It's Past Time for Workforce Planning

February 15

No matter where we go these days, people are discussing workforce planning and the need for intense strategies to meet the needs of the future population. In healthcare we have to face multiple issues from financial constraints, a maturing workforce with a mass exodus on the horizon and finally the aging population, which will drastically increase the need for healthcare workers. We have gone over all the numbers — now we have to face the facts! How can we meet those needs? Workforce planning is all about having the right people in the right jobs at the right time and all within budget.

It never ceases to amaze me as I interface with multiple healthcare facilities that very little work has been done in this arena. We know it needs to be done, we verbalize it, but if I ask how many people are retiring at an organization in 2014, very few respondents have an answer. We can't get to an end result of providing care in 2015 and 2020 if we don't know the numbers!

There are many methods in the news, including the Six Steps Methodology, the Workforce Planning Instruction Manual from the Department of Labor (, the Office of Personnel Management's 5 Step Plan and multiple state models that are quite similar.

We have seen multiple graphs and images denoting workforce planning but it really comes down to some basic issues:

Organization's strategic plan

Both the short and long-term business plans need to be carefully targeted so that all growth, changes in programs and operational changes are understood by all stakeholders. These are the main drivers of the workforce plan, which is then influenced by supply and demand.

Supply of needed workforce

These numbers have been discussed in past Stat Line articles and are readily available through the Bureau of Labor Statistics and other statewide associations and healthcare councils. There is no question for healthcare; the needs are great.

Future workforce required based on growth and replacements

An in-depth analysis of each department in an organization is crucial to understanding where the future needs will be. Research must be current and updated periodically to have the necessary data on retirements, growth and changing skill requirements.

Gap analysis of employees and skills needed

Once the supply and the required workforce numbers are determined, only then can the actual needs be assessed. Numbers, skills and timelines are all part of the gap analysis and will drive the strategies required.

Strategy-both internal (succession planning) and external

The PLAN! Strategies should include succession planning, training, recruitment, mentoring, retention programs and educational relationships.

Ongoing measurement, evaluation and revisions

Any plan is only as good as the measurement that supports it. Outcome goals must be determined and ongoing evaluations and needed enhancements need to be accomplished in a timely manner.

Workforce planning is so important for the survival of any organization yet seldom do we see the human capital included in long term strategic planning. That is why it is so important to have human resources/recruitment at the table when these issues are being discussed. Healthcare is all about people and, without the needed professional staff, quality patient care is not a possibility.

As Jim Collins (Good to Great) states, "People are not your most important resource, the right people are."

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