Strategic Workforce Planning

5 steps to a Strategic Workforce Plan

By COVID-19 Special Edition, Strategic Workforce PlanningNo Comments

Your roadmap to bounce back strong and mitigate risk!



While the recent ‘phased return to work’ government announcements have provided some indication of a time frame for returning to work, the length, severity and impact of the economic downturn are yet to be fully understood.

So, as an HR professional, what does that mean in terms of how you are going to manage risk going forward?

One thing for sure is that if businesses are to not only survive, but also thrive in the ‘new normal’ then putting in place business continuity systems, structures and strategic workforce planning will be vital.

Strategic Workforce Plan provides a framework to mitigate risk by aligning business strategy to workforce and operations.

As businesses assess their options in terms of not only how to retain current customers but also pivot into new markets, they will need support from HR, in order to decide what is most important not only for business continuity but for the workforce at large.

In this article, we will focus on how you can get the basics right by putting in place a strategic workforce plan that will not only help to stabilise your business but also ensure you have the right people in the right positions at the right time.

In order to ensure your strategic workforce plan is in place and ready to be rolled out by the time you return to work, here are the five steps you will need to take action on:

    Step1: Review your new business strategy, identify the corresponding operations that are most critical to continuity.

While you may have done much of this already, make sure you double-check your thinking with customers and employees as often their perspectives can be different. Once this 360 view is garnered, this determines what the new organisational structure looks like. Click here for a sample organisational structure chart.

It’s a really good idea to map that out, so that, you have a visual of what the new job roles look like and others also have that same understanding, so that all stakeholders are on the same page. Click here for sample job description essentials.

This will not only give you visibility on the type of roles that you need. It will also help you to design a plan that is resilient and agile, which will enable you to adjust quickly to change.

    Step2: Once you have identified the organisational structure, next, map out the roles within the critical operations, make sure you can answer the following:

  • Do you have up to date job descriptions for those roles?
  • What roles/tasks are you keeping and what roles/tasks can be removed or parked temporarily?
  • Can adjustments be made in the current teams to support the critical operations, what are the internal resources that you already have that can be re-deployed into these positions?

    Step 3: The next step is to measure ‘suitability’ for the roles. This is a critical step as the company cannot afford to have the ‘wrong people in the wrong positions’, as this may cause performance issues and slow the organisation down.

In order to avoid ‘square peg, round hole’ syndrome, (not to mention a performance management nightmare as many will be remote working) you will want to develop a JSF (Job Success Formula) for each role in the new structure. Click here to view sample job success formula.

A JSF will tell you exactly the type of skills required for each role, so that you can make the proper assessment when the time comes to re-deploy people or in some cases where employees are invited to re-apply for their old positions.

    Step 4: Conduct a skills audit across the organisation – because the gap between where you are now and where you want to go is a gap in skill.

This is a vital step because you can’t develop a proper plan, until you first know where the skills gaps are in the organisation. In other words, you need to understand the current state of play in your organisation before you can develop a plan to move forward.

Once you have completed the JSF for each role – a skills audit can be carried out in as little as 30 minutes (per employee) using our award-winning technology. Go to our Human-ByDesign contact page you can book a complimentary session with us where we will walk you through this.

Once the data comes back on the employee, you will then be crystal clear on where the skills gaps lie, both on an individual level and organisation wide. Click here for sample skills gap analysis.

Now instead of using ‘best guess’ you can make your decisions against an evidence base that tells you exactly where the skills gaps are across the organisation.

  • What is the data telling you about the ‘readiness’ of your workforce to deliver against the new strategic plan?
  • How can that data be used to course correct as new information becomes available?
  • Does the current workforce have the right skills or do we need to implement training or possibly bring in new talent?

Now you have the data you need to make intelligent, informed people decisions you can move on to the next step. It’s vital that you don’t move to the implementation stage until you are clear on the above.

Employee legislation is very much on the side of the employee (GDPR states that all employees have the right to see the criteria being used to make decisions about them).

If you mobilise employees into roles that they are not suitable for you may be exposing the organisation to legal challenge down the line, that’s why it is vital you have an objective evidence base to inform your people decisions.

     Step 5The implementation of your plan.

Once all of the above is completed, then map out the steps involved in the process as well as how you are going to communicate the process to all employees across the organisation.

Now you are clear on the new organisational structure, the priority roles and where the skills gaps are, the next step is to invite employees to apply for the roles in the new structure.

You will need to appoint an officer to lead the project. We recommend you appoint an individual who has high emotional intelligence as there can be many sensitivities involved in rolling out a project of this nature. You can run a complimentary EI overview report by contacting us at This will give you an overview of the Emotional Intelligence suitability of your project lead. Click here for sample Emotional Intelligence Report.

