Setting the stage for success: Your journey to strategic workforce planning


Kouros Behzad

Director of Product Marketing, Anaplan solutions for HR and workforce planning

Learn how to make strategic workforce planning your blueprint for organizational excellence.

Strategic workforce planning has transitioned from a nice-to-have to a critical necessity for leading companies aiming for long-term organizational success and excellence. It starts with a blueprint of your current state and culminates in a smart, adaptive platform that aligns the evolving workforce with the company's long-term business goals. It ensures organizations can anticipate changes and meet them head-on for sustained growth and resilience.

Whether you are in the initial stages of considering strategic workforce planning or looking to refine your current practices, this blog is crafted for business leaders and decision-makers who recognize the imperative to future-proof their organizations but need practical advice on securing buy-in and implementing effective workforce strategies. You will come away with the critical components of strategic workforce planning and its benefits, including accurately forecasting workforce demand, effectively balancing supply and demand, and the technologies that underpin this critical process.

What is strategic workforce planning? 

Strategic workforce planning is a forward-thinking process that aligns an organization's human capital with its commercial objectives, ensuring long-term success and adaptability. It involves combining several key components to effectively match critical workforce capabilities with evolving business strategies and initiatives:

  • Forecasting workforce demand, which accurately projects future business requirements by analyzing short and long-term goals, market fluctuations, and emerging trends in industry and technology. It emphasizes the identification of essential future skills, roles, and job types necessary to support organizational growth.
  • Supply-demand balancing: Strategic workforce planning scrutinizes the variance between current capabilities and future requirements to identify areas needing human capital investment and identifies associated risks aiding in budget and resource allocation planning.
  • Workforce strategies and HR interventions to attract, develop, and retain the necessary talent. This encompasses talent mobility and succession planning, targeted recruiting or training and development initiatives, and retention strategies that resonate with the company’s culture and values, ensuring a sustainable talent pipeline. A “build/buy/borrow/bot” approach determines the optimal mix of developing internal resources (build), hiring new talent (buy), utilizing contingent workers (borrow), or implementing automation and AI (bot) to best position the organization for future challenges and opportunities.
  • Scenario planning: By modeling different future scenarios, organizations can test the impact of various hypothetical conditions on workforce needs and costs. This aids in preparing for diverse potential outcomes, thereby enhancing the organization's resilience and flexibility.
  • Close collaboration with other business functions ensures workforce planning is not isolated but interwoven with financial, operational, and technological planning within the organization. This integration is crucial for a holistic approach, allowing the workforce strategy to be adaptive and aligned with the overall business strategy.

How is strategic workforce planning done?

While strategic workforce planning may sound straightforward in principle, there are some key fundamentals for implementing a successful strategic workforce planning initiative:

  1. Break down department silos: Ensure that HR, finance, and operational leaders are not working in silos but are collaborating behind your shared goal of ensuring the business is ready to manage this change.
  2. Create your blueprint: This combined team should create a blueprint for your workforce, which then enables you to work on a long-term vision for what your workforce should look like to support your strategic goals.  
  3. Secure buy-in: Ensure the executive team understands the value of strategic workforce planning and blueprinting. Highlight the risks of inaction, such as talent shortages and reduced competitiveness, which can lead to operational disruptions, financial losses, or missed revenue opportunities.
  4. Invest in the right tools and technologies: Utilize sophisticated tools to deepen the integration of workforce data across finance, HR, and operational domains, enabling comprehensive visibility and strategic alignment. Anaplan enhances workforce planning by offering the ability to model financial budgets against headcount and growth projections, incorporate key factors like hiring, attrition, ramp times, and benchmark data for precise forecasting, and perform detailed "what-if" scenario analyses. 

In collaborating with a diverse array of companies, we have consistently observed that the benefits of an integrated workforce planning approach are substantial, impacting both the agility and strategic depth of organizations. These benefits include:

  • Organizational agility: By continuously evaluating and adapting to workforce needs, companies can respond swiftly to market changes. This proactive stance allows organizations to leverage opportunities and mitigate challenges more effectively than competitors who react slower to new market conditions. Enhanced agility ensures that companies can quickly pivot their strategies to take advantage of emerging trends or to address sudden shifts in the industry landscape.
  • Enhanced decision-making: With integrated insights from HR, finance, and business units, companies make well-informed decisions that bolster both immediate operational requirements and long-term strategic objectives. This holistic view prevents silos and ensures that all parts of the organization are aligned, which is critical for the smooth execution of company-wide initiatives and long-term growth planning.
  • Increased competitiveness: Organizations that adeptly align their workforce planning with broader business strategies position themselves to not only meet current market demands but also to anticipate future needs. This foresight allows them to stay ahead of the curve, thereby outperforming peer companies that may still be relying on outdated, reactive models. This strategic alignment enhances the company’s overall competitiveness in a rapidly evolving market.

Robust communication and collaboration tools facilitate seamless integration across various business units, enhancing the overall efficacy of the strategic planning process. These integrated efforts ultimately lead to a more resilient organization that is well-prepared to navigate both current and future business landscapes, driving sustained growth and operational efficiency.

What are you waiting for?

As businesses continue to navigate an increasingly complex world, the adoption of strategic workforce planning is not merely beneficial — it's imperative for survival and success.

Organizations prepared to invest in strategic workforce planning will find themselves not only ready to face the challenges of tomorrow but poised to capitalize on opportunities. This intentional approach to workforce planning ensures that your organization remains adaptable, resilient, and competitive, no matter what the future holds.

Are you ready to transform your workforce planning process and ensure your organization is future-ready? 

Explore Anaplan’s solutions for strategic workforce planning, and discover how you can increase business agility, reduce costs, and improve customer satisfaction.