5 Steps to an Optimal Staffing Plan

5 Steps to an Optimal Staffing Plan

When your business is facing significant growth, it's crucial to get ahead of the need for talent with a staffing plan. Here are five steps to ensure that your organization has the right people with the right skills to achieve your growing business objectives.

  • A staffing plan helps ensure the workforce can meet the organization's business objectives.

  • A solid staffing plan pulls from multiple sources of information to identify and address ways to fill skill and experience gaps.

  • A good staffing plan is flexible and requires top-down support and organization-wide effort.

When your business is facing significant growth, it's crucial to get ahead of the need for new talent. A staffing plan backed by a methodical process helps ensure your organization has the right people with the right skills to achieve your growing business objectives.

What is a staffing plan?

A solid plan should go beyond changes in headcount to identify the new skills and knowledge your business needs while remaining sensitive to the relationship between internal and external needs.

A comprehensive strategic plan addresses three things:

  • Short-term needs for a temporary or seasonal increase in employees
  • Long-term needs for skills and positions needed for the foreseeable future
  • Succession planning to ensure potential employees get the training and development needed for promotion into key positions

Why is a staffing plan important?

A solid plan creates a blueprint to ensure recruiting, retention and development efforts are aligned with the business needs. Without a proper plan, your organization may find itself scrambling to fill last-minute roles or losing multiple long-time employees who feel underappreciated.

5 steps to making a staffing plan

Here are five steps for creating a plan to help your organization keep up with its potential and ambitions.

1. Determine your goals

Simply put, the staffing plan must support the business plan. What is the organization's plan for growth? Does it need personnel to staff a new office or retail location? Is it hoping to multiply the size of its sales force to support a significant sales push? Does it intend to offer additional customer service or internal support to boost customer satisfaction?

These objectives are typically outlined in the business's strategic plan, so look there first to set up an alignment between talent strategy and desired outcomes.

2. Understand labor trends

Next, identify the labor trends that can impact the availability of personnel. Large national organizations should first review relevant data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and ADP resources such as the National Employment Report and Pay Insights. These resources provide historical and up-to-date, sortable details on topics such as the number of job openings, unemployment rates, average labor costs, changes in employment numbers, and typical pay rates.

Large and small companies alike should examine similar statistics for their state or local region. This information is available from local chambers, business publications and industry associations.

As a bonus, these entities often synthesize the data to provide an overview of developments in the market. That can include new businesses or other larger employers increasing their hiring or laying off employees. All of these external factors affect the pool of talent available.

3. Determine the organization's functional needs

Keep in mind that not all personnel requirements necessitate hiring externally. Some of your organization's talent needs can be groomed internally, and others may be met by outsourcing to consultants, freelancers or independent contractors. That's why it's smart to assess the specific skills and abilities you need and ascertain whether each group, department or division already has those capabilities, either in-house or close at hand.

Ask whether training, mentoring or other development help current employees move up or over into the new or vacated positions. If so, what might this development look like? On the other hand, are these skills and personnel needed indefinitely for the long term? Or are the organization's needs more specific and short-term, like for a particular project, an initiative that calls for skill sets not found in-house or a time commitment simply not manageable for existing personnel?

4. Conduct a gap analysis

In essence, a gap analysis compares what you have with what you need. The difference or gap is what needs to be filled. Are the gaps your analysis identifies due to training and development deficiencies? If so, consider incorporating more training for the applicable functions or positions into your plan. Are the gaps due to heavy workloads during high seasonal demand periods? If so, think about hiring temporary workers or outsourcing to contractors.

A gap analysis isn't quite the same as generally determining functional needs. Asking a series of questions like the ones above will allow you not just to determine the gaps but also potential solutions for filling them.

5. Write out your plan's details

The final step is to roll all this information into an actionable talent plan. Once you have compared what you have with what you need, it's time to get granular with a plan that's tailored to your organization. Include factors like:

  • Current workforce. Understand where employees are and where they're headed. Span all applicable groups, departments and divisions. Look at the current organization chart to identify current roles and career paths. Be sure to consider cross-functional opportunities when looking at career paths.
  • Staff composition. Think about the employee's job title or function, salaries, length of employment, level of seniority, employee demographics, performance assessments and turnover rates. If you need seasonal customer service employees, you might include outsourcing in your plan.
  • Employees' skills. Compare employees' key skills and experience with those needed, and use those gaps to determine your next steps. If you need midlevel employees with specialized software skills, you might look internally for people who have those skills or could acquire them. Likewise, you could plan to work with recruiters, schools or technical organizations for candidates.
  • Career pathways. Work with HR and managers to create development plans for critical employees who have the most needed skills or who have significant potential for senior-level positions. These development plans go beyond performance reviews by outlining the steps an employee needs to reach the next level. This might be through specific job experiences, training or mentoring.
  • Employee retention. Examine how well your organization retains employees. Look at turnover rates by position, department and demographic. Is there a pattern to which employees are leaving? If so, delve into possible causes to determine if people, policies or practices are impacting retention, which affects your staffing needs. Are employees receiving development opportunities, promotions and salary increases? What issues have surfaced from employee satisfaction surveys that might impact turnover? If you identify problems, work on a plan to increase employee engagement.

Once you gather all of the information and create a plan that identifies the anticipated job, skill and experience needs and includes details on how you plan to meet those needs, you can follow the necessary steps to implement the plan. Then, evaluate your implemented plan every six to 12 months or more often if your business changes significantly. The plan needs to be flexible to meet changing needs.

Staffing plans need everyone to pitch in

Crafting a truly high-quality staffing plan involves organizational leadership, hiring managers and HR leaders. It's an organization-wide effort not unlike budgeting. So clear communication across functions and departments is key to crafting a plan that accounts for the needs of all and works for everyone.

Learn more

Hiring and keeping your best requires greater people intelligence. Get our guide: How to Design a People-Centered Workplace