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A Group Of Professionals Leveraging Nonprofit Strategic Partnerships

4 Workforce Planning Models for Your Nonprofit to Consider


Is your nonprofit struggling with having too few or too many workers during peak and non-peak periods? Selecting the right workforce planning model can help solve these problems for many nonprofits as it is not cost-effective to have employees standing idle during a shift, and employees who feel overworked may lose their enthusiasm for the job.

It may be worth exploring various workforce planning models to ensure you have the right people in the right positions at the right times.

Here, we’ll provide tips on crafting a workforce planning model for your organization and an overview of some established workforce planning models for your nonprofit to consider.

What Is a Workforce Planning Model?

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, workforce planning is “the process an organization uses to analyze its workforce and determine the steps it must take to meet current and future staffing needs.

A workforce planning model outlines strategies for the main components of workforce planning which include:

  • Recruitment
  • Retention
  • Employee development
  • Knowledge transfer
  • Succession management

Whether your workforce planning model consists of a simple spreadsheet or a digital system that collects and analyzes a lot of data, your model will guide you through a systematic assessment of your workforce. Your model will give you a clear picture of the composition of your workforce and what actions you need to take to respond to current and future workforce needs.

A workforce planning model is helpful for nonprofits of any size. Still, they’re especially beneficial for nonprofits with a large workforce, such as credit unions, higher education institutions and healthcare organizations.

What Are the Benefits of a Workforce Planning Model?

While adopting a workforce planning model has many benefits, the most important are building employee skills and retaining talent. When it all works well, the combined benefits of a workforce planning model will help your nonprofit create an optimal staffing plan and ensure your workers are properly trained to fulfill your organization’s needs.

Identify Gaps and Plan for Succession

A workforce planning model highlights the gaps in your current workforce, prompting you to reposition workers and set up the proper training for them. Planning for adequate training goes hand-in-hand with succession planning as it enables you to include leadership training for employees with long-term leadership potential.

Improve Retention 

A workforce planning model gives you the benefit of increasing retention by giving you a snapshot of your employee’s skills. Furthermore, you can use that information to determine where each employee can best serve your nonprofit. Your model will help you reposition employees who are not a good fit for their position rather than fire them and recruit a replacement.

Increase Flexibility

Your nonprofit can also use a workforce planning model to anticipate workforce changes