Human Resource Planning: Definition & Top Strategies

Screenshot of a human resource planning software displaying an interactive team scheduling interface with individual tasks, assignments, and deadlines, for efficient project management and team coordination.

Human resource planning is a key strategy for ensuring long-term business sustainability and resilience.

In this guide, we’ll explore the essentials of human resource planning (HRP), why it’s so important, and the best practices to start your human resource planning process.

To learn more about the broader process of resource management, read our guide to business resource planning.

Key Takeaways

  • HRP is a process that ensures that companies have enough capacity to meet customer demands and business goals.
  • The main steps of the process include analyzing current availability, forecasting future demand, identifying capacity gaps, and developing and monitoring HRP strategies.
  • Some of the main challenges include ensuring the accuracy of your forecasting with reliable data, maintaining the balance between billable work and capacity building initiatives, and promoting collaboration and transparency. 
  • The right capacity planning solution can help you address the above with automation features, real-time data, and predictive analytics.

What Is Human Resource Planning (HRP)?

Human resource planning (HRP) is a process used to ensure that businesses have employees with the right skills, at the right time, and with the appropriate capacity to meet strategic goals. 

Some practical examples of HRP workflows for various businesses include:

  • An e-commerce business forecasting the need for IT capacity increases according to seasonal trends and scaling their infrastructure and support team.
  • A design agency identifying higher demand for digital media through benchmarking and developing strategies to upskill and reskill its employee pool.
  • A law firm initiating a succession planning strategy for the impending employee retirements by developing internal leadership candidates and recruiting external talent.

Why Is HRP Important? Top 4 Benefits

According to research by the Work Institute, 78% of the reasons for voluntary turnover could have been prevented by the employer if identified and addressed on time. 

Human resource planning helps businesses increase employee engagement and drive various improvements by:

1. Maintaining a Qualified Workforce

HRP aligns talent capabilities with organizational goals through talent acquisition, training, and development initiatives. Ensuring you have a skilled workforce to meet future workforce requirements reduces the risk of inefficient workflows and supports daily business operations. Investing in employee talent and skills can also help increase employee engagement and satisfaction.

2. Improving Risk and Change Management

HRP is a proactive approach that focuses on identifying issues before they occur. Analyzing trends and forecasting future needs helps businesses create contingency plans for various scenarios. This can include high-impact external changes, such as technological advancements, or internal disruptions, like leadership transitions.

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3. Ensuring Your Business Is Competitive

HRP keeps businesses competitive by helping them attract the right talent and ensuring that current employees are skilled and engaged in the workplace. It helps companies adapt to changes quickly and efficiently, fostering the agility and proactiveness needed to stay ahead of industry trends and competitors.

See more: The Top 13 Benefits of ERP

4. Optimizing Workforce Costs

HRP optimizes business costs by providing balanced employee utilization so that your agency isn’t spending excess money on non-productive labor costs. It also ensures that your business can do more work with adequate supply. Finally, HRP reduces the chance of unexpected resource gaps through effective forecasting, minimizing the need for last-minute hiring or overtime work.


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The Main Steps of Human Resources Planning

The key steps of HRP include:

  • Workforce analysis to determine your company’s current human resource capacity.
  • Demand forecasting to future resource demand based on industry trends and internal needs.
  • Gap analysis includes finding potential roadblocks in your HRP process and developing strategies to address them.
  • Implementation and monitoring of your human resource strategies, usually by tracking key performance indicators.

Analyzing Current Availability

Workforce analysis involves a comprehensive evaluation of the current workforce’s size, skills, and capabilities. It assesses aspects such as:

  • Employee productivity
  • Job satisfaction
  • Skill sets, including technical and soft skills
  • Seniority
  • Turnover rates

These metrics are used to identify your organization’s strengths and weaknesses. This is the foundation on which you’ll develop actionable steps to improve your HRP processes.

Screenshot of a human resource planning software featuring an employee time tracking report with columns for department or person, billable hours, total hours worked, and billable percentage, highlighting efficiency and workload distribution.

