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Phase 1 - Set the Strategic Direction for the Workforce Plan

Workforce planning depends upon, complements and logically follows strategic planning. Strategic planning assists in mapping where you are, where you are going, and how you plan to get there. Workforce planning identifies staffing and competency needs and strategies required for you to achieve your strategic goals.  The suggested actions below will set the strategic direction for the workforce plan.


Set the strategic direction to ensure the workforce plan aligns staffing to the business needs and strategic goals of your department's mission.


Documentation of the strategic direction and critical functions of the department and the internal and external factors that impact the department's workforce.

Steps to Accomplish the Deliverable

  1. Obtain executive support for the workforce plan.
  2. Establish ownership for the plan by building a project team from all parts of the department to help develop the workforce plan, and garner feedback from key stakeholders throughout the process.
  3. Review the department's strategic plan to align workforce planning efforts to the department’s mission and critical functions.
  4. Identify the internal and external environmental factors that impact the department's workforce needs including political, technological, economic, cultural shifts, etc.
  5. Analyze the impact these environmental factors have on the department’s mission and critical functions, and their future implications.

Tools to Assist with Steps

Detailed Information to Assist with Steps

Step 1: Obtain Executive Support

To gain support of the executive team, and other critical stakeholders, conduct a risk assessment illustrating the business need for workforce planning, and cost associated with lack of planning.  For example, the potential impact of retirements, transfers and other separations on cost of training new employees, cost of loss or delays in services, etc. 

Some of the benefits of workforce planning that can be emphasized to executives:

  • Cost context—Reduce fiscal waste caused by investing in employees with high turnover, by increasing an organization’s ROI through employee retention and engagement strategies.
  • Budget—Assist in gaining resources for positions, training, and other budgetary expenses by illustrating the mission critical need through gap analysis.
  • Productivity—Increase productivity through professional development and employee retention and engagement strategies.
  • Statewide issues—Assist in identifying a statewide challenge which would lead to gaining resources and support for the challenge through a statewide solution.
  • Maximize resources—Identify opportunities to improve efficiencies through comprehensive workforce and competency analysis.

This can be done within a smaller case study context or a comprehensive workforce analysis.

  • Case study: Identify one or more division/program areas experiencing recruitment, retention, employee development, knowledge transfer and/or succession planning challenges.  Interview division/program area managers and supervisors to gain information on how these challenges are impacting their division’s critical functions, and the overall department mission.  To assist in gathering division/program area input utilize the Survey and Development Tool | Survey and Development Tool - Text Only (RTF) (online version also available).
  • Comprehensive workforce analysis:  Analyze department-wide workforce data to illustrate demographic and separation trends.  For detailed instruction on workforce analysis follow the guidance in Phase 2, Step 1, and utilize the support Tools and Detailed Information section.  Reserve the competency assessment, as mentioned in Phase 2, until after executive support has been established, and/or a Steering Committee or project team is available to assist with this effort.  Compare the department’s workforce trends to statewide demographic and retirement trends for perspective.

Utilizing concrete examples of workforce risks from your department is the most powerful illustration of the need for workforce planning. In addition, the following are general “What’s In It For Me (WIIFM)” concepts that, if relevant, can be incorporated into a presentation to assist in understanding the necessity:

  • Leadership
    • Workforce and succession plans will slow down the loss of institutional knowledge currently taking place.
    • Workforce and succession plans allow senior leaders to demonstrate their commitment to employees and the citizens of California by planning and preparing for the continuity of services long into the future.
  • Strategic Planning
    • Workforce and succession plans can be the cornerstone to build leadership bench strength and deliver on strategic plan objectives.
    • Workforce and succession plans will ensure the right talent is in the right positions for the most efficient approach to accomplishing strategic goals.
    • Workforce and succession plans can help you identify the unknown risks threatening to impede the department’s strategic mission.
    • Departments have shrunk dramatically over the last few years, while the workload and public expectations have not diminished.  Workforce and succession plans can help mitigate the impact of this situation.
  • Customers
    • Meet and exceed customers’ expectations!  Workforce and succession plans will help you prepare for the future, sustain services and implement efficiencies. 

