Your Complete Guide to Strategic Workforce Planning

workforce panning guide

What Is Strategic Workforce Planning

While you may think of workforce planning as a tool HR uses to anticipate employment needs, it can also be essential for organizational design and team development goals.

“Teams with effective strategic workforce plans are better equipped to meet their long-term goals and maintain long-term success,” says Marguerite Kunze, associate vice president, talent management & workforce strategy at Stanford University. 

While it is hard to understand this visible gap between intent and execution, the most apparent cause is a lack of consistent objectives around the delivery of a strategic workforce plan and a lack of uniform process by which organizations perform workforce planning and predictive modeling. 

We will go through how to evaluate some key analytics to review the importance of strategic planning and how to strategize for the future.

My goal is for you to gain new perspectives and strategies while sharing my passion and purpose for helping healthcare owners thrive.

Who Is In Charge Of Workforce Planning?

While HR teams have a part to play in employing staff and helping them stay with the organization, the determination of what the future workforce should look like is often disclosed only to C-level executives.

A strategic workforce plan is often designed to meet future scenarios, therefore, it must be aligned with the organization’s needs and objectives. This makes workforce planning especially difficult for HR leaders who already wear many hats and are already short on time.

A Strategic Workforce Plan for Healthcare Providers

Ask 100 private practices to define strategic workforce planning, and you may get 100 varying definitions. In a nutshell, though, a strategic workforce plan is the process of ensuring your private practice has the optimal number of people with the right skills, in the correct place, at the right time to deliver on business goals. I’d also argue that it’s having the capacity and discipline to think about the future so you can react quickly and effectively in the moment.

So let’s begin.

Workforce Planning

The Workforce planning process

Strategic planning is a process that combines analytical perspectives, coupled with opportunistic views, to structure actionable items that you will focus on in a results-oriented vision. Now in a perfect world, you’re building a strategic plan annually and adapt it throughout the year, based on accountability. 

A strategic plan can include multiple areas of focus, operations, infrastructure, financial infrastructure, market penetration, visionary direction, and more. And of course, everything in between. There’s no black and white when it comes to strategic planning, but a lot of grays. So we have to do the things that matter most in your business and ultimately direct you on the journey of success.

We must put actionable items, results, and oriented objectives into the strategic plan. You have to believe that they’re achievable, but we also want to push you. Nothing comes easy in this world. So to reach our fullest potential, you must challenge yourself. 

What is the goal when creating a workforce plan?

The objective of workforce planning is to always have the right individual in the right role at the right time. This means a business is never overstaffed – but also never understaffed. Workforce planning is about recognizing the gap between the workforce the future needs of the organization, based on its strategy, and its present-day workforce. Once this gap is identified, steps are taken to minimize it.

Gaining Perspectives Grounded in Data

My goal is to be a catalyst to survey and gather perspectives while anchoring the vision for the upcoming year, grounded on data, data analytics, data information, and other perspectives.

To do this, I bring in all of my departments;

I will take employees of all functions and levels who are empowered to be part of this process. Whoever is involved in delivering on the mission and the vision of your practice.

I’m not going to force anyone to be part of it, of course, but signing up for this will be fun. It’ll be rewarding. I sometimes give a little prize, but the other thing is this. I’m allowing my team to be causative over the future of our environment, of our practice, of everything we’re trying to achieve. And that breeds power.

By creating a committee, I also generate buy-in and provide my employees with a feeling of being part of something. As I said, they’re part of this causation process in the organization.

Remember feeling causative, seeing progress, and being part of something bigger than yourself fuels the science of happiness. This is a win-win for everyone involved.

Strategic planning and evaluation is not invalidation

I think it’s important that I break down some of the reports you may measure on a global level. When we look at things that didn’t go right, we’re not invalidating.

We’re not saying Brandon, you suck. You didn’t hit that goal.

No, we’re saying…

Workforce Planning Assets: Financial Analysis Report

The first is Financial Analysis. When looking at strategy, your financials are the foundation of your business at the end of the day. So we have to keep that in mind.

