Skip to content

The Challenges and Pitfalls to Strategic Workforce Planning (Plus How to Overcome Them)

Strategic Workforce Planning is an invaluable tool for any organization looking to build a successful future. It involves taking into account the current and future needs of the workforce, and making sure that the organization has the right people in place with the right skills to meet these needs.

Constructing a framework that takes into account the needs of employees as well as those of the organization, Strategic Workforce Planning offers a powerful approach to managing and developing an effective workforce.

This blog post will explore how Strategic Workforce Planning can help organizations create a strong foundation for success, as well as provide tips on how to put together an effective plan that meets their goals.

What is Strategic Workforce Planning?

Strategic workforce planning (SWP) is the process of analyzing a company’s existing and projected workforce needs, developing strategies for meeting those needs, and then implementing said strategies. The goal of SWP is to ensure that an organization has the right number and mix of employees with the right skills in place to meet its strategic goals. SWP includes both short-term planning for immediate staffing needs as well as long-term planning to anticipate future human resources requirements.

Strategic workforce planning is essential for any organization that wants to remain competitive in today’s global marketplace. It helps ensure that businesses are able to identify and address current and future skills gaps as demand for certain roles changes over time. It also helps organizations stay ahead of industry trends and better anticipate labor market conditions. Additionally, effective SWP enables organizations to manage their employee base more effectively by ensuring they have enough staff with the right skills in place at all times while also avoiding unnecessary hiring costs such as recruiting expenses or overtime pay.

The Role of HR in Empowering Business Leaders

Human Resources (HR) plays a key role in helping business leaders strategically plan their workforce needs. HR professionals are responsible for providing data-driven insights on current and future workforce demands based on macroeconomic trends and individual organizational goals. This includes providing analysis of past recruitment efforts, turnover rates, skill gaps, compensation trends, and other factors related to employee performance and development. In addition, HR teams can help business leaders create staffing plans based on these insights—allowing them to make data-driven decisions about when and where staff should be deployed across their organization. Ultimately, HR teams strive to empower business leaders with the information necessary for them to make informed decisions about their talent strategy now and into the future.

“I think understanding how leadership and people leaders will impact our business initiatives, how they deliver the business success. I would also almost describe them as a multiplier; they'll either accelerate and amplify what we're trying to achieve, or they'll reduce and derail. So, we can come up with all the best plans through strategic workforce planning linked to business strategy. But if the reality on the ground is that that's not translated and that's not driving through and HR can't do it alone, it takes the full business to deliver, then that's going to be a challenge.” - Alex Browne, Head of People Analytics Innovation and Data Science at Nestle

Challenges and Pitfalls of Strategic Workforce Planning

The concept of Strategic Workforce Planning (SWP) is relatively new in the world of human resources management. Companies are now realizing the importance of developing a comprehensive workforce planning strategy for their organizations, but this process can be challenging and fraught with pitfalls. Here, we will discuss some of the most common challenges and pitfalls involved in SWP, as well as how businesses can overcome them to achieve successful planning.

Lack of Alignment and Buy-In From C-Suite

A major challenge that many companies face when it comes to strategic workforce planning is getting buy-in from their executive leadership team. Many times, senior leaders may need help understanding the importance or value that SWP can bring to an organization. As such, they may be reluctant to invest time or resources into creating a plan that they do not believe will yield results. To ensure successful implementation of SWP, it is critical for companies to secure a commitment from senior executives, who must be willing to provide the necessary resources and support for the project.

Read More: Why Organizations Hesitate to Implement Strategic Workforce Planning


"We're doing great work in things like employee value proposition, diversity and inclusion, and wonderful things around culture. Strategic Workforce Planning can be harder to understand, it’s hard to get broader business attention, but it’s just as crucial."

- Chris Hare, Founder and Co-CEO of eQ8

Data Challenges and Limitations

Another major challenge with SWP is data availability and accuracy. Many businesses lack access to real-time data about their current workforce or have outdated records. Furthermore, even if data is available, it may not be accurate or reliable due to data entry errors or other issues. This makes it difficult for companies to create effective plans if they do not have access to reliable information about their current employees. To overcome this hurdle, businesses should invest in modern HR software solutions that enable them to collect accurate employee data in real time.

Overcoming These Hurdles for Successful Planning

Despite these challenges, strategic workforce planning can still be successful if companies are willing to invest the time and resources necessary for its implementation. Firstly, companies need to gain alignment from executive leadership on the importance of SWP and secure their commitment and buy-in for its success.

Additionally, HR teams need access to reliable employee data to accurately assess their current capabilities and forecast future needs based on past performance trends. Finally, businesses should consider investing in modern HR technology solutions such as software systems that enable them to easily monitor employee metrics in real time so they can make timely adjustments based on changing economic conditions or other external factors.

By overcoming these common challenges involved in strategic workforce planning, businesses can better position themselves for long-term success by having a comprehensive plan for managing their most valuable asset—their people!

The Essential Elements of Workforce Planning

Having a platform, processes, and a clear strategy are essential elements for effective workforce planning. It is important to have an organized and comprehensive platform that allows the workforce planning team to easily access and understand the data available. This platform should contain information related to the current workforce, job descriptions, skillset requirements, and more. Having a reliable foundation makes it easier for decision-makers to identify potential skill gaps and develop plans to meet business goals.

Fresh from two major industry conferences- the buzzword that eQ8 CEO, Alicia Roach, heard on repeat was - Skills!

“The skills frenzy isn’t brand new, but it's here to stay, and rightly so.  It's important, and I think now people are starting to ask the right questions about skills.  They may have scraped their workforce to do skills inference; they may have looked at labor market insights to understand what's in the market and predict some sort of future external skills that will be in demand.  But I think what people have found with where they've gotten to in their skills journey is that a lot of it's interesting but not necessarily actionable.”
Processes are also necessary for successful workforce planning. These processes need to include methods of gathering skills data from across the organization so that actionable insights can be gained from it. Data collection must be secure, efficient, and consistent, as any inaccuracies or inconsistencies could lead to inaccurate forecasts. Furthermore, clear protocols should be established on how the data will be used to ensure that it is utilized responsibly within the organization.

The strategy for workforce planning must align with both short-term and long-term business objectives while considering external factors such as market trends, economic conditions, and technological advances.

Read More: Top 5 Reasons to Prioritize Strategic Workforce Planning with eQ8

Strategic Workforce Planning is an essential tool for organizations to determine future workforce needs and ensure that objectives are met. By effectively leveraging SWP, organizations can gain a competitive advantage by creating a highly skilled workforce that will drive business success. To learn more about properly executing SWP, download the latest ebook from the expert minds at eQ8: Unlocking the Power of Strategic Workforce Planning.

Request Your Personalized Demo