Depending on your strategy you may invite employees to apply for their own jobs, or you may decide that you are content to keep the employee base as it is and that you just need to do some job re-design.  In any case, the on-boarding process into the new structure will need to be carefully communicated to the employees.

Again, what data is available to support this process? How can that data be used to decide which employees are suitable for which jobs? It will be important to use an evidence base and objective data, not just ‘subjective opinion’ to make your re-deployment decisions.

This will not only give you the optimum chance of placing the right people in the right jobs, but it will also keep you compliant and on the right side of employment legislation.

The key to rolling out a successful strategic workforce plan is to keep it simple. Remember adjustments and course corrections can be made along the way. Communication at each step in the process will be important to let employees know what is expected from them as well as the outcomes they can expect from the company.

Lastly, remember a strategic workforce plan provides a framework for dealing with uncertainty. Having a plan builds resilience and agility into your organisation, because having visibility as to who has the right skills in your organisation, will enable the organisation to pivot and adapt to change quicker.

If you don’t understand the skills of your employees, you will not be able to respond quickly and may end up relying on ‘knee jerk’ responses which will slow progress and may affect employee moral.

To bring order to the chaos, you will be in a much stronger position if you map all of this out in advance of returning to work, as it will provide you with a road-map and an anchor when the going gets tough!

Download your employee road map here; the A – Z you need to be aware of to support your employees transition back to work.


The above outlined 5 steps can help to leverage and align your resources as little as a week!


You may be able to receive funding for strategic workforce planning, through your local enterprise office…click here for further information.

By the way, did you know that we do this?

Human-ByDesign is a people analytics consulting firm focused on delivering services that optimise the workforce. If any of the above resonates with where your business is at right now, you can contact us for a 40-minute free consultation, where we listen to your needs and if appropriate can walk you through examples of where we have supported other businesses with this process, you can reach us via our website or call us direct on00353015599888.

Workforce Triage

By COVID-19 Special Edition, Strategic Workforce PlanningNo Comments

Are you about to go through a Business Restructure or Talent Re-Deployment Process?


Sometimes in crisis situations, workforce triage is what is required, which in medical terms means:

“The process of prioritising and acting in accordance with what is the highest priority for the greatest good of all”.

While we may not be able to save everyone involved, in some cases business re-structure is the only option left after all other options have been carefully weighed up and evaluated. HR’s job is to ensure that triage actions will stabilise the situation now and secure success for all in the future.

Here are our ten tips on how to effectively manage a restructure process while keeping on the right side of employment legislation and GDPR:

1. Plan the process carefully and identify all the stakeholders that need to be involved.

2. Identify who will be project lead with the authority to manage the restructuring process.

3. Consult properly with those employees in the internal talent pool, explain to them the options i.e. ‘voluntary redundancy’ or ‘internal application’ for the job roles that are on offer in the new structure.


4. Develop a genuine fair and transparent consultation process: Be open to amending proposals based on that consultation with employees.

5. Bring in an outside consulting firm, this will reduce mistakes and bring objectivity into the process.

6. Conduct an objective skills assessment: The purpose of the skills assessment is to determine which out of the pool of employees remaining are the best match to the skills required in the ‘future roles’ in the organisation. Click here for access to the PDF on ‘How to Conduct a Skills Audit.”

7. Use a matrix of objective, measurable criteria to select people, that way you are compliant with GDPR.

8. Use ‘an evidence base’ i.e objective data as part of the process, otherwise, you may be exposed to legal challenge if decisions (particularly redundancies) are seen to be made solely on ‘subjective opinion’.


9. If employees are having to apply for their own jobs, combine hard data with an interview, while data is important, ultimately the final decisions should be made by people.

10. Career coaching and compassionate support: Offer career coaching and support to those who are planning to take up voluntary redundancy or as a result of the process have to involuntarily exit the organisation and transition to a new role or new career.

As always here at Human-ByDesign, we hope you enjoyed this article, and we hope you found the tips helpful. Do you have any thoughts? We would love to hear them.

You can reach us by Clicking here.

How to Create ‘Certainty’ in ‘Uncertain’ Times.

By COVID-19 Special Edition, Strategic Workforce PlanningNo Comments
As William Arthur Ward said…


The pessimist complains about the wind, the optimist expects it to change, the realist adjusts the sails.

COVID-19 is causing many businesses to ‘press pause’ and re-think their strategy and positioning in the marketplace. The strategic plan for 2020 is no longer relevant, the focus is now on either survival or pivoting to take advantage of new opportunities and new markets.