I will ask for a 2020 profit and loss statement, ideally, first, second, third quarter.

Right now we have just started our fourth quarter. It is a perfect time to gather first, second, and third-quarter financial data.

cash basis versus accrual basis Accounting

Now I always request accrual basis reporting if available, but if it’s not available, we’ll go on a cash basis reporting, and that’s okay.

I typically will start right around the end of the third quarter. I begin my process in August, and I allow September to finish the financial data. Everything else that we’re doing can actually happen before the third quarter is over.

Still, the more real the data is from the first three quarters, the more tangible my data analytics will be in terms of my strategy.

I break down metrics in terms of Accrual versus Cash Basis. I have some extra videos on our site, all about the importance of data analytics in healthcare and understanding your metrics

All free, go read about it, and if you have a question, message me Let me know that you’re looking for support, and I will do everything I can to exchange tips and strategies in more abundance.

profit and loss statement | Comparative Analysis

The other thing I’m going to ask for is the 2019 profit and loss statement broken down in all four quarters. We will do a quarter over quarter comparative analysis. We’ll do the first quarter over the first quarter, second quarter over the second quarter, third quarter over the third quarter, comparing 2019, 2020.

We may even throw in 2018 just to see that trajectory of where we’ve gone. And I want to be really clear that the reason we go quarter over quarter is that there are trends in terms of the time of year. 

Winter tends to fluctuate because I know I’ve got the holidays coming up and all these different distractions. So there are characteristics that come about based on timing, how many workable days there are in that period, et cetera. That’s why I don’t compare the second quarter vs. the first quarter, for example.

In my line of business, typically, the second and third quarters are the best based on the fundamentals of what’s going on during that time of the year. Because of that, me just saying, Oh, we had a great second quarter may not be indicative of your business’s growth. 

How did I do the second quarter over the previous second quarter, third quarter over the previous third quarter, et cetera is a much more accurate measuring stick.

So that’s just a scratch of the surface in terms of financial analysis. I’ll also look at cash flow; how much cash came in a certain period. That’s where that cash basis accounting is important.

Remember, typically, we’re collecting 30 to 90 days from the date of service in healthcare. Ideally, it’s 30 days, but some clinics are not as good at that. So definitely keep that in mind. That’s why you look at both cash basis versus accrual basis, in my opinion.

As a reminder, cash basis accounting is how we file our taxes, but accrual basis I use for strategy purposes.

workforce analysis

The next segment or section I want to pull data from for the strategic plan is our workforce analysis. I think it’s imperative. I always start with workforce utilization metrics.

Utilization Workforce… Asking, how do I utilize the workforce that I have?

So I look at the capacity for production activity.

These things are significant supply versus demand analytics, and all play a part in that workforce utilization metric.

Understanding Your Organizations Staffing Capacity

The other thing that I like to do is project my staffing capacity for the next year.

If productivity is part of our goals, for example, I know my ratio. So if I have a 10 to 1 ratio in terms of producers (therapists, clinicians, doctors, whatnot) to administrative people, that’s my ratio. I know that if I’m at 10 practitioners and I’m going to hire an 11th, I’m going to have to hire an administrative person because I’ve exceeded that ratio.

I remember back in the day we had one-to-one ratios, and it was crazy. Now we’re running on average 6-10 to 1, depending on the type of business, delivery, technology and innovation, and ensuring that we put patient experience as our primary goal and objective.

Missed Opportunities | workforce analysis

I want to break down all of the missed opportunities because I did not have the optimal workforce.

Here’s an example. 

I work a lot with pediatric therapy practices, and some of the specialties are occupational, physical, and speech therapy. As a private practice, if I see I’ve turned down 25 patients through three quarters because of a request for a specialization, let’s say feeding, perhaps I take that into account with my strategy plan and workforce analysis. Maybe I set a goal for exploring hiring a therapist that can satisfy that deman, and I create marketing goals on behalf of that as well.

Maybe that’s a growth goal for the next year. So these are the things that I look at from a workforce analysis standpoint.

