Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Vivamus convallis sem tellus, vitae egestas felis vestibule ut.

Error message details.

Reuse Permissions

Request permission to republish or redistribute SHRM content and materials.

3 Ways to Modernize Workforce Planning

A group of business people looking at a board with sticky notes on it.

​Getting the right people with the right skills in the right place at the right time—the core of strategic workforce planning (SWP)—has not changed. Yet, as the pace of technology accelerates and workforce demographics shift, workplace experts agree that SWP needs to evolve and grow to face modern challenges.

Leaders need to update their workforce planning to reflect trends such as gig work, artificial intelligence, machine learning and the skills gap. Seventy percent of HR executives recognize the need for workforce transformation, yet only 37 percent feel very confident about HR's ability to transform and move forward, according to KPMG's The Future of HR 2019 report.

Here are three ways you can modernize your workforce planning for the future of work:

1. Require participation and accountability from across the company.

SWP is no longer just an annual HR exercise. Now senior leadership will set the strategic goals and directions for the organization while managers provide input on needed skills and gaps in talent. HR will be the hub for analytics and talent management. Workforce planning needs to take into account inclusion, culture change and dynamic economic forces. Buy-in and follow-through is critical at every level.

"Among best-in-class programs, the workforce planning team, HR business partners, business unit leaders and managers work together to create the workforce plan," said Elissa Tucker, principal research lead for APQC, a Houston-based nonprofit specializing in benchmarking and best-practices research.

2. Look beyond roles and jobs to "worktask" planning.

With artificial intelligence (AI) and gig workers becoming more common, managers can plan employee activities down to the task level—even more granular than skills or roles. This allows AI and robots to do more routine tasks and lets employees handle more strategic and creative tasks, maximizing the utility of both.

"Workforce planning focuses on people; worktask planning focuses on the tasks that need to be done," said Dave Ulrich, author and professor at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business. "Work can be partitioned into tasks with the realization that many of these tasks may be done through technology." 

3. Focus on agility as the future of SWP.

Work is already shifting to gig workers and other labor sources outside of full-time employees. SWP practitioners need to take into account how this blend of workers will affect alignment, culture and brand reputation. SWP will occur more often to plan for a variety of scenarios and outcomes as the future becomes less predictable.

"The most effective workforce planning programs are agile, meaning frequent touchpoints, low burden and flexible with a rapid turnaround," said Jesse Harriott, executive director for the Massachusetts-based Workhuman Analytics and Research Institute.

Companies such as PepsiCo, Bristol-Myers Squibb, IBM and many others have rebooted their SWP to reflect the future of work. Following their lead, every organization should craft the right blend of workforce choices to accomplish their goals and mission.

For more on modern workforce planning, read the Fall 2019 issue of People + Strategy.

Deborah Stadtler is managing editor at HR People + Strategy, SHRM's Executive Network. 


​An organization run by AI is not a futuristic concept. Such technology is already a part of many workplaces and will continue to shape the labor market and HR. Here's how employers and employees can successfully manage generative AI and other AI-powered systems.