What is workforce planning?

Workforce Planning is the process an organization uses to analyze its workforce and determine what it needs to be in order to meet the current and future staffing needs. This process may involve analyzing current top performers, recruiting methods and process, and recognizing future need. This process can be further broken down by the 5 stages of workforce planning.

  1. Strategic Direction – Organization develops a strategic direction for its operational (less than 1 year) and Strategic Resource needs. For example: reconfiguration of manufacturing lines to leverage new or emerging technologies.
  2. Resource and Skill Gap Analysis – Based on the developed Strategic Direction, analyze what gaps may emerge based on the resourcing needs regarding headcount, available skills needed for the demand. For example:  When reconfiguring the manufacturing process to leverage new or emerging technologies, organizations must understand what skill the current workforce currently has, then what skills are needed to handle the new technologies. This could lead to new hires or further advancement of training for existing employees.
  3. Development of an Action Plan – Once a plan has been established to close the skill gaps created by the strategic plan, organizations must develop and publicize the plan. For example:  charging recruiting function to change requisitions or job requirements to attract talent that has access to the skills required by the new technologies or developing a comprehensive training strategy to further develop their existing employees.
  4. Implementation of the Action Plan – Once a plan has been established the plan must be put into action.
  5. Analysis and evaluation of Action Plan Results- this step is one of the most crucial and often overlooked stages of the cycle. Workforce planning is not a linear function and requires constant evaluation and analysis in order to better develop the next strategic direction of the organization.

Why Workforce Planning?

The two most valuable assets to every organization are the human capital needs of today and the human capital needs to tomorrow. If 100 companies were asked what the most important part is of the organization, they would all say people, but despite this recognition most organization still struggle with creating and implementing an effective workforce plan.

One of the key factors in organizations workforce in 2022 is the need to improve employee experience, through diversity, inclusion and belonging. Analyzing through real time data the current workforce climate further aides in the ability to understand resourcing needs and skill gaps that are vital to long term success. The need to analyze data in real time further drives the need for real time data, analysis and action. This cannot be done using old, slow and error prone techniques such as many different spreadsheets passed around from manager to manager. It must be data that can be accessed on a moment’s notice and be accurate in order to compete in today’s market. Accuracy and timeliness of this data is the key element need to develop short- and long-term business strategies and executions.

What are some of the challenges to Workforce Planning?

So, if all organizations recognize that a workforce plan is needed to be effective and successful, why is it so hard to accomplish this task? In the past, challenges have been largely based on lack of data integration and normalization. Different systems reporting on different data structure or data models makes gathering of the data a very slow and painful tasks, often taking up many resources hours in data wrangling that could otherwise be used for data analysis.

Another challenge has been the ability to develop an effective, single source, single entry point for all plans. Many companies, even extremely large ones, still leverage old excel sheets, distributed from manager to manager to analyze their needs and pass those needs up the organization to the planning administrator. Once the administrators have the data in their hands, many resource hours are spent simply developing meaningful reports and visualizations to further understand the impacts of those plans. Administrators then analyze the plan against errors as well as against overall strategic alignment to the organization’s needs and determine if the plan is acceptable or if it needs to be revised and sent back, just to have the whole process start again. This often makes, what should be an easy and quick process, into a lengthy and often frustrating process that ultimately leads to low buy-in by many in the organization.

How to mature in your workforce planning?

Development of a comprehensive workforce strategy that involves management as well as HR creating a shared responsibility. This shared responsibility is proven by leaders and managers being able to develop and maintain standardized and repeatable measures that matter to the overall organization’s strategy, both long term and short term. Once common ground is established through meaningful collaboration, leveraging current and real time data, more of a focus can then be placed on the execution of three key areas of strategy

  1. Business Strategy – overall objective of the organization and its human capital needs.
  2. HR Strategy – development and execution of resourcing needs focused on retention of top talent, recruiting of new talent and training of existing resources to be better prepared for the future.
  3. Top Leadership directives and expectations – this area is focused on key initiatives of top leadership, alignment of those initiatives to Business and HR Strategies.

Being able to spend the time we saved by standardizing and collaborating in a more efficient and effective method allows us to move beyond simple report and reactionary process to start diving into the questions, as it relates to strategy, about why things are happening in our workforce and what would happen if we made specific changes.

Why SAP Analytics Cloud Planning?

Past history and challenges can be daunting to any organizations, but all is not lost. Through the use of SAP Analytics Cloud Planning, we are able to leverage an extremely powerful, scalable and flexible tool to:

  • Develop one platform for all users at every level of the organization to develop a true forecast and meet the changing demands. 
  • We are also able to use SAC Planning to isolate specific points of the business (by filtering or security) to plan by departments, roles, time, cost centers or functions. 
  • Since we can add layers of security and distribute tasks to leaders and managers in a more efficient way possible, we are also able to collaborate using built in tools which allow for better communication throughout the process INSIDE the tool.  
  • Not only does the one platform approach allow us to centralize the process and collaboration but this also allows all parties involved to easily stay informed by accessing reports with real time data on your computer and smart device.
  • No long-term implementation processes! By using prebuilt automatic connectors to common HRIS data systems we can speed up the implementation process allowing organizations to begin planning right away.

Ultimately leveraging a comprehensive workforce planning tool help HR begin to drive itself out of an organization’s view of being a cost center that must be managed to a real leader and success driver of overall organization’s objectives. The impact of HR to the success cannot be overstated and waiting six months for next year’s plans will no longer be tolerated by the marketplace. Being in the forefront of technology and leveraging current and future technology will be the key factor in determining whether an organization is going to thrive or lose out on a very promising future.



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Business Growth – Needed to define common planning and reporting processes to eliminate region silos and thereby optimize global sales, pricing, transfer pricing, and operations
CONSUMER PRODUCTS GOODS (Planning & Consolidation)
Business Growth – Needed to define a centralized process for planning that incorporated the sales plan with production capabilities to better manage margin.
RETAIL (Planning & Consolidation)
Known for their trend setting ballet flats and forward thinking designs, this retailer is a fashion industry success story. Experiencing incredible success on the runway and in global markets, this company turned to SAP Business Planning and Consolidation (BPC) on HANA to provide a scalable financial planning, consolidation and reporting solution.
Upgrading SAP BPC to the HANA platform: Cintas run SAP ERP on HANA and needed to upgrade their SAP BPC 7.5 for financial consolidation and reporting from Microsoft SQL Server to the SAP HANA platform
ENERGY (Business Modeling)
Merger and Acquisition: ETP needed to manage multiple cultures, process, systems, and general ledgers from a series of merges and acquisitions, and generate meaningful budgets and forecast for company reports
Business Growth – expansion of manufacturing sites required enhanced planning, and potential acquisitions would require confidence in consolidation and reporting