The next category that I want to talk about is critical.

Preparing a market analysis

Using market analysis and market penetration, I evaluate the role we’re playing in our market, our industry, and our space. We look at our competitors, our community, referral sources, our market effectiveness, and market penetration in terms of our ability to capitalize on the community’s needs.

key analytics for a marketing analysis

I want to look at your referral growth analytics broken down by quarters for 2019 and 2020.

I will then come up with what the lifetime value of a patient. I look at all kinds of trends to identify this value. And I go with the law of averages for strategic purposes. It’s helpful to understand these values. 

Digital marketing analytics

The next thing I look at is digital marketing analytics. If you haven’t realized it yet, we live in a digital world. Obviously, we look at how much we spend on our referral network and who’s referring, but you’re missing out big if you’re not capitalizing on the digital infrastructure of today’s environment. 

There’s so much opportunity for patient growth with a massive ROI on acquisition if you do it right. We look at your SEO, the costs of keywords you’re targeting, conversions metrics, competitors analytics, your GMB (Google my Business), web authority, et cetera.

The Value of An Optimized GMB (Google my Business)

We want to make sure you optimize your GMB account and schedule photos and posts regularly. We’re currently seeing exceptional ROI through the use of Google My Business, accompanied by strong local citations and an SEO optimized business website. 

Measuring Your Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

I want to look at insights or metrics related to PPC (pay per click) efforts if you are running them.

For the upcoming year, we strategize on where you’re putting your attention. It’s that simple.

Your Healthcare Marketing Strategy

I know that sounds complex, but we can break this down really simple for you, and you need to look at this for you to really come about an effective plan where you’re naming key goals.

Now, maybe you’re not looking to grow externally, but you’re looking to grow internally. These are all things we take into account. When we look at the strategic plan, the beauty is it can evolve. It’s not stuck. Having a roadmap will make your next year, very, very promising if you do it right.

data points for building a strategic Workforce plan

The strategic plan’s goal is to identify what is working and continue to build on that while also identifying what hasn’t worked, what needs working on, what needs a pivot, where we need to learn from our mistakes, and identify an actionable plan for the upcoming year.

A SWOT analysis

The next thing is to do a SWOT analysis through a 360-degree organizational feedback perspective.

Do you remember what a SWOT analysis is?

Well, I’m going to break it down in a minute, but I use it for everything. When I’m talking 360-degree organizational feedback, I want you to have everyone in your organization who’s willing to contribute to this process by completing five questions. It is not required, but it is an opportunity to be part of the causation process. 

So I would say to anyone who is an opinion leader in my organization (and anyone who might be a referral source) there are five things that I would like to know from you.

Swot analysis diagram

Sometimes knowing what works is one of the most important things too. This is an area where people have trouble because they get into invalidation versus constructive feedback. 

What’s our current weakness? Let’s be critical but not invalidating. I always shape it into symbolic metaphors. What’s our kryptonite?  

I don’t want someone just being like, well, your compensation sucks, Brandon. No, I want the feedback to be: 

  • I wish that we had more opportunities to grow or
  • Our funding sources limit our budgeting 

These are areas that we want to work on, but don’t invalidate us. It pushes us to explore new things. If you say, you know what? We don’t have a diversified funding source model. Great. That’s an opportunity right there. 

If there is one significant external opportunity that we missed this year, what is it?

What is one threat that we must be aware of that challenges our survival in this next year? Not 10 years, not five years, but in the next year. Is it commercial real estate defaulting and losing my space? Is it the Medicare 9% cut to rehab professionals? That’s a big one in the industry that I work with.

If I had a magic paintbrush and I could paint the next year, what are three things you would have this paintbrush do? Basically, I’m asking what the three priorities of positive change we need to make as an organization are.

Measuring Data Points in your Strategic Workforce Plan

I know there’s synergy in all these questions, and they kind of all intersect, but I think that each is positioned in a way where we need to get that info to validate that we’re solving the right problem.

