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What Are the Steps in Workforce Planning for Federal Agencies

Effective workforce planning is an important component of federal HR – allowing specialists to better understand their hiring needs both now and up to five years into the future.

Most agencies perform some degree of workforce planning, building the workforce profile and evaluating their current and future needs based on a number of specific criteria.

However, there are often specific gaps in the process that can lead to ineffective planning. Analysis of the workforce profile, and gap analysis to determine where significant issues will arise if they are not addressed, are each essential parts of the process and often missing. Let’s take a closer look at the steps in workforce planning and how to identify shortfalls for which you may need outside support.

Evaluation of the System

To get started, it’s important to define the variables and factors that will directly influence workforce planning in your agency. Depending on the size of the agency, the number of outside factors influencing your hiring needs, and the current policy climate, these might vary significantly, so it’s an important step to take before mapping and planning your workforce needs. Areas to evaluate include:

  • Current Workforce – What does your current workforce look like? Who is eligible for retirement, who is in line for a promotion, and where do you have current gaps?
  • Future Workforce – What does your future workforce need to look like? There are several demand scenarios that might influence the answer to this question – whether hiring is increased, frozen completely, the agency mission necessitates an increase in services, or policy shifts demand a transition to new types of hires.
  • Timelines and Targets – Do you have specific timelines for staff growth or reduction? Are there targets you must reach for certain grade levels, positions, or diversity and inclusion initiatives that must be included in the plan?
  • Your Ongoing Review Process – Workforce planning is not a one-time process. What does your follow-up review process look like for evaluating progress against your plans?

Once you know what issues you might have, the workforce planning process can begin.

>>> Download the eBook on How to Leverage Technology Tools for Workforce Planning.

The Steps in Workforce Planning

There are several steps in the workforce planning process, each of which is equally important. They include:

  1. Establishing Context – When starting, know who will be using this information, how it will be used, and why it is needed. Whether planning for future growth, responding to a call for a reduction in force, or evaluating multiple demand scenarios to be prepared for future issues, the context of your efforts will influence how they are conducted.
  2. Developing a Workforce Profile – Your workforce profile maps the composition of the workforce you currently have, alongside historical data and future needs. It should include demographics, retirement expectations, staffing levels, employee classification and grades, competency levels, performance reviews, and tenure of key staff.
  3. Building a Future Workforce Profile – Your current workforce profile tells you what you have to work with. Your future workforce profile considers the demand scenarios you’ve identified and builds a map of what you’d like to have in the next three-to-five years.
  4. Performing Gap Analysis – Using the profile elements of your workforce profiles (both current and future), you can map event models including promotion to new positions, quitting or resignation likelihood, the rate at which people move to other positions, involuntary departure, and retirement. Gap analysis then shows you where you are most likely to have issues reaching your future workforce profile goals due to these changes.
  5. Outlining Outcomes and Next Steps – Using gap analysis, you can prepare a list of likely outcomes and an action plan to address them. You’ll better understand where your hiring needs will increase or decrease at a grade-level and by mission-critical occupations. These will inform what challenges you’ll face in the next five years, allowing you to better plan for them now.

Steps 1-3 are most often followed in federal agencies, but many HR specialists lack the resources or tools needed for comprehensive gap analysis that will help identify where issues will arise years down the line.

Using quantitative, succinct measurement of workforce gaps based on the historical data you have on your workforce and the workforce profile you’ve developed, you can prepare scenario-based predictions for your workforce. EconSys offers a Workforce Gap Predictor designed to simulate scenarios that help you better understand hiring needs, expected turnover, and interagency movement that will influence your hiring needs for the next five years. Learn more here or download our eBook, How Federal Agencies Can Leverage Technology for Workforce Planning.