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Workforce Planning Tools and Template for HR Professionals

Topics: Growth

Workforce planning helps operations and leadership identify and address the gaps between the workforce of today and the needs of tomorrow. 

This systematic process, when done well, can have a profound impact on the effectiveness of your business. Yet, we’ve heard from many customers that it often become a last-minute, chaotic process. To help you make the most of workforce planning, we’ve put together a handy list of Do’s and Don’ts. 

Don’t: Wait for finance to “launch” budget planning season 

You know what’s gonna happen, what you are going to be asked and what you wish you didn’t have to do. Get started with a rough outline, assume some numbers and dates and then start filling in the gaps as official workforce planning gets underway. If you get 15 percent of the way into 15 percent of your to-dos, you’ll feel ahead of the game.

Pro tip: As an HR professional, you know more about employees than anyone else within the company. As such, you have an opportunity to influence the salary budget and be an advocate for employees, ensuring that everyone is paid fairly and competitively.

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If you struggle to get Finance to approve your budget request, it’s likely that you aren’t speaking their language. Unlike HR, the Finance team’s mandate isn’t to optimize the employee experience, it’s to ensure that the business grows its revenue, manages its costs and, ultimately, optimize and maximize profitability. That’s not to say that they don’t see employees as people; but rather, their mandate is different and as such, they have differing priorities.

To fulfill their mandate and make optimal decisions, Finance wants to know what the options are, how likely each is to occur and the pros and cons for each option in terms of easy-to-quantify costs (or hard costs) and hard-to-quantify costs (or soft costs).

So, if you want Finance to allocate budget to a certain program or initiative, you’ll need to think through the options and explain the consequences of not getting something in terms of hard costs and soft costs.

To learn more about how to speak the language of Finance (and get your budget request approved), check out this blog post.

Do: Get ahead of ONE thing you wish you’d started earlier last year


Photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash

Another “get ahead” option is to get 80 percent of the work done on the one thing that took way longer than planned last year. Maybe it was benchmarking new jobs or aligning with a particularly strong-willed leader. Whatever it is, get started on it now.

Don’t: Let delayed deliverables stop you

Managers, department heads and execs will fall behind in sending you things like job descriptions, team reporting structure and increase budget requests. Save yourself and leaders from that domino effect by giving them a template (see below) and a deadline. Let them know that if you don’t receive an updated workforce plan, you will assume it is the same as it was the year prior.

Do: Give guidance and start with a template

Here is a template you can potentially use to gather feedback from managers and department heads.

Hi Department Head,

We are approaching this year’s workforce planning with a template that is designed to help you send key information with less effort more quickly. Below is the final budget and workforce plan that was approved for your department for last year.

This is the rough draft of this year’s workforce plan proposal for your department and will be submitted to finance as this year’s proposal unless you make changes of new or additional asks by <DATE>.

If this year’s plan is the same as last year’s plan for your team — splendid! You don’t have to do anything. I will submit this to finance with HR approval with the same details as last year and update market rates for the positions in your org based on this year’s market analysis.

If you DO wish to make additional changes to this years proposal, please use last year’s plan as your guide, and submit that by <SAME DATE>. If a new plan is not submitted by this date, we will move forward with submitting last year’s plan for you.

Need some help deciding what’s important for next year?

Here’s a quick exercise:

  • What do you want to remove?
  •  What do you want to add?
  • What do you want to create?
  • What do you want to eliminate?

Please submit your new plan by <DATE>. If a  new plan is not received by that time, we will assume you would like to submit last year’s plan.

Don’t: Rewrite all of your job descriptions

If there’s one tip here that will save you a lot of effort (for little return), it’s this: You don’t need good job descriptions for workforce planning. However, you DO need good market benchmarks.

DO: Benchmark jobs for budget planning based on key details

A solid market benchmark doesn’t require details, it requires good summaries. A strong and simple job summary will tell you everything you need to know for the purpose of market benchmarking:

  • Internal Title and Other Commonly Known Titles
  • Three Sentence Job Summary or Key Tasks
  • Make or Break Skills
  • Must Have Education and Certification Requirements


Title: Project Manager, Special Programs

– A.k.a., Project Manager, Program Manager, Lead Program Strategist


  • Lead and develop project plans and execution of deliverables for program
  • Manage vision and strategy for program design
  • Track, manage and report on program success metrics

Skills: Program Management, Project Management, Asana, Jira, Wrike

Education: Bachelor’s Degree, Project Management Certification

This basic set of information is more than enough to choose a solid market benchmark. Additional details are great for recruiting, career pathing, legal compliance and performance management — you don’t need them for comp benchmarking.

Tip: You may still need to update job descriptions for legal compliance — don’t conflate the two activities and don’t do them at the same time. When it is time to update your job descriptions, you can refer to these templates and tools to make your life easier. 

Tell us what you think

Do you have tips to share on how HR professionals can ensure a smooth workforce planning process? Share them with us below.

Rita Patterson
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