What Is Skills-Based Workforce Planning?

Time to Read: 4.7 minutes

Updated: April 17, 2023

A well-made workforce planning strategy is an important part of any business’ ability to acquire talent effectively. But what sets skills-based workforce planning apart is its capability to help you attract and retain business-critical skills and expertise. Skills-based planning can also ensure you have the right skills long-term, even as industry standards, technology, and demand changes.

Why Is Workforce Planning Important?

Workforce planning is a strategic approach to aligning your organization’s workforce with its business objectives and needs. Ordinarily workforce planning strategies focus on factors such as headcount, budget, and hiring needs.

Workforce planning can be used alongside talent mapping. Together these strategies are important because they allow you to anticipate needs, make your hiring more efficient, and reduce costs. Done well, effective workforce planning can also help you to:

  • Be ready for future growth.
  • Be flexible around seasonal busy periods, absences, and sales peaks.
  • Plan for leadership succession.
  • Reduce costs and lower turnover.
  • Crucially, workforce planning can also help to reveal current and potential skills gaps.

What Is Skills-Based Workforce Planning?

Skills-based workforce planning strategies place a greater emphasis on the skills and competencies required to perform specific roles, rather than simply focusing on the number of employees needed to fill those roles.

It involves identifying the skills and competencies that employees need to possess to perform their roles effectively. Then developing plans to ensure that the organization has the right people with the right skills in the right roles at the right time.

Thinking about the skills you need and how to achieve them leads to a more proactive workforce planning strategy. Helping you build a more agile and resilient workforce that can adapt to changing business needs and challenges

How to Build Skills-Based Planning into Your Wider Workforce Planning Strategy

Here are some effective steps for building a skill-based approach to workforce planning:

Examine Your Strategic Direction from a New Angle

As an HR leader you’re likely used to asking yourself questions about how your recruitment and hiring aligns with short and long-term business goals. For skills-based workforce planning it can be helpful to look at those goals in a new light. Ask yourself which specific business goals will require new skills or will need to build on existing skills?

At this stage it can be useful to analyze skills data for your industry, and even your internal skills data. What are the trends? Are there certain skills in high demand or are starting to be sought after?

Conduct a Three Step Skills-Gap Analysis

What Skills Do You Need?

Having analyzed your business goals it should be clear which skills or roles will be needed for you to achieve success.

What Skills Do You Have?

Keeping an up-to-date skills profile for your existing workforce will help you compare what skills you need for success to those you already have available.

What Skills Are Missing?

Comparing your current skill sets to the target skills you need will help inform your workforce planning strategy and which solutions you choose.

Implement New Solutions

Depending on the skills you need, one of these solutions, or a combination, will be the most effective at ensuring you hire the right talent. Generally speaking, you’ll need all of these solutions to a different degree based on your ultimate business goals.

Upskilling & Reskilling

Training and development can be a useful way to keep your workforce’s skills sharp and in-line with industry trends. However, it can take time to get team members’ skills to the required level and may not be suitable if your need is more urgent.

Internal Mobility

Another longer-term strategy for ensuring your workforce maintains the skills it needs is internal mobility. Are there people in other areas of your business with suitable transferable skills? Or are their junior members of staff who can be mentored for leadership?


Using outsourced or contracting staff can be a quick way to access skills you need, particularly if you need niche or specific skills for a time sensitive project. One downside to outsourcing can be the cost, however, you can increase your ROI by using contract staff to support your upskilling efforts.

Skills-Based Hiring Techniques

There are several techniques that can be built into your hiring processes to make it easier to target the skills you are looking for. Streamlining job descriptions to focus on needed skills, competency-based interviewing and online assessments can all be beneficial.

This is an area where technology and data analysis can be helpful. Make the most of your ATS to gather data and AI to help screen candidates and identify those will necessary skill sets.

Measure Your Progress

Measuring your progress is an important step. It will help you determine when goals are met and ensure you always know when skills and capabilities have been hired or when they change as employees improve their abilities or move on.

Make Adjustments

One advantage of skill-based workforce planning strategies is that they can be adjusted and directed to acquire the skills you need. As your business goals, industry needs and workforce capabilities change, so can your strategy.

Finding ways to build these steps into your existing hiring structures can be challenging.

As a trusted RPO partner, Pierpoint works with you to help you develop workforce planning strategy and streamlined talent acquisition processes that help you hire the right talent, right when you need it. Whether you hire at volume or you are looking for help crafting skills-based strategy that will serve you long-term we can help. Book a call with one of our experts today to talk about your recruitment requirements.

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Jen Mulholland

Jen is a successful recruitment and marketing professional. Driven by a genuine passion for writing, she provides insightful, accurate and engaging content for the Human Resources community across a wide range of topics and industries.

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