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Projecting Future Demand

Projecting future demand involves estimating the human resource requirements needed for an organization to meet its future goals. This forecast considers factors such as business growth, market expansion, technological advancements, and changes in operational processes.

Three tools that are used in this process are:

  • Ratio analysis, where historical data on the relationship between business metrics and workforce size is used to predict future staffing needs.
  • Trend analysis, which examines patterns in the organization’s workforce data over time.
  • Comparative analysis, whether by comparing internal resource planning practices across projects or benchmarking your performance against competitors.

Another potential strategy is utilizing real-time data, such as forecasting charts that depict the impact of resource scheduling on agency analytics.

Screenshot of a human resource planning software displaying a financial dashboard for a rebranding campaign, with graphs showing weekly distribution of time, budget, and invoicing, including a purple trend line for projected expenses.

Productive’s forecasting charts let you predict your company’s revenue and profit margins

Gap Analysis

Gap analysis compares future human resource needs against the current workforce’s capabilities to identify discrepancies or gaps. A way to conduct gap analysis is to monitor where previous projects went wrong to pinpoint inefficiencies in your workflows, such as miscommunication or a deficit of specific skills. You can do this by checking estimated vs real completion times for various tasks — ERP solutions can deliver these insights with time tracking features. 

Then, by examining your upcoming projects or initiatives, you can identify and forecast potential areas where similar imbalances may occur.

Developing and Implementing Strategies

The final step is developing and implementing HR strategies to cover your company’s specific needs and requirements.

These strategies may include:

  • Creating a resource plan: A resource plan is an in-depth document that contains information on your employees, their availability, and their scheduled time. It helps businesses follow strategic objectives and monitor their ongoing processes.
Screenshot of a human resource planning software displaying a project allocation calendar for employees with color-coded bars for different tasks, including rebranding projects and vacation time, for efficient resource management and scheduling.

Get an in-depth overview of your business resources and their availability

  • Employee engagement and retention strategies: For example, drafting career development plans, introducing new benefits packages and competitive compensation, and promoting a healthy organizational mindset.
  • Implementing modern software: Resource planning tools can support various steps of the HRP process, with features such as time off management, billable hours tracking, financial forecasting, real-time reporting, workflow automations, and more.

Best Practices for Effective HRP

Once you’ve pinpointed potential gaps and developed strategies to drive improvements, what are some best practices to ensure they stick?

Monitoring Your Progress

Whichever initiatives you decide to implement, monitoring them through key performance indicators (KPIs) is necessary to assess their effectiveness. However, keep in mind that while business metrics are important, some benefits of HRP may be hard to quantify. This includes better work-life balance and improved working environment.

Regular Review

HRP can take a long time to provide results. Agility and flexibility are needed to make sure that your strategies can stay aligned with changing business needs and priorities. Regular review helps identify where your strategies have gone off track to implement timely changes.

Continuous Improvement

HRP is an ongoing process. As such, your strategies will need to evolve alongside your business goals and circumstances. Incremental improvements are always better than sudden, expansive changes — consistently seeking feedback and analyzing outcomes is a way to ensure your HRP strategies remain effective over time.

Types of HR Planning 

There are different types or techniques associated with HR planning. Here are some common terms and how you can differentiate them:

Hard vs Soft HR Planning

  • Hard HR Planning focuses on quantitative aspects of human resource management, such as headcount, costs, and labor allocation. This approach often involves in-depth data and forecasting for informed decision-making.
  • Soft HR Planning considers qualitative factors of workforce management, such as engagement, development, and well-being. It’s less focused on data and more on fostering a committed and resilient workforce.

Short-Term vs Strategic HRP

  • Short-term HRP is more of a reactive approach that addresses immediate staffing needs and focuses on resolving urgent issues. It typically spans a timeframe of up to one year.
  • Strategic HRP is a long-term approach that aligns workforce planning with the organization’s future goals and strategies. It involves forecasting workforce requirements, sustainable talent management, and other proactive strategies for business success.