So we have covered a handful of key data points that we want to look at when crafting our strategic plan. We looked at financial analytics, workforce analytics, market analytics, and even some organizational leadership feedback. All of these create our heartbeat for this organization.

Our Mission and Vision

The last thing I want to ensure we look at is our mission and our vision. As we meet with our staff, I challenge you to ask them the organization’s mission. See how fast they summed it up.

I also want you to ask them if they feel we are achieving our mission and vision day in and day out. And if our vision and mission that’s outlined in this organization still resonates.

Are they aligned? Do they feel it? Do they do it? Do they practice it?

Now, as a reminder, I personally preach this in my own practices. Our mission is what we are called to do as an organization. It’s why I’m here. It’s what I’m called to do.

Creating your Corporate vision through strategic workforce planning

So what am I here for, and how do I achieve it? This is something that needs buy-in from every individual in our organization who wants to produce and be part of our veins to success.

Every year when completing your strategic planning, I recommend you incorporate your vision, mission, and even your core values. These are essential to the best living, breathing, and adapting organization.

So when structuring our strategic plan, I always recommend dating the plan. This is for January 1st, 2021 to December 31st, 2021. And guess what? If you change the strategic plan along the way, you will have an updated date list.

The other thing I want you to think of is that a strategic plan is a hierarchy, which the top will show your mission, your vision, your core values. That’s where we start. Everything falls under that. This hierarchy is what shields us and keeps us aligned.

Then we are going to name our vision for the next year. And then we’re going to name our goals under that. Within each goal, there will be an objective and an activity. So think about it. We have our goal. Then to achieve that goal, how many objectives do we need to fulfill? Maybe it’s one objective, maybe it’s five.

Then within those objectives, how many actions, how many activities do we need to achieve the objective? We do this in clinical reasoning and clinical data documentation for patient care. So why can’t we do this for our organization?

Establish Smart Goals

I will say that you can structure your goals as smart goals. As a reminder, smart goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based achievements. When we’re breaking down our goals, I would like them broken down by quarter with objectives that you plan to work on in that quarter and activities aligned with those objectives.

You may have activities and objectives that carry through. I want you to update at the end of each quarter to ensure it’s relevant in terms of what you’ve achieved.

Think of your organization as a patient. Just as you were coming up with goals and milestones for that patient, do the same with your strategic plan. Now, I personally always wrap up my strategic plans with an Axiom or a postulate, a statement that is taken to be true in the defined year.

So I am forecasting it. Wellness Works Management Partners will change more private practices for the better in 2021 than any previous year. That’s my anchor point. I’m stating something in the now that I will accomplish in the upcoming year, but I show it as if I already achieved it.

I really believe in anchoring our vision and anchoring what we’re trying to achieve. There’s a self-talk component to this. I always refer to it as my Stuart Smalley, like from Saturday live.

I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. Gosh, darn it. People like me.

Presenting Your Strategic Plan

So once we have outlined our strategic plan, I like to present it to anyone who wants to be part of it from the organization. I bring in my strategic planning committee and invite any employee to hear what we want to accomplish in the coming year. Again, assign action items to people that want to be part of the change process.

This is our chance to create buy-in, motivate, empower, and get your organization to the next level. Be part of causation.

Remember, this is a team sport. We should be thriving, not just surviving. Get that buy-in, build the excitement, and create positive change.

How are you allowing your team to co-create to shape their future?

The game of business is about positive change. Stagnant organizations are not thriving. Organizational change can happen in many different ways. Sometimes it’s internal. Sometimes it’s external.

Learn, grow together, and thrive.


I want to leave you with a reflection quote that resonates with me. Today’s quote comes from Pablo Picasso. 

Picasso says, “Our goals can only be reached through the vehicle of a plan. There was no other route to success“. 

So get your plan started. Let’s make it happen. Let’s create the practice you want it to be. Let’s do it now, and let’s do it together. 

We will push you to the finish line. We can thrive, not just survive.

Let's unlock your bottom line, your cash flow, your metrics, and your accrual basis strategy so you're ready to take advantage of 2021.

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