Gaps – to establish when a new job or role is required to support the evolving business needs.
  • Recruitment – to identify the job skills and knowledge required and ensure the right candidate is selected.
  • Training and development – to develop appropriate training or identify gaps in training and establish performance metrics.
  • Health and safety – to take into account safety considerations and minimize potential risks.

Once a gap or need is identified, the process of completing a job analysis requires the collection of information about the tasks or competencies.  This can be done through interviews with current employees and managers and through observations of current procedures.  Once evaluated, research on new roles and/or revision of current job descriptions can be done based on the findings.  It is important to determine which positions require advanced expertise or may require input from the Safety Committee or other stakeholders.  

People Analytics

People Analytics is a component of HR that helps to increase the impact of HR decisions as they align with business goals. The collection of employee information in an HRIS system, and the tracking of HR processes, provide a business with the data it needs to identify areas of improvement. Depending on the priorities of the business, different data will be essential to track. Understanding data in areas such as employee turnover, time to hire, attendance as well as  performance metrics, new hire failure rate and the cost of vacant positions can contribute to identifying gaps in future needs and inform the strategies in a comprehensive Workforce Plan.

The following graphic describes the different components of People Analytics and was created by AIHR – The Academy to Innovate HR, an organization that provides information and training in the area of People Analytics. 

Source: AIHR – Academy to Innovate HR

Workforce Plan Outline

A Workforce Plan should be developed to align with the business objectives and goals outlined in a business plan.  It’s a future-oriented document that provides context to the plan, identifies the stated objectives with assigned timelines and outlines a communication plan to engage senior leaders and the workforce to achieve its’ required results.  Below is a sample Outline for a Workforce Plan.

Workforce Plan Outline

Business Overview including Value Statement
Current Business Goals and Timeline

  • HR Context
    • Current Workforce Data
    • Current Workforce Challenges
    • Workforce Needs Analysis or Training Gap Analysis
  • HR Priorities
    • For each Business Goal identify the HR needs or requirements
    • Clearly state approved or negotiated priorities and rationale
  • HR Strategies & Actionable Items
    • List specific actionable tasks or items and assignments
  • Implementation Timelines
    • List specific timelines for each actionable tasks or items.
  • Communication Plan
    • State clearly reporting mandates and evaluation processes.
    • Outline specific internal communication requirements to engage the workforce in adapting or implementing required changes.