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March 2016
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The Public Manager

A Scenario for Successful Strategic Workforce Planning

This four-phase approach will help you ensure your agency meets its future workforce goals.

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You have recently joined an agency and been told that it doesn't have the talent needed to meet future goals and that the leadership is counting on you to help solve that problem. What do you do?

First, you immediately reach out to your trusted mentor, a guru in strategic workforce planning, for advice and guidance. Your mentor outlines a four-phase approach for you to follow.

Phase 1. Assess

You must first assess your organization to understand what talent currently exists in the organization and how it aligns to the agency's strategy. Having a clear sense of the agency's vision and mission will help ensure proper alignment between the agency's objectives and the workforce needed both today and in the future. This assessment also must include identifying and understanding the organization's internal and external drivers that significantly affect the agency's workforce.

Once you understand the organizational landscape, the next step is segmenting the workforce to effectively determine the skills and workload of current employees. There are a multitude of different segmentation lenses to use, but one of the first segmentations should focus on the people who fall into the "­mission-critical occupation" category.

In addition to segmentation, you must address two additional tasks:

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  1. Review competency models.
  2. Conduct a workload analysis.

Both competency and workload information can be used to provide an accurate picture of the work to do and the time it takes to perform major tasks. These analyses also assist in projecting staffing requirements.

Phase 2. Analyze

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After you collect the data, compare the supply and demand to identify gaps. Analyze the current supply of skills and available workload to determine what competencies you need in the future as well as what the workload will look like. Next, conduct a gap analysis to understand the extent and scope of the gap between supply and demand, followed by prioritizing these gaps based on their strategic importance to your agency.

Phase 3. Plan

After you prioritize the gaps, your next major task focuses on how to apply appropriate talent management strategies to address these gaps. Some common talent management strategies include:

  • position management
  • deployment
  • leadership development
  • succession management.

You have to determine which strategies will work best for your agency. However, no matter what the strategy is, it is critical to have a project plan for rollout. Major elements of your plan should include a project management approach, a change management approach, and the actual approach for the talent strategy itself.

Phase 4. Execute

Now comes the hardest part of workforce planning—the implementation of the project plan so the organization benefits from all the planning that took place. In addition to the specific tasks to execute, you and others on the implementation team must agree on what success looks like. You also must consider the agency's policies, infrastructure, organizational capability, and leadership commitment. Lastly, you cannot forget to execute a communication plan, develop quick wins, and identify metrics for success.

Before sending you on your way, your mentor offers one final and very important piece of advice: Build a plan that supports flexibility and incorporates best practices to ensure the workforce planning process not only provides guidance in the type of workforce needed, but also becomes an ongoing capability the agency will value for years to come.

About the Author

Debra Eshelman is managing director at Management Concepts.

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