Published on

November 10, 2022

6 steps to skill-based strategic workforce planning

Klara Freitag

Klara Freitag

Skills & Content Lead

Category:

Learning Hub

Reading time:

10

Minutes
HR & L&D managers participate in a strategic workforce planning session.

HR & L&D managers participate in a strategic workforce planning session.

Strategic workforce planning (SWP) is a process of analyzing an organization's current workforce and predicting future workforce needs. The goal of SWP is to ensure that an organization has the right number and type of employees with the right skills in the right place at the right time to meet its business goals. The strategic workforce planning process generally includes the following steps:

  1. Strategic direction
  2. Needs analysis
  3. Workforce analysis
  4. Gap analysis
  5. Solution implementation
  6. Measuring progress

In this blog, we will examine each of these steps and propose a better, skill-based approach to strategic workforce planning. Additionally, we will show an example as an illustration. 

6-step skill-based strategic workforce planning process

Advantages of skill-based strategic workforce planning

Traditional workforce planning is based on job profiles. In contrast, we recommend using skills as the basis for forecasting and planning your workforce. There are three advantages to this:

  1. Guidance: Skills become the common language for the entire planning cycle. 
  2. Flexibility: Independence from specific job profiles that are changing at an increasingly rapid pace. 
  3. Agility: Targeted analyses can be performed for specific projects or initiatives instead of going through the entire cycle.

1. Strategic direction: what do we want to achieve?

The first step is alignment with your company's goals. What are they? Are transformation processes being initiated, and how will they be implemented? What are the specific business goals that require new skills or that build on existing skills? At this point, it can be helpful to look at skills market data in your industry, from companies with a similar focus, or skills data from your own company.

We’ll look at this example in all 6 steps. 

ACME Corporation wants to move to strong automation of processes at executive level. To kick off the transformation process and drive greater process automation, HR is tasked with building expertise on "Robotic Process Automation" (RPA) across the entire business unit. HR identifies all competencies and underlying skills using market data, competitor and internal data to get a comprehensive overview of the skills needed.

2. Needs analysis: which skills are needed?

The second step is a concrete needs analysis of the required roles and underlying skills. What specific skills are needed for the transformation process? Skills are a decisive advantage here compared to a needs analysis based on job roles, because role descriptions and competencies change quickly. They are also not specific enough to identify skills gaps and derive recommendations for action. To achieve this, use a skill taxonomy to define concrete target skill profiles. These allow more flexibility than rigid job roles and can also be completely tailored to your needs. 

Back to our example:

ACME Corporation's HR department converts the skills identified in step 1 into a skills taxonomy and uses it to construct concrete skills profiles for the transformation process. This is carried out in collaboration with experts from the specialist area and management level stakeholders to ensure that all requirements are covered. 

3. Workforce Analysis: what skills are already available?

Before bringing in new talent, it can be worthwhile to first look within your existing workforce to identify the  already available. Examining the status quo gives you a snapshot of your current situation and creates a data source on which to base future decisions. The first step is to determine where the company has skills gaps that need to be filled. Based on the skills profile, the workforce can be analyzed and mapped accordingly. It is important that the skill profiles are up to date and can adapt to external developments. The existing skills can be determined, for example, via skill assessments or by self-assessment. 

Back to our example:

ACME Corporation makes the defined RPA target skill profile available to all employees in the specialist area, e.g. via a Learning Experience Platform (LXP). A self-assessment is then used to measure the knowledge level of each individual. This self-assessment can be validated or ranked by supervisors, if necessary. The result is an overview of the current level of RPA-relevant skills in the business unit. 

4. Gap Analysis: what skills are missing?

In the next step, the existing skills and their distribution are measured against the target skill profile. This comparison makes it possible to see exactly which skills are present, and to what degree and also highlights those which are absent. It also calculates the "distance" of individual staff members (or cohorts) from the target profile. This comparison of the current skills complement and the target position informs your future decision-making in workforce planning. 

In the example: 

The company already has experts who fulfill a large part of the target profile for RPA. What they’re missing is comprehensive knowledge of the fundamentals and practical experience in automation, which will enable communication with the experts and will drive the transformation.  

5. Solution implementation: How can skill gaps be closed?

We know the skill profile, who fulfills it, and exactly what is lacking. The next step is to solve the skills gap, by defining the concrete measures you will take. There are several ways to approach this: for example, the required skills can be brought into the company through upskilling or reskilling, outsourcing or internal mobility. Skills serve as a common language linking the various initiatives. Depending on the use case,you could set up a skill-based internal project platform or make personalized learning recommendations.

Back to our example: 

The human resources department at ACME Corporation has decided to build the required skills by upskilling existing employees in their company. They have purchased and compiled learning content on the basics of automation and assigned the corresponding skills in an LXP. Each target profile and the previous assessment informs the way that learners are assigned content. Artificial intelligence (AI) within the learning platform also ensures that the learning content is automatically adapted to the learners' prior knowledge and that employees only receive the learning content that will push them further. This saves time, increases learning readiness, and maximizes results.

6. Measuring progress: How can we measure learning progress?

Did the learning content produce the desired results? Was it used at all? How was the user experience with the learning content? Setting the right key performance indicators (KPIs) can help you to find answers to these and other questions. These are the KPIs our example organization used:

Goal-based KPI

  • How high is the proportion of automated processes in the company?
  • Did we achieve our business objective?

KPI: % of processes automated

Behaviour-based KPIs  

  • What was the quality of the learning content and how successfully were participants able to apply the skills?
  • Were specific digital tools required to do this?

KPIs:

  • Feedback on how well the learning offering enabled the learner to apply a behaviour
  • Rating to which degree an employee exhibits a behaviour related to a skill
  • Objective frequency of use of specific digital  tools 

Input-based KPIs

  • How many people registered?
  • Who and how many staff took an assessment test, how many hours of training time were completed? 

KPIs:

  • People registered on learning platform
  • Initial placement test taken
  • Learning Paths started
  • Weekly / Monthly Active Users (WAU/MAU)
  • Learning Hours
  • Learning Paths completed
  • Guiding project implemented

Output-based KPIs

  • How did the skill gap evolve?
  • How is the skill evolving in the organization over the long term?
  • What is the self-assessment feedback from the employees?

KPIs:

  • Target skill achievement rate
  • Skill gap against role-specific target skill profiles
  • Progression of skills over time against target skill state (either a specific skill profile or a combination of skills)
  • Self-Reported mastery of the target skills

Skill-based strategic workforce planning as a challenge & an opportunity

Skill-based strategic workforce planning makes it possible not only to place certain skills in a team, but also to develop them over the long term so that they remain and continue to develop. Through a strategic step-by-step approach, the method facilitates long-term results. By intelligently measuring successes, the process feeds itself with new input and can continue flexibly. Supported by AI and other technologies, learning new skills can not only advance the company, but also create a sense of achievement for employees and experts. This is not just about expertise, but about a culture of skills development and personal achievements. Lifelong learning becomes embedded within your company and a recognizable benefit.

Do you need advice on your workforce planning strategy? 

Schedule a call with one of our Skill Architects and get a free consultation on the health of your strategy, processes and learning ecosystem. 

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