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Strategic workforce planning – the process of analyzing current and projected future workforce needs and taking action to ensure we have the right people in the right jobs with the right skills at the right time.

Glen Shor, Secretary for the Executive Office of Administration and Finance

Commonwealth of Massachusetts

 

The Challenge

Strategic workforce planning is a best practice of high performing organizations; while it is always the “right thing” for agencies to be doing, it is now becoming a business imperative.  The nation is on the brink of a workforce crisis due to emerging major trends which we cannot control:  the impending retirement of Baby Boomers, increasing turnover across employees of all ages, the greying of the workforce and the exponential rate of change in the nature of jobs and the competencies required to fill those jobs.  As we prepare for the exodus of a significant portion of the workforce, the ability to recruit and retain staff will be extremely challenging.  At the same time, we must take action now to ensure that we do not lose institutional knowledge and that existing employees develop the skills and competencies that will be needed to fulfill their functions tomorrow. 

Workforce Planning:  The First Step in Addressing the Challenge

Workforce planning consists of a four-step process:  (1) analyzing the current workforce, (2) identifying future workforce needs, (3) establishing the gap between the present and future, and (4) implementing solutions to address the gaps between the present and future workforce needs,  enabling an organization to accomplish its mission, goals and objectives. 

The Commonwealth’s Approach 

Workforce Planning Model image.  Workforce Planning is an Annual Cycle beginning with developing a workforce plan.  The next phase is implementing and monitoring the agency action plan.  The final phase is reviewing progress on the action plan; and updating and expanding the workforce plan.  The process begins again annually.

  • Standardized approach, with an emphasis on meaningful planning over extensive documentation.  The Workforce Plan template was based on a review of best practices across state and local governments nationwide.
  • Skill development, resources and support – HRD is offering professional development in Strategic Workforce Planning and Succession Planning, as well as community of practice sessions to support the process.  Best practice guidelines and resources will be provided.
  • Incremental approach – encouraging agencies to focus on the most critical gaps first, expanding the plan to include other functions in future years.
  • Timing that supports inclusion of remedies in spending plans.

 Expected Outcomes 

Workforce Plans for all Executive Departments will be submitted in the Fall of each year.  In addition to these agency-based plans, a comprehensive Commonwealth Workforce Plan identifying common themes and recommendations will be submitted to the Secretary of Administration and Finance each December. 

Benefits of workforce planning, including implementation of the resulting Agency Action Plans, include:

  • Having the right people in the right job with the right skills at the right time, as well as “securing” institutional knowledge
  • Increased opportunity to leverage proven low- or no-cost innovative strategies being implemented across the Commonwealth today.  Many agencies are implementing innovative solutions to address recruitment, retention, institutional knowledge and skill development gaps.  The standard workforce planning approach will facilitate information sharing regarding the success of these strategies so that more agencies may benefit from them
  • The power of a collective voice in securing new and creative solutions.  While many strategies for addressing talent gaps are within the control of agencies, some solutions may require legislation and/or collective bargaining. Needed strategies will be identified through agency workforce planning, and the resulting data will inform recommendations to the Administration
  • Progress on funded solutions, informed by the knowledge of agency talent gaps.  Data from Workforce Plans will inform the prioritization of limited funding for activities such as updating job specifications and developing and delivering new enterprise-wide training.