You are here

Home » State Human Resources » Step 1: Identify Workforce Issues

Step 1: Identify Workforce Issues

Employers often go straight to developing workforce proposals, strategies, and programs. Instead, they should first clearly define the nature and scope of the issues they need to address. There are three key issue drivers for strategic workforce planning:

  1. The organization's strategic plan.
  2. Workforce changes brought about by factors outside the organization's direct control.
  3. Demand for workforce maintenance and enhancement.

Workforce issues tied to changes in strategic business plan and other new business initiatives.


  • Change in Business Model
  • Creation of New Business Line
  • Business Reorganization
  • New Agency Performance Standard

Workforce issues brought about by anticipated changes outside the organization’s direct control and influence.


  • Labor Supply Shortage
  • Revenue Shortfalls / Budget Cuts
  • Changing Workforce Demographics
  • Governor / Legislature Mandate

Issues related to maintenance of, risk management for, and improvement to the existing workforce.


  • Anticipated Retirement Bubble
  • Regular Required Training
  • Performance Planning Cycles
  • Business Continuity Planning

Issues Driven by the Strategic Plan

The strategic business plan is one of the most important, but often overlooked, starting points for developing the workforce plan. Senior Leadership should ask itself:

  • Will planned growth or shrinkage require new recruitment strategies, selection techniques, or training programs?
  • Will centralization or decentralization require new work processes, training, or job classes?
  • Will new business goals require new work procedures, employee performance standards, training, or recognition / reward strategies?
  • Will other major changes require additional change management or employee / labor relations support?

Click here for a list Workforce Planning Self-Assessment Questions for Senior Leadership (PDF file).

Issues Driven by a Changing Environment

Many workforce issues are caused by changes in the market, labor pool, or legislative action. Senior Leadership should ask itself:

  • Will increased competition for skilled staff require new staffing strategies?
  • Will new customer / stakeholder demands require new performance management standards, work methods, or reorganization?
  • Will budget cuts or revenue shortfalls require reductions in force and reorganization?
  • Is our workforce profile (e.g., age, gender, ethnicity) changing how employees relate to each other and to customers?

External Environmental Scanning

Assessing the external environment involves a process called Environmental Scanning. Environmental scanning focuses on the key external opportunities and threats that may impact the workforce and its ability to achieve goals and performance targets. Common external factors that influence workforce planning include changing:

  • Population and workforce demographics.
  • Client / citizen demographics, expectations, and perceptions.
  • Partners and suppliers.
  • Political and regulatory environment.
  • Revenue streams and budget appropriations.

Click here for a list of Environmental Scanning Resources.

Issues Driven by Demand for Workforce Maintenance and Enhancement

Employers often focus first on issues with the existing workforce. These issues involve ‘maintaining’ the workforce, managing risk, and improving quality and performance. Maintenance issues deal with staffing levels and sustaining employee knowledge and skills. Risk management issues deal with workplace safety, employment liability, and business continuity following a critical incident. Enhancement issues are driven by a desire to improve operational efficiency or improve organizational culture and performance. Senior Leadership should ask itself:

  • Will an anticipated retirement bubble or high turnover require new staffing strategies?
  • Is our current training plan keeping staff knowledge and skills current with industry standards?
  • How does our industrial insurance risk factor for key jobs compare to other employers?
  • Do we have a pattern of lawsuits or federal / state investigations?
  • How prepared are we to manage / redeploy staff in the event of a critical incident that disrupts business operations?
  • Are staff performing at the desired level?
  • Are staff personally invested in the organization’s success?
  • Do staff demonstrate the values and behaviors necessary for the organization to be successful?

Internal Capacity Scanning

To pinpoint maintenance and enhancement needs, employers must assess their internal workforce strengths and weaknesses. Common internal capacity factors that influence workforce planning include:

  • Workforce demographics (e.g., major job categories, union membership, age / race / gender percentages).
  • Staffing levels, general turnover, and anticipated retirements.
  • Internal candidate pools, developed candidate recruiting programs, and screening and selection strategies.
  • Current and projected internal workforce competency requirements (knowledge, skills, abilities, and behaviors).
  • Program performance standards, goals, and outputs.
  • Employee performance standards, goals and outputs.
  • Organizational design (e.g., supervisor span of control, centralization vs. decentralization, and distribution of specialists and generalists).
  • Workforce distribution (e.g., work locations and travel requirements).
  • Work flow, methods, and processes.
  • Human resource systems (e.g., compensation, classification, work rules and policies, collective bargaining agreements, and performance management strategies).
  • Organizational values and culture.
  • Employee satisfaction and engagement levels.
  • Tools and resources (e.g., facilities, equipment, technology, and vehicles).

Workforce Planning Guide

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.