How to Develop a Staffing Plan

Employees are one of your greatest assets. However, too often, organizations struggle to manage their human resources and plan for the future. 

Most businesses often find difficult to deal with inefficiency in resource management and to plan staffing strategy for the future. This inefficiency can stem from many reasons such as: skills gaps, over-employment, or ever-changing business landscapes, … To overcome those problems and improve the efficiency of human resource management, organizations need to develop a realistic and strategic staffing plan.

According to SHRM, a staffing plan consists of the following 6 steps that have been applied by many successful organizations around the world will be a very valuable model for businesses to refer to.

6 steps to Complete a Staffing Plan

Step 1: Evaluate Goals

The first step in developing a staffing plan is to evaluate the needed goals to achieve. By recognizing the targets employees will be working toward, human resource professionals can identify the amount and type of support needed to meet those expectations.

Ensuring a clear understanding of expectations helps HR professionals in a number of ways. Departmental goals should align and support organizational goals. Thus, this exercise is a perfect opportunity to reach out to other leaders to understand their expectations of the department in the upcoming year, including support for major projects, new strategic initiatives or other changes that will require adjusting staff.

Questions to ask when evaluating goals include:

– What are the organization’s major strategic and tactical goals for the upcoming year?

– How will the HR function support those goals?

– What goals do I need to set for my function to ensure I’m aligned with the company’s goals?

– What support are other functions/departments expecting from my department this year?

Step 2: Identify Influencers

In this step, HR professionals determine the factors that might affect the staffing plan. Influencers can be internal or external to the organization. They can be positive or negative and are defined as anything that might indirectly affect the plan but that the organization has little control over. By evaluating influencers on the staffing plan, HR professionals survey the landscape to identify and understand forces that will affect the talent supply. Examples of such influencers are a tight labor market, changing regulations and evolution of a function.

Questions to help identify influencers include:

– What trends are affecting skill development?

– Will technology changes influence our labor supply or demand? These changes could be new technology that will require additional staffing or training time or technology that improves efficiencies, thereby eliminating jobs.

– Will changes to regulations affect our workforce?

– Do we have competitors that will affect the supply of labor? Perhaps competitors are growing their workforce, or they are laying off people, thereby growing the labor supply.

– Will economic or financial factors affect our staffing plans?

Step 3: Analyze the Current State of the Function

In this step, HR professionals compile information on the current state of the function. Compiling information on the current state of the HR function involves listing all current resources, including staff, contingency workers or other people who regularly support function goals.

As part of the activities in this step, HR professionals need to decide which systems to use to obtain the analysis data. Small departments can simply count positions on an organizational chart. However, data for larger staffing plans may need to be pulled from the human resource information system (HRIS) or payroll, talent management or scheduling systems. If the staffing plan is for head count purposes, payroll or HRIS data will suffice. But for competency planning, a learning or talent management system may provide the most accurate data.

In this step, HR should also evaluate factors that may change the makeup of the department, such as flight risks, potential departures and current open positions actively being recruited.

Questions to ask while analyzing the current state include:

– What systems should I review for data on the current state?

– Who are my current staff members? What positions affect how we get things done

– What expertise do staff members bring to their role?

– Do other employees outside of my function regularly influence achieving HR team goals.

– Do vendors, contractors or others outside my organization regularly contribute to achieving team goals?

– What are the competencies my current staff have?

Step 4: Envision Needs

In Step 4, HR professionals envision what will be needed to accomplish the goals set out in Step 1. Keys to this step are to start fresh and not be overly influenced by the current state.

The envisioning step may be approached from a head count perspective. However, envisioning needs from a skill set, competency or expertise perspective helps overcome biases that may exist in the current state.

Questions to ask while envisioning needs include:

– What expertise does the HR function need to accomplish our goals for next year?

– How many people will we need to meet our goals, and where should they be located?

– Does staffing change throughout the year? What will it look like in six months? In 12 months?

– What is the ideal mix of staff, contractors or outside expertise needed to meet our goals?

– What budget will we need to meet our goals?

Step 5: Conduct a Gap Analysis

Gaps may include inadequate staffing, lack of expertise or simply the wrong people in the wrong place. Information derived from a gap analysis will identify deficiencies in the current state of the function that HR will need to address to achieve the outlined goals. HR professionals should not view these gaps as weaknesses of the current department but rather as opportunities to evolve the function into an ideal state to achieve organizational goals.

– Where will we need to adjust current staffing?

– Will factors such as current performance or mobility affect the current staffing?

– Do we lack staff with the right expertise in functional areas?

– Will cross-functional collaboration be needed? If so, how can we strengthen that partnership?

Step 6: Develop a Solution Plan

Step 6 encompasses determining timing (i.e., when to hire or promote specific staff) and assigning costs if the staffing plan is being done in conjunction with a budget cycle.

The plan itself should outline the staff needed, at what time and location. It should differentiate full time versus contingent staff and identify every role needed in the function from entry level to executive. The plan may also detail the timing for when specific, outside expertise is needed.

Questions to ask while developing the solution plan include:

– Given all the information above, how do I use it to achieve the goals outlined in Step 1?

– When and where will we need to adjust staffing levels to support organizational goals?

– What level of expertise do I require in which roles?

– How am I accommodating for the influencers identified in Step 2?

– How am I addressing the gaps outlined in Step 5? Outside of hiring, would training or other methods help cover these gaps? Can we fill some of these gaps with technology?

– Finally, how often do I need to revisit this plan to ensure it continues to meet organizational needs?

The difference between staffing plan and workforce planning

Staffing PlansWorkforce Planning
Operation/tactical focusStrategic focus (less detailed)
One-year outlook (generally)Strategic focus (less detailed)
Output is head count planThree- to five-year outlook
Addresses one future-state scenarioMay address multiple future-state scenarios

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Staffing plans can be the first step in evolving the organization toward adoption of workforce planning. A staffing plan is like a key that helps HR professionals unlock a treasure box containing human beings possessing miracle talents.

According to SHRM

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