Workforce Planning: A Leading Recruitment and Retention Practice

As a consultant who provides specialized human resource and program evaluation services to public sector governments both in Canada and across the Commonwealth, I believe that people are the foundation of everything that organizations do. In this increasingly globalized economy and mobile workforce, it is my observation that public sector governments must place a strong emphasis on:

- attracting new talent not only as part of succession planning strategies but also to reflect the diverse population the organization serves; 

- building capacity to be able to deliver core business, strategic priorities and respond to citizen expectations; and

- building successful employee engagement strategies not only to achieve results but also to retain good talent and inspire others to join the workforce.

Workload pressures, financial constraints and other factors too often force managers to rush to fill a vacancy without looking at the constantly changing needs of an organization.  There is a fear of hesitating, of losing a position and not being able to meet priorities and needs.

Workforce planning helps organizations know why and when to recruit, whom to recruit and ways and means to keep good talent.  My belief is that workforce planning comes before recruitment and retention.

Leadership in recruitment and retention strategies begins with targeted and focused workforce planning.  This enables a flexible workforce where organizations can move resources, respond to and deliver programs and services; where the organization is both agile and innovative and can deliver on an increasingly challenging public service agenda.

Workforce planning provides public sector organizations the capacity to add value to their strategic planning and results-based management processes by understanding their current talent, future talent needs and candidate pools to inform their decision making.  It also allows for identifying and analysing workforce and environmental trends before they become an issue.

The workforce planning cycle has 5 phases and all underpinned by fair and transparent human resource practices.


Phase One: Define critical business changes needed to deliver future programs and services

Workforce planning begins with defining critical business changes needed to meet expectations in future programs and services and how these changes will ultimately impact your organization’s talent and resourcing.  Workforce planning begins with reviewing what your organization has today, with a scan on what your organization’s business or programs and services will be in the future.

Phase Two: Review your organization’s capacity to meet changing program and service expectations

Reviewing your organization’s current capacity (the positions and people) against the needs you have identified for future program and service delivery allows you to critically and objectively assess your organization.  Will your organization have the capacity to deliver future business when you review all the demands?  Is your organization flexible and nimble?

Phase Three: Compare your organization’s current talent against future requirements

This phase allows your organization to assess its mix of talent and skills it and how these may be aligned with any future workforce profile changes you have identified.

Phase Four: Conduct a Gap Analysis

Identify and prioritize gaps which will enable your organization to determine practical approaches to close those gaps such as comparing your organization’s demand with its supply; reviewing Strategic and Business Plans, Performance Measures and Benchmarks; conducting jurisdictional comparisons; realigning staff to meet program delivery needs; and developing knowledge management strategies.

Phase Five: Create strategies and directions for highest and best use

Your organization will identify and develop its own unique workforce planning strategies and directions.  However, there are four key strategies to consider in your organization’s deliberations:

1) Build leadership capacity because great leadership is the foundation for achieving your organization’s workforce planning goals.

2) Create organizational alignment by designing mentoring programs, employee engagement mechanisms, succession planning and talent management in such a way that all are aligned, understood and embraced by all staff within the organization.

3) Develop targeted and modernized recruitment and retention approaches and strategies.

4) Design new learning and skills development approaches to enable staff to gain new skills and experiences.


Developing and supporting a culture of workforce planning will allow your organization to successfully deliver results through strong, ethical and effective leadership, engaged employees and leading-edge human resource practices that will provide the foundation for achieving your organization’s strategic priorities and results-based objectives.

Workforce planning will enable your organization to build capacity and have the ability to respond to new and emerging trends through the judicial deployment of resources as well as provide services in a more integrated and efficient manner.

Fair and transparent human resource practices will be key and at the centre of your organization’s implementation strategies.

Your organization will be a leader in recruitment and retention best practices; a model organization that is nimble, flexible and responsive to changing priorities, demographics and global issues.

Contact us if you would like further or more detailed information about our approach to Workforce Planning.