The Learning and Development Professional’s role in Strategic Workforce Planning


Yesterday I was interviewed by Michelle Ockers for her Learning Uncut podcast. We were discussing Strategic Workforce Planning and how Learning and Development can get involved to drive mutual benefits. So I thought I would outline some of the foundational concepts and show the relationships between these two integral functions – as I see it.

Listen to the podcast on your favourite platform.




What is strategic workforce planning?

Strategic workforce planning (SWP) is a process to analyse, forecast and plan the workforce by understanding gaps between current and future demand and supply and determining the strategies to minimise those gaps to execute an organisation’s strategic priorities.

Strategic workforce planning aims to achieve two things

Generally, through SWP we develop plans to ensure we have our workforce capacity and capability right. 

Capacity is about getting the right number of people while capability is about what ensuring these can do what we need them to do.

Planning the number of people required will achieve capacity. Our People Analytic friends will play a critical role here. But planning to ensure those people are able to do what we need them to do is where Learning and Development professionals can apply our expertise and make a massive difference.

Adam Gibson, Author of Agile Workforce Planning suggests there are six (6) components to capability:

  • Skills
  • Knowledge
  • Mindset
  • Physiology
  • Accreditation
  • Environment
The 6Bs of strategic workforce planning

Strategic Workforce Planners refer to 6Bs (or 8Bs, 9Bs, depending on who you are speaking to. But for now, let’s stick with the 6. These Bs are the broad approaches that organisations we can  manipulate to achieve our strategic priorities. Encouragingly, Learning and Development professionals can provide their expertise to add value in all of them.

How the 6Bs support the workforce planning process

By referring to the 6Bs we can encourage people to think of alternate solutions to workforce challenges rather than relying on our usual default buy (recruitment) approach.

Where learning and development can add value

Below I have mapped each of the Bs to tools within a Learning and Development professional’s toolkit that can be applied to support implementation of the strategies.

Additionally, Learning and Development professional have expertise that is critical to the planning process and not just the implementation process. We can scale up the difference we make by being involved in the decision making around the priority initiatives and the order they might occur in. Basically, we can recommend evidence based approaches to develop capability so it is available as and when it is needed.

In the episode, I did mention two of the gurus of Strategic Workforce Planning. Here are links to their LinkedIn profiles and company websites:

Alicia Roach – Co-founder of eQ8

Nick Kennedy – Chair of The Workforce Planning Institute

More to explore

Adaptive Learning for Real World Outcomes with Dr Ulrik Juul Christensen

Dr Ulrik Juul Christensen is recognised worldwide as an expert in learning technology. He has pioneered adaptive learning, data-driven content development, simulation and debriefing technologies.
His approach to learning has been shown to enable hundreds and thousands of students to become twice as fast and twice as accurate at knowing what they don’t know.

He discusses how we must empower people to become lifelong learners to drive their own performance and
the importance of real world problem solving for learning.

Workforce of the Future with Hana Maalla

Hana Maalla is a seasoned human resource professional with a career spanning both the private and the public sectors, with a particular emphasis in the public sector. workforce
With a wealth of experience in recruitment and talent management, Hana strives to understand the intricacies and challenges of finding and retaining top talent for the future workforce. One of the hallmarks of Hannah’s approach is a visionary mindset, striving to think outside the box and envision the recruitment landscape of the future. Hannah’s creative and forward thinking nature asks for solutions that go beyond traditional recruitment practices.

A 21 year journey in Strategic Workforce Planning for the U.S. Air Force with Colonel Patrick J. White

Colonel Patrick J White of the US Airforce shares his 21 year career journey in strategic workforce planning for a workforce of around 700,000 people.
He explains the two frameworks through which his career has evolved. Starting in the demand side and then moving into supply, Patrick was able to take integrate both to provide a holistic view. Through this lens he is able to provide decision makers with meaningful insights to help them prioritise requests for additional people that can be around 22,000 per year.