Emerging Workforce Planning Practices that Drive Broader Skills-based and Future-focused Staffing Projections.

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Wowledge Expert Team
Principal level
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This guide is part of a progression set comprised of Core, Advanced, and Emerging workforce planning practices.

What it is

Emerging workforce planning focuses on the future with a highly refined level of detail, moving the analysis from roles and critical segments to specific skills that aggregate into organizational capabilities. It helps identify where the skill sets reside (regardless of organizational home or function), how many people have them, and at what level of competence. Such an analysis requires defining the skills needed across all job families and individual roles and creating a gap analysis between the skills required and their current availability within the existing workforce. It further incorporates non-employees (and their skills) into the assessment of capabilities, creating an active and updated database of current and former contractors, consultants, and temporary project workers that can be called on as needs arise that cannot be satisfied by the regular employee population. Through this, a comprehensive pool of current and available skill holders (and associated costs) can be identified, maintained, and managed for resourcing as needs arise and change.  

Elements of the "future of work" are incorporated into this level of planning, with long-term trends captured and projected onto the existing workforce for advanced preparation for the impact of adopting new technologies and workforce location and relationship concepts. It engages leadership and other experts in the consideration and futuristic thinking about the technologies, work methods, locations, and types of resources that will be leveraged to conduct the actual work of the enterprise. Further, it engages advanced analytics to leverage more robust analyses using advanced statistical relationships and predictive modeling of blended business, operational, and people data to generate insights into future headcount and skill requirements, leading to more robust workforce plans.

Why use it

Planning at this level brings a vastly enhanced ability to view where significant gaps in human capabilities lie - looking beyond the individual to understand the proper level of critical skills that will be used to achieve the most ambitious corporate aspirations and objectives. It creates a significantly more refined/detailed view of the workforce, where an individual is looked at as the sum of their skills, capable of being moved across business, geographic, or job family lines as needed to meet business requirements. That awareness helps to emphasize the distribution of talent where and when it is needed most to meet corporate production goals. It creates a focus by the entire organization on building skills that can advance careers and retain the most critical talent.

It brings attention to a new, broader view of the workforce that leverages both internal and external resources. It can be used to model more efficient employment options, such as an optimized mix of employees and contractors, full-time vs. part-time employees, etc. This is especially powerful in light of the focus on critical workforce segments and "future of work" concepts driving many leading companies towards new structures, workforce ecosystems, and advanced technology adoption. It helps prepare an organization with greater agility for changes in market demands (e.g., service or product design and delivery), work methods, adoption of advanced technologies, and labor market shifts.


Adopting emerging workforce planning practices leads to leading-edge and competitively advantageous insights and guidance into the current and future acquisition, development, and deployment of talent across an organization’s operational requirements. The capture, oversight, and usage of skills-based understanding of employee capabilities alone can be a “game-changer” from a talent perspective, as it provides a granular-level understanding of what each person employed (as a regular or contingent worker) has to offer. One can imagine understanding that a junior accountant buried deep in an extensive finance and accounting team was certified as a data scientist on their own time. Those skills could be deployed for a hard-to-fill role in a critical position within the engineering department.  

Furthermore, having access to similar insights related to any individual who worked as a temporary or contingent worker who could be quickly identified and contacted for additional work a year or more after completing another (related or unrelated) assignment for the company. Even more powerful is the ability to identify groups of workers, both inside and external, who could be called upon to fulfill a rapidly evolving business challenge or opportunity without having to wait months to identify, assess, recruit, and engage them. Using such talent data alone or integrated with business/operational data for predictive insights substantially adds surety and confidence in decision-making. The impact on an organization's agility and ability to respond to changing circumstances is enormous.

Practice guides at this level

Assessing current and future skills-based requirements and gaps to be filled.

Bringing workforce planning into a skills-based level requires identifying the skills required by key positions, their availability in the workforce, as well as the future needs and corresponding gaps.

Incorporating non-employees into future planning for more robust staffing strategies.

Adding labor produced by contingent workers, consultants, contractors, freelancers, and "gig" workers into the planning process to bring a fuller view of available talent to fill talent gaps. 

Building "Future of Work" considerations into workforce planning.

Considering forthcoming changes in future work methods ("what" is done), the makeup of the worker population ("who does the work"), and the location of the workplace ("where the work is done").   

Generating more robust workforce planning insights with advanced statistical analyses.

Leveraging advanced analytics to establish the future-based likelihood of headcount gains and losses in a multi-faceted approach to emerging workforce planning, applying forward-looking techniques. 

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