Workforce Planning

Workforce planning is the HR function that links workforce strategies with the strategic goals and objectives of the organization. Workforce planning is about forecasting staffing needs, helping to ensure that the organization has the right number of employees, with the right skills, at the right time. Because workforce planning projects future human capital needs and determines how to strategically fill those needs, workforce planning is often referred to as HR planning, succession planning, human capital planning, and/or talent management.

The Society for Human Resource Management defined workforce planning as “the strategic alignment of an organization’s human capital with its business direction” (SHRM HR Q&As, 2012). Thus, workforce planning:

  1. identifies the gaps between the future needs of the organization and the structure of the current organization and

  2. identifies skills that the organization doesn’t currently have but will soon require.

The Need for Additional Labor

When workforce planning indicates the need for additional labor, organizations have a number of choices to make. Sometimes hiring new employees is not the best method to obtain additional labor. It may be appropriate for an organization to consider alternatives to recruiting, such as outsourcing or contingent labor, instead of hiring regular, full-time employees. If there is a temporary fluctuation in work volume, for example, the simplest solution may be part-time labor or overtime for existing employees. The costs of recruitment and selection can be staggering; hiring new employees should occur only after careful consideration and only when the organization anticipates a long-term need for additional labor. Estimates on the cost to replace supervisory, technical, and management employees can run from fifty percent to several hundred percent of current employee salaries (Sommer, R.D. 2000, “Retaining intellectual capacity in the 21st century,” SHRM White Paper). Careful HR planning must consider the overall growth prospects of the organization and must forecast future labor needs accurately. Recruitment planning begins only when other alternatives have been considered and eliminated.

Workforce planning helps ensure that organizations fulfill their business plans for the future in terms of financial objectives, output goals, product mix, technologies, and resource requirements. Once business plans are determined, the HR planner assists in developing workable organizational structures and in determining the number and type of employees that will be required to meet those plans.

Alignment between Business and Human Resource Planning

Human resource planning should not occur in isolation. The size of an organization’s workforce, including its occupational mix, should be based on its business plans. Every organization should ask the question, “How many of each type of employee will be required to achieve our organizational goals?” To reach its goals, an organization must have the proper mix of employees with the necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities. Therefore, three levels of human resource planning need to occur, with each level interacting with a corresponding level of business planning: long-range, middle-range, and short-range planning.

Long-Range Planning

HR managers should participate with top management in formulating a long-range business strategy that identifies what an organization is about, what it expects to do, and why it exists. The organizational mission needs to be examined to determine what useful products or services the organization should produce. In addition, the strategic plan should include a careful analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the organization. Does the organization have a competitive advantage in its products or services that it should pursue in the future? Are there serious weaknesses that will injure or destroy the organization in the long run?

The strategic plan should include a long-range analysis of employment. This analysis, which is called environmental scanning, consists of a careful analysis of the composition of the labor force, including demographic changes, social and cultural changes, changes in the labor supply, and changes in laws and regulatory agencies. Each of these changes could have a significant influence on the availability and preparation of potential employees. An organization cannot achieve its long-range strategic goals without the necessary personnel. If the long-range planning indicates that the necessary personnel with the required skills will not be available, the strategic plans may need to be modified.

Middle-Range Planning

Middle-range business planning consists of formulating the specific organizational goals and objectives that an organization expects to achieve within the next two to five years. These plans may be stated in terms of sales, the number of units produced, or some other index of business activity. Achieving these goals and objectives requires the proper mix of people. Middle-range human resource planning involves forecasting how many employees will be needed within each job category to achieve the business goals. Since some members of the present workforce will leave due to turnover, the attrition rate must be estimated and included in the calculations. Productivity changes also must be forecast since changes in productivity will influence employment needs.

Short-Range Planning

Short-range business planning typically involves developing performance goals or annual operating plans. Most organizations use some form of short-term business planning, even if they do not have elaborate long-range plans. Budgets and economic forecasts help companies control spending and anticipate possible problems in the future. These planning tools help to coordinate the activities in the organization and guide the efforts of individual employees.

The major responsibility for projecting human resource needs belongs to each operating officer. Supervisors and managers should anticipate the number of employees and the skills and training needed to achieve business objectives. If more employees are needed, staffing authorizations should be prepared to mobilize recruiters. On the other hand, if a surplus of employees is forecast, administrators must decide how the workforce should be reduced. The short-range human resource plan should also include an analysis of promotions and transfers, which is called succession planning, and should project whether these changes will necessitate additional training and development activities.

Short-range plans typically have a great influence on the day-to-day activities of an organization. Although long-range plans provide guidance by pointing the organization in the direction it will move, they generally do not have much impact until they are translated into specific short-range plans. Some organizations maintain five to ten-year forecasts. In those cases, plans and forecasts are revised and updated annually so that an organization always has a five-year plan and separate yearly plans leading toward its long-range objectives.


As unit managers engage in workforce planning, it is important that they understand how to best recruit potential applicants. As a result, in this course, we will present an effective model of the recruitment process and examine the recruitment process from the perspective of the job applicant. We will also discuss the type of applicants to recruit and identify recruiting methods for specific groups (or targets) of individuals. Finally, we will discuss a number of issues in managing the recruitment function and examine the important relationship between workforce planning and recruitment. 


In today’s global and competitive work environment, organizations must be effective in their operations. An effective organization must be able to understand and execute the employee selection process. In this course, we will explore various aspects of the selection process, including the initial application, interviewing candidates, performing background checks and reference checking, and eventually making a job offer.

We will also examine internal selection and the process of hiring employees from “inside” the organization. In so doing, we will explore the role of the supervisor in taking stock of potential employees’ interests and communicating the internal hiring decision to members of the organization. We will also examine the HR department’s role and responsibility in internal selection.

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