Are you using today’s top workforce planning practices?

Workforce planning — often a major human resource department responsibility — can put your organization in a position to quickly fill vacated positions, avoid expensive skills shortages and prevent operational delays.

Depending on a company’s individual needs and the state of its current talent pipelining efforts, the scope and necessary workforce planning specifics often differ from organization to organization.

In general, though, implementing practices to ensure your company will be able to address its future organizational needs essentially provides a clear map to help your organization stay on course — and fully staffed.

Yet many organizations struggle with the workforce planning process. A recent survey of more than 700 businesses in Asia, conducted by workforce technology solutions provider HRBoss, found that 98 percent of organizations believe that workforce planning is important to their organizational success.

However, just 2 percent were happy with their current planning method.

Workforce Planning Basics

In many cases, meeting future talent needs involves a system of research, review and accountability.

For example, in a report written to help U.S. federal agencies handle impending staffing challenges, the Government Accountability Office suggested practices in five key areas of human capital management: strategic workforce planning, training, performance management, recruitment and hiring, and diversity.

The GAO’s specific recommendations included identifying external resources, such as human intelligence consultants or contractors, and establishing a system to “continually assess and improve human capital planning and investment.” Agencies were also advised to determine what critical skills and competencies needed to meet agency goals — and to have a solid succession plan in place, identifying any training and development gaps that could delay progress.

Those workforce planning recommendations may not sound revolutionary; in many cases, they aren’t. However, it’s easy for organizations to lose sight of some central goals, talent resources, or impending operational threats — particularly in times of growth.

Updating Your Workforce Planning Efforts

If you haven’t considered your future talent pipelining needs — or revisited your workforce planning program recently — take a moment to review what current skills and employees your organization couldn’t stand to lose.

Whether you’re building a plan from scratch, or updating a pre-existing one, the following best practice workforce planning suggestions may provide some help:

View major risks as a strategic responsibility. Workforce (and other) planning can’t only involve one aspect of an organization. True enterprise risk management actions must be fully adopted — with obvious CEO and CFO support — to protect an organization from major strategy, operational or other negative events, according to a 2011 report from member-based nonprofit business research organization APQC. An effective workforce planning program needs to be prevalent at all levels of an organization — and should be frequently reviewed to ensure it addresses all current and future organizational needs.

Embrace key workforce planning principles. The Australian Public Service’s Planning for the Workforce of the Future guide defines basic workforce planning principles as identifying future needs; understanding your current workforce capabilities; identifying and addressing workforce issues; effectively implementing changes; and monitoring and evaluating their success.

Implementing these ideas at your organization can help you prepare for future needs. APS suggests organizations capture current employee knowledge; clarify objectives and periodically review performance; work to meet both the organization’s needs and the career needs of individual workers; and link learning and development plans to current and anticipated workforce needs.

Handle skills shortages and other staffing issues with creative solutions. Even with careful planning, some staffing shortages may occur. An inventive approach can help. For example, organizations dealing with a project or seasonal high-level skills shortage that lack the budget for a significant, sudden staff expansion may benefit from tapping the retired professional talent pool, according to Monster. Retired workers can provide both workplace experience and institutional know-how.

The first step in any workforce succession plan should involve a thorough organizational review to gauge your current knowledge base, before you start thinking about your anticipated needs.

Once you’ve identified your current and forecasted staffing needs, you’ll need to find a way to fill them. Creating an ongoing talent pipeline can serve as a helpful resource for finding qualified candidates, preventing a rushed search for applicants when a position opens up.

However, talent pipelining efforts can be time-intensive, prompting some organizations to avoid them. Learn more about creating an ongoing talent pipelining program and get tips on outsourcing HR services to free your department up for any additional workforce planning your organization may need.