Strategic Workforce Planning: Definition, Tools & Model

Instructor: Gaines Arnold
In this lesson, you will discover what strategic workforce planning is, what tools organizations are using to develop effective plans as well as a model that can be used to derive strategic plans.

Ellen and Company X

Change is constant and, despite planning, it is disruptive. Take Ellen for example. She is in charge of Human Resources for Company X. The company makes complicated technical widgets and they are known for their innovation and expertise in the field. Unfortunately, Ellen has a staffing, or workforce, problem. To design new widgets, the company employs engineers in many specific fields. It is not easy to train qualified engineers (the process can take years) and once they are trained, competitors who want to increase their own market share, try to hire her highly qualified engineers away. Another issue is that many of the company's most qualified personnel are nearing retirement and Ellen must constantly recruit. Unfortunately, the pool of college graduates fit for these highly technical jobs is decreasing as new competitors emerge and fewer students enter engineering studies.

What Ellen needs is a plan that will enable her to maintain the number of personnel her company requires despite the challenges she faces. What she needs is a strategic workforce plan. But, what exactly does that entail?

What is Strategic Workforce Planning?

Strategic workforce planning is a construct which requires definition. It would seem logical that the present employees of a company make up its workforce, but that is not entirely correct. The term workforce refers to a pool of workers who are currently employed within a specific company and those who could fill positions within that company at a future date. Human Resources managers cannot afford to think present-term…they have to think of the future of the company and what need will be.

This relates then to workforce planning. This phrase speaks to the need for training and retaining, as well as realizing future needs and preparing for them. It is difficult to forecast with complete accuracy, but personnel management professionals understand the need to be forward thinking when it comes to both retention and recruiting.

Strategic workforce planning though is a job that takes in the whole of employee management, within both the short- and long-terms, and integrates that with forecasting based on expected fluctuations within the employment market. For example, the baby boom generation is aging out of the workforce and creating a gap between staffing needs and expected retention. Unfortunately, this gap is not expected to be filled with the upcoming workforce population. In other words, there are just too many jobs, especially those in technical and managerial positions, being vacated by retiring baby boomers. Human Resource professionals are tasked with trying to strategically plan so when these gaps occur, they can fill them.


To create a plan that maintains a consistent pool of qualified employees, organizations have created different tools that assist with this need. Companies generally either analyze current needs by examining positional requirements or by setting goals using a measured process.

Analyzing Positional Need

When a company creates a job, a description of the opposition is written which details educational expectations, position specific requirements, salary, and other items that contribute to that job. In a strategic planning strategy, companies analyze job descriptions and contrast requirements against projections of what the workforce will expect going forward. By constantly evaluating the positions within the company, hiring professionals and company leadership can bring recruits to the company who are interested based on the description.

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