As part of Harvest HR & People Solutions series in response to COVID-19 our HR Consultant, Caroline Cassap shared the theory and her practical experience in rapid workforce planning.


What is Workforce Planning? 

It’s a framework and a methodology.

It is where an organisation seeks to gain a handle on current and future workforce needs. Done well it provides leaders with a plan and enables leaders to achieve the strategic and operational goals of the company.

It is about having the right people, in the right positions with the right capabilities.

Simply, it’s about predicting the future workforce.

Harvest Director, Maree Herath commented that during the crisis many strategies have been tipped on their head recently and many organisations are readdressing their strategy and are looking to the short-to-medium term and planning their workforce accordingly.


Why are some companies daunted by the term or the activity of Workforce Planning?

People think HR own workforce planning, but HR are the custodians. There are many functions that can and should be involved from key executives to strategists/analysts and finance functions also.

It is a big job, but Caroline assures it can be broken down.

Today, leaders are playing outside their comfort zone and there’s no playbook, but workforce planning helps assess the risk and helps you to mitigate your risks.


Elements of Workforce Planning

Vision – the vision and strategy being tested and may need to pivot. Okay. In normal economic times an organisation will address how competitive it is.

Internal and external factors – the most pressing external factors currently are economic and social & this is what many organisations are considering.

Team – who will be undertaking workforce planning? If the team that gets brought together are too similar then it’s not going to add value so diversity of the workforce planning team is key.

Workforce Profiles – current, transition and future workforce.

Action Plan – who, what, when, why and how?

Cost Implications – Organisations will need to address and determine if the workforce arrived at is financially feasible. With COVID-19, we reflected that many businesses had the cost implication of their current workforce a major and immediate challenge as they were instructed to stop operating (cafes/restaurants/pubs/venues) and they had to take immediate, urgent action on their casual workforce.

Monitor, Measure and Adapt…the plan as necessary.

Even, Caroline admitted to her change in direction as the landscape changed from “standing down” to “job keeper”. The Government is putting $200b into stimulus. This means we are in a better and healthier position than other economic challenges such as Global Financial Crisis, (GFC) organisations have faced previously.


The Benefits of Workforce Planning

Workforce planning forces the management and leadership to be proactive.

It provides the framework to assess and mitigate risk.

You come out with an action plan. This will give you the blueprint for the efficient and effective use of your people, your employees

It reduces anxiety, reduces uncertainty and increase the success rate of the organisation.


Agile Workforce Planning Tips

Move quickly

Assess situations more frequently.

To be able to adapt and adaptation today is key to sustainability and, for some organisations, survival.

The ability to conduct the workforce planning process quickly.

Caroline reinforced that companies need to conduct workforce planning, reassess it and adapt it.

She also emphasised that as you go through the process, always keep version 1, 2 or 3 because logic and rationale may change. Government may bring forth new legislation which may prompt you taking a certain version that works best amidst the new landscape.

Ultimately the goal (be it for general or agile workforce planning) is the same. A company should seek to retain staff, develop them and build their capabilities and attract new employees (admittedly not many companies are addressing attracting new employees right now).

You have your Workforce Action Plan – it will guide you to what you have versus what you need in terms of people and expertise. If you don’t have the expertise needed to execute the plan you will need to attract them. Perhaps it’s contractors not permanent staff to assist execute your workforce plan, right now.

Maree commented that as companies emerge from the crisis, they will engage contractors first and foremost.

As soon as an organisation starts to rebound, the urgency of needing resources will open the contractor and casual placement of people first.  “I need someone to hit the ground running now” will be an urgent response by many organisations coming out of Covid-19. Currently for talent acquisition teams and recruiters, permanent roles are on hold and either contract recruitment is a need now (for example, helping plan the workforce) and an emerging requirement for certain organisations. Harvest Talent Recruitment  has contractors who are available across multiple disciplines should an organisation seek to leverage quickly.


A Case Study – BHP in the GFC

Caroline shared her experience in the GFC with BHP in WA. Caroline stressed, lives were changed but people survived, Companies changed but the most agile ones survived. The big thing was BHP were always strong and were very clear on their vision. She stressed the importance to companies. “Revisit the vision, make sure you know it inside and out, ensure the person sitting next to you has the same interpretation of the vision.” This was key at the time. As the nickel price started to fall it was no longer viable to be in this market for its Australian shareholders. So, BHP closed the mine and put it into care and maintenance. In care and maintenance, they assigned the minimum number of people to keep the plant in good working order. That way, if need to kick up again quickly they can mine and sell the nickel at the highest price. BHP used workforce modelling to inform the future decisions and the offerings they would give to the workforce whether it was redeployment, paying out entitlements or offering outplacement and career transition support. In the GFC it was the economic factors that became the catalyst for the activity BHP undertook.

As an HR practitioner, Caroline was operating outside of her comfort zone but it was the process and walking through the process that kept her focussed. She reflects it was a scary time. She was conducting face to face meetings with employees around redeployment or redundancy. The thing that kept her going was the structure, the plan and the process, which were all there to fall back on. She also reinforced that you cannot diminish the personal feelings of individuals. Even with a plan you must be compassionate to affected individuals.


Workforce Planning Guide

Caroline shared her guide to Workforce Planning. As many organisations need to address their workforce, now is the time to do so. If you seek Workforce Planning Support, Harvest has workforce planning specialists to walk the journey with you.


Where to from here? 

If you are interested in learning more, Harvest’s Workforce Management in Crisis Package is available for purchase for only $99.95 (incl GST).

The package includes:

  • Expert articles
  • 4 x 30 minute Recorded Webinars
  • A Working from Home Guide
  • A Working from Home Policy Template
  • A Working from Home Safety Checklist & Employee Declaration
  • An Example of a Mental Health & Wellbeing Program to navigate COVID-19
  • A Workforce Planning Guide

This offer includes two hours of  expert consultation PLUS the resources to effectively manage the people side of your business amidst the COVID-19 crisis.

Contact Harvest at to get your Workforce Management in Crisis Pack TODAY!


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