Maintain executive and stakeholder support throughout the process by delivering continuous communication bout progress, accomplishments, small and large wins, and other successes and impacts to the department.

Step 2: Establish Ownership

Anticipate Time and Resources

Allocating sufficient resources to the workforce planning effort is essential in the success of a comprehensive and fully implemented workforce plan.  To help anticipate the time and resources needed, refer to the Workforce and Succession Plan Checklist | Text Only (RTF).  The Tool is used to evaluate workforce and succession planning efforts after a workforce plan is complete and implemented, but can assist departments during the planning process to anticipate critical milestones that need to be accomplished.

Structured Team

Workforce planning can be pursued in circumstances with limited resources.  Regardless of a department’s size, workforce planning is the responsibility of the whole department. Although there may be one person  responsible for coordinating the effort, a dedicated team comprised of full or part-time members, should be established to serve as the support team for workforce planning efforts.

Begin with a working project team, and later establish governance to ensure successful implementation and maintenance of the plan. See more about governance structure in Phase 5.

The project team will carry out the work of developing the workforce plan. A formal Steering Committee can also be established in addition to, or incorporating, the project team. Regardless of the formality of the team, reference Steering Committee Roles and Responsibilities| - Text Only (RTF) for guidance on roles and responsibilities. Although it may not be possible to establish a formal Steering Committee due to limited resources, the Steering Committee Roles and Responsibilities matrix can still assist in identify which division areas and/or levels of the department may be able to assist with the associated aspects of the workforce planning effort. 

If it is necessary to narrow the scope of workforce planning efforts due to limited resources, begin by interviewing the executive team to gain information on the top 3 – 5 workforce planning needs of the department.  From there, focus on the division/program areas that have the highest impact on the top needs identified.  Proceed through the State of California Workforce Planning Model with a narrowed focus on the workforce of those high impact division/program areas.  To Survey and Development Tool | Survey and Development Tool - Text Only (RTF) (online version also available) may assist with efforts in collecting this type of information.

CalHR’s Workforce Planning Unit is also available to assist in coordinating your department’s workforce planning efforts.

Step 3: Align Workforce Planning to Department Strategic Goals

Strategic Plan in Place

If a strategic plan is complete and current, identify the mission critical goals, then the critical objectives within each goal.  For each mission critical objective consider the human resources need required to fulfill it.  All the workforce planning strategies that will be developed should directly support one of these objectives or overlying goals.  

No Strategic Plan in Place

If strategic planning has not been completed begin the process by gaining input from division/program areas and stakeholders through meetings and/or surveys to complete one or more of the following:

  • Perform an environmental scan which entails looking at changes to the internal and external factors that could occur in the future and how these changes could impact the workforce.
  • Perform a SWOT (Strengths- attributes of the department that are helpful to achieving strategic goals, Weaknesses - attributes of the department that are detrimental to achieving strategic goals, Opportunities - external conditions that are helpful to achieving strategic goals, and Threats - external conditions that are detrimental to achieving strategic goals) analysis to reveal critical missions and functions.

Utilize the Department of Finance Strategic Planning Guidelines | Department of Finance Strategic Planning Guidelines - Text Only (RTF) to assist your department with this process.

Step 4: Identify Environmental Factors

Obtain data on the entire department as well as data related to outside factors (events impacting your department, private sector trends, federal or local influences, or potential organizational shifts, such as changes in how you do business due to political, technological, economic and cultural shifts).

Step 5: Analyze Impact of Environmental Factors

Analyze the impact of the environmental factors identified in Step 4.  Identify current trends to the workforce, and anticipate their future implications. Compare the analysis against demographic trends that you will collect in Phase 2, such as age and retirement eligibility. 

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