Here at Human-By Design, we have been talking to HR leaders for some time now about the importance of preparing your business for VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity). Click here for a PDF presentation.


Here are our top tips for HR on how to create greater certainty in
‘uncertain times’:


  1. Act decisively to preserve the business
The government has put in place a number of measures to support employers and employees through these turbulent times, make sure you are plugged into the resources available. Visit: Enterprise Ireland or for SME’s: Local Enterprise Ireland.


  1. Conduct Scenario Planning.

What are the possible scenarios that might play out for your business and what do the impacts look like for each one? I.e. if sales declined by 20% what does it mean for the business and your people versus if sales declined by 60%?

Which of the scenarios do you need to prepare your business for?

We suggest you have a plan for a minimum of 3 scenarios that are most likely to play out, from best case to worst case.

In uncertainty, having a plan in place can really help ease stress, because you and your employees will feel safer in the knowledge that your business has a ‘plan of action’ in place, regardless of what scenario plays out.


  1. Communicate clearly with compassion and empathy.

Give your employees regular ‘up to date’ information on how the situation is unfolding and is being managed. Be transparent and honest with employees. Are you scaling back and decreasing expenditure or are you going to invest aggressively in new opportunities emerging from the market?

Clear communication that sticks to the facts will help to balance emotions and prevent the fear rumours from propagating. Remember, you can’t control what is going on in the outside world, but you absolutely can control how you and your team respond to the changes, focus on what you can control.


  1. Demonstrate Leadership.

This is a time now where the characteristics of true leaders need to shine through. In times of great uncertainty, the rules of the game have changed. Dr. Dan Harrison’s 30 years of research concludes that the best leaders are those who have cognitive agility and a balanced mindset, they have what’s called ‘paradoxical leadership’ traits.

While leaders must be certain of their opinions, at the same time they must also be open to alternative opinions and be willing to reflect and adjust their viewpoint. The best leaders acknowledge solutions can come from anywhere in the organisation.


  1. Revisit your ’Why’.

Use this time as an opportunity to reflect on why the business was started in the first place. How does it serve the greater good? How will your product or service help people during this difficult time?

Encourage your employees to remember their ‘why’. What was it about the organisation that inspired them to join the company?


  1. ‘Respond’ rather than ‘React’ to change.

It’s really key during this time to not have ‘knee jerk’ reactions that you may regret later!

Companies who focus solely on the ‘top line’ figures and reduce the workforce to cut expenditure, may be making a grave mistake in the long term. It’s important to remember that its’ not just about preserving financial capital, it’s also about preserving ‘human capital’.

Research shows that when these periods occur, companies that react by laying off staff, underperform in the future.

This is a big lesson learned from the crash of 2008; many organisations that ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater’, end up losing valuable skills, intellectual property and customer relationships. This can take decades to re-build.

Those employees ‘left behind’ may go into ‘survivor mode’ and worry if they are going to be ‘next’. This is not ideal as research shows employees are at their least productive in environments where they don’t feel safe.


  1. Ask how can your employees be part of the solution?

Instead of suffering job losses, would employees be willing to take a pay cut across the organisation, including the executive for a period of time?

Talk to your people, ask for ideas. This is a time not only for ‘Top-Down’ leadership, but it’s also a time for bottom-up leadership. When employees are empowered to ‘have a voice’, innovative solutions can come from anywhere in the organisation.


  1. Create CLARITY.

Now more than ever, it’s vital to understand the skills and strengths of your people.

What ‘hidden’ resources does your company have to draw on? How can you leverage the skills and strengths of your employees? Can you channel them in new directions and empower your employees to utilise their creativity and ingenuity to think of new approaches to overcome the challenges of the business?

When this is all in the rearview mirror…there is going to be a lot of reshuffling in the new structure.


  1. Conduct a SKILLS AUDIT.
As an HR professional, a helpful exercise right now is to conduct a skills audit of your employees so that you have ‘visibility’ of the collective skills and strengths of your organisation.  As a result, you’ll be ready to re-position people back into their old jobs or into new roles to make a strong comeback!


  1. WORKFORCE Triage.

Triage is defined in medical terms as “the process of prioritising and acting in accordance with what is the highest priority for the greatest good of all”.

In some cases, business re-structure is the only option left after all other options have been carefully weighed up and evaluated.

While we may not be able to save everyone involved, triage actions will stabilise the situation now and secure success for the workforce of the future.

We will provide our best tips on WorkForce Triage. So, you will know what to keep in mind when going through a restructure so that you bounce back strong…

As always here at Human-ByDesignwe hope you enjoyed this article, and I hope you found the tips helpful. Do you have any thoughts? We would love to hear them.You can reach us by Clicking here.