HR Strategic Planning: Meeting The Workforce Planning Needs

Photo Credit: Jan Willem Geertsma
Photo Credit: Jan Willem Geertsma

An HR strategic plan will predict and plan for the HR needs for the organization based on where the company currently is versus where the company expects to be in the future. HR must have a plan to meet the workforce needs of the company to ensure that the staffing levels are appropriate and qualified to assist the company with meeting the organizational objectives.

Having an HR strategic plan is important for any organization, but especially during a time when Baby Boomers are retiring or are looking at retirement soon and the new generations are moving into the work space. Most companies have financial plans in place based on sales projections, but what about workforce projections? If a company is forecasting growth, downsizing, or even staying at the same level, a workforce plan, or part of the HR strategic plan, should be forecasted in addition to other plans for the organization.

The workforce is, as it should be, a large portion of a company’s expenses. Some areas to review and include in the plan should include the following.

Current Workforce

The organization should look at the current workforce, how it is working out for the company, and if changes need to be made. These changes could be reducing the current workforce, reassigning certain employees to different areas, projected promotions or demotions, and any changes in the current rate of pay for those being promoted or demoted. Working with department managers to create a skills inventory of existing employees can give a good picture of which employees may be willing and ready to receive more responsibility or possible reassignment, and if career development and succession management opportunities exist.

Revamping / Adding Training

While usually in the second phase of an HR strategic plan, although just as important in my opinion, is whether or not to revamp the current training for current employees and new hires. This is especially important to look at if the existing training is outdated or doesn’t use all available tools. While HR doesn’t necessarily have to be in charge of updating the training, it should be budgeted through the workforce plan and projections. Additional training plans should include industry-required training for employees moving into a new department, moving up in their department, or taking on additional responsibilities.

Forecasting Workforce Needs

There is a large cost associated with recruiting, hiring, and training new employees. Reassigning and retaining current employees is obviously the most cost effective method, but it is not always realistic, especially with turnover and company growth. New employees just have to be hired, period. Planning in advance is the best way to ensure that all costs are accounted for within the budget.

Determining future workforce needs will require forecasting the strategic needs of the organization to determine: how many and what positions will need to be filled, what timeframe these positions will need to be filled in, and what skills set and training the new employees will need.

HR will need to look at the economic status and shifts in the market to determine how they will go about recruiting for the needs of the organization. Planning for the challenges and how to overcome these challenges from the start will help HR be more successful in obtaining the goals of the overall business plan for the organization.

Tips for HR

It is becoming more and more common for organizations to involve HR in the strategic planning of the company, as they should. But, there are a few things for HR to keep in mind when working with the executive team in developing the HR strategic plan.

First, HR must be flexible. The needs of the company will be flexible and managing the change of the future needs flexibility.

Second, staying in touch with current laws and technology will aid with the flexibility and will help keep the company in compliance.

Third, ensure HR has the needed manpower to support the organization going into the future. A company that is looking to grow will need more support.


Let’s face it, some companies put plans in place but have a difficult time with the follow-through. This, I have found, is due largely because of the economic and business changes. The plans change and the strategic plan doesn’t always get updated timely or appropriately. Follow-through, whether on the original plan or a new plan, is imperative for the company to continue to move forward.

When the needs and demands of the organization and economy change, HR must be flexible and change with it while staying on top of the laws to ensure compliance. Evolving plans means evolving implementation. HR may be told today that they will need to find 10 new employees within 30 days to add manpower to a department that is expecting to grow, but then find out in a week that they will actually need 20 new employees for that department.

In conclusion, HR is there to support the rest of the organization in the strategic needs as the company grows. The willingness to be flexible and the willingness to think outside of the box to develop new ideas for implementation will have a positive effect on the company as a whole.

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