A simple guide to workforce planning

Figure 1: Overview of Workforce and Training Plans

This guide sets out the main steps in workforce planning.  It is a comprehensive and financially rewarding approach that includes improving productivity and ensuring that  deman for staff is  planned on a robust and transparent basis (see Figure 1).


The overview, shows the how the workforce and business plan should be closely linked.  This in turn means that the workforce needs to be owned at board level.  It is best to explore several scenarios in order to cope with the numerous dynamic pressures that organisations face. 


Both the workforce and training plans are gap filling exercises, with an element of contigency planning built in to accommodate unforeseen eventualities. 

Figure 2: Workforce Planning Cycle

The Workforce planning cycle is shown as high level questions that are covered in greater detail in the grid that follows Figure 2.

The following steps use questions to guide you easily through the process.  They have been used very successfully in healthcare, but have wider applicability.  They are:



What is involved?

1. What needs to be done?

  • What are the main patient types by volume?
  • Use patient surveys to influence workforce plans
  • Identify the relevant policy issues, e.g. National Service Frameworks and guidelines
  • Commissioning output based service specification

2. Where does it need to be done?

  • Where the service should be provided, in primary, secondary and/or voluntary organisations?
  • Who needs to be involved in the service design?
  • How could the transition between the various organisations be managed to be seamless?

3. When does it need to be done?

  • Identify activity levels by time of day, linking to shift patterns. Often mismatches result in waste of staff and financial resources

4. How should it be done?

  • Review impact of emerging use of technology and advances in use of medication

5. What new competencies will be required in the future?

  • Review service specification and integrated care pathway to establish competencies required, by staff group.
  • Who should do what? Introduction of new ways of working and change of roles and responsibilities
  • How will the service be sustained over time

6. What are the current staff competencies?

  • Review competencies

7. Fill competency gaps

  • To fill the gap, produce a training plan and input
  • Cost the on-going provision

8. What should be the skill mix and organisational structure

  • Design jobs and fit into a hierarchy in order to offer career progression
  • What should be the skill mix?
  • What are the reporting relationships and accountabilities?

9. How many staff are needed

  • What are the ratios between activity and staffing?
  • What are the main activities and how will those be shared – to establish how many staff required
  • Benchmark with other similar organisations and service providers

10. How many staff have we got?

  • What are the establishment, staff-in-post, vacancies, sickness and absence reports?

11. What are the gaps and where will the new staff come from?

  • Produce workforce and recruitment plans
  • How will any changes be managed?
  • Review how realistic the staffing structure is in terms of recruitment and retention

12. Is the plan affordable?

  • The whole plan needs to be costed and revised if necessary

13 Monitor the plan

  • Once the plan has been implemented, monitor its effectiveness
  • What needs to happen to met unforeseen eventualities?

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