What Is a Workforce Planning System?

Workforce Planning: You Don’t Have to Be a Planner

I am a planner by nature and the choice I made of what business to go into – human resources and policy analysis – reflects this preference. The title of this blog is meant to appeal to the many business owners and managers who hear “workforce planning” and, unlike me, would rather not plan but just jump right in and “get ‘er done.” I’d like you to realize that you’re already doing workforce planning everyday and give you some tips on how to do it better.

What is a Workforce Planning System?

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What is a workforce planning system? Workforce planning spans a wide range of activities that you’re probably already doing. Have you thought about how you can sell more of your products to customers? Have you thought about how to make your customers’ shopping experience nice at your store or website so they will come back? Have you scheduled workers? Then you know workforce planning.

I like to call this most essential level of workforce planning the implementation level – and congratulations for getting it done.

The Strategic Level of Workforce Planning

Why are you in business? You’re in business to make money, right? Think about this question in just a little more detail, but still answer off the top of your head. The answer is probably more like, “I sell the best computer accessories in the area. Mine work the first time without confusing my customers!” Ta-da! That’s your mission statement.

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With this mission statement, suddenly, you are now at another level of workforce planning. This level is also essential. I call this the strategic level of workforce planning. You will soon see how it will help you form a business strategy.

Creating a Vision Statement – And a Business Strategy

“How you gonna do it?” This is a line from a NickleBack song in which the main guy in the song is about decide he wants to be a rock star. And, it also works to create your vision statement. It’s not too brainy to develop your mission and vision statements. You can still be a doer and do this. And, once you’re done, you are ready to develop your workforce planning system.

Let me give you an example of a vision statement for the sales of computer accessories: “Work with suppliers of high-quality computer components to provide my customers with superb accessories that give them the confidence to take their computer use to the next level.”

If this is your business, you know that as customers gain confidence you will sell them more components, based on your reputation for selling stuff that works right out of the box. And then customers will keep ramping up what they want to do, as their confidence grows. Due to the niche you have carved out in their minds, you’ll be going on their journey with them, selling them more complex components to enhance their experience.

Excited? That’s what well-done mission and vision statements do – inspire people. They also help form your business strategy.

With this mission statement and vision statement, now we’ve got a business strategy. You may have always wanted one of those, but were too busy selling to sit down and work one out.

Base Your Workforce Planning System on Your Strategy

This business strategy tells you your next steps to make your business better.

Continuing with our previous example, the following steps may flow out of this newly established business strategy:

We know we want our customers to have a positive shopping experience, and we plan to build our business on return customers, so we need to recruit knowledgeable sales and technical staff and we need to keep their training updated. We need to have enough staff on the sales floor to help customers without feeling distracted by the work they need to do elsewhere. But, the sales staff need to get back to the inventory and restocking tasks as soon as they can. So we also need to recruit sales staff that is strong on follow-through.

We need managers who will understand if their work on the sales floor keeps staff from completing the restocking or inventory tasks they were also assigned. But our mission and vision statements affirm that customer satisfaction is our primary focus, so the restocking and inventory may need to be carried over to the next shift. So, we need a way to document store tasks so the manager of next shift can know what tasks are on-going from the previous shift. We’ll need to recruit managers who understand the importance of good documentation and follow-through.

Products and Pricing
We will buy computer components that are high quality, and they will cost a little more than others. But our service will be better, so when we charge higher prices to cover our higher costs it will make sense to the customer. Everyone knows the mantra – you get what you pay for, in service and in products. Since everyone knows it, use that knowledge as your friend. If anyone says anything about it, repeat it to them. They will probably continue to shop, confident that you will back up your higher prices with quality instead of apologizing for them.

Our business strategy is now influencing hiring of staff and managers, the kinds of suppliers we want to buy from, and how to approach customers.

Now Weave Together Workforce Strategy and Implementation

The business strategy will not only help you lay out a workforce planning system, but also provide guidance when you run into bumps in the road.

For example, if we cannot seem to get the inventory and restocking tasks done, we need to schedule them for shifts where sales are typically slow so the necessary staff will not be on the sales floor. To do that, we need to know when slow sales times are, so we need to keep records on customer traffic and sales hour by hour, day by day.

Your managers, sales staff, or cashiers can keep these records on a formal or informal basis. They can make tally marks on a form on a clipboard, click a hand-held counter, or just let you know when they see a lot of people in the store. Remember that recollections can be misleading, but the low cost of collecting that data may be worth not doing something more accurate but expensive.

Remember to Start Slow and Congratulate Yourself at Every Step in Workforce Planning
You can see how some strategic workforce planning can give you a lot of information quickly. It can also tell you what additional information you could collect and use to better define your customers, their needs, and how to serve them to fill your chosen market niche.

Do not let the effort needed discourage you from at least getting started. I showed you how easy it is to put together your mission and vision statements. Everything flows from them and, when they are well done, they can energize you and your staff. Much else will fall into place simply by taking these two fairly easy steps. Keep the process as simple as you can and celebrate your progress because it will all contribute to your business success.


Joe Gross

HR & Policy Solutions, PLLC

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