Employee Reskilling vs Upskilling

  • Reskilling involves training employees in new skills and capabilities to help them transition to different roles within the company.
  • Upskilling focuses on enhancing the current skills and competencies to improve performance, stay competitive, and meet job requirements.

Future Trends in HR Planning

  • Remote work is here to stay. According to survey results, 63% of professionals are willing to take a pay cut to work remotely (FlexJobs). If possible, consider including it as one of your benefits to drive a competitive advantage.
  • In general, employee well-being initiatives are becoming more and more popular. This can include more flexible hours, hybrid or remote work, health insurance plans, as well as various fitness and wellness programs.
  • 72% of professionals agree that all forms of skill-based hiring are more effective than resumes. While the resume is still used to filter the pool of applicants, work-related tasks and technical questions have proven to be the more efficient and cost-effective way of hiring candidates. (Test Gorilla).
  • When it comes to daily workflows, 60% of professionals believe that automation helps them fight burnout and work-related stress. It allows for a more flexible work schedule, helps them be more organized at work, frees up their tasks for work they enjoy, and more (Zapier). Consider tools that can provide no-code automations to streamline day-to-day work. 

The Challenges of Human Resource Planning

Now that we’ve gone through the main steps of the HRP, it’s time to address some of its main challenges:

  • Accurate forecasting: Predicting future needs accurately can be a challenge in itself. Not only does it require having an in-depth understanding of your business circumstances, but it’s also sensitive to changes in market demand and economic conditions.
  • Maintaining a flexible workforce: Maintaining a versatile and skilled workforce requires careful management of work hours. This ensures that profitability isn’t compromised, and at the same time, avoids situations where training is neglected entirely for billable work. This balance between billable and non-billable time is crucial for sustainable organizational success.
  • Aligning HR Strategy with Business Goals: Keeping track of the overarching business strategy in HRP can be hard, especially in large or rapidly evolving organizations. It requires transparent communication, cross-functional collaboration, and a deep understanding of the organization’s long-term objectives and the role of the workforce in achieving them.

The Solution: Utilizing Software for Enhanced HR Planning

A way to address these potential challenges is using tools with HR and resource management capabilities.  Modern software provides a way to visualize and forecast employee hours, activities, and their impact on business financials for more informed decision-making. It also helps businesses view project progress in real time to streamline stakeholder collaboration.

Screenshot of a human resource planning software interface showing a social media post management board with options for list, board, calendar, and table views, categorizing posts by status such as 'Not Started' and 'Done'.

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An example of such a tool is Productive, with key HRP features including:

  • Time tracking
  • Resource scheduling
  • Workload balancing
  • Time off management
  • Financial forecasting
  • And more

Book a demo today to discover how Productive can help drive efficient human resource management.


What is meant by human resource planning?

Human resource planning (HRP) is the strategic process of ensuring your business has the correct number of skilled employees to meet company goals. It involves talent management, employee performance and data analysis, needs forecasting, and more.

What are the 5 steps in human resource planning?

The five main steps of human resource planning include identifying current organizational availability, demand forecasting, capacity gap analysis, strategy development and implementation, and results monitoring and analysis.

What are the 3 key areas of human resources planning?

The 3 key areas of human resource planning (HRP) include workforce forecasting, talent management, and gap analysis. Workforce forecasting involves analyzing current availability and predicting the future needs of the workforce. Talent management encompasses various strategies, from recruitment, training, and development to succession planning. Gap analysis involves pinpointing areas of improvement by identifying where capacity fell short of meeting demand (skills, quantity, time, etc.).

Why is human resources planning important?

Human resource planning (HRP) is important because it ensures that the workforce is aligned with the organization’s strategic goals. It helps businesses get the most out of their human resources, both by improving acquisition strategies, developing current talent, and increasing retention. HRP also supports organization agility, flexibility, and resilience by building a well-skilled and satisfied workforce.

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Lucija Bakić

Content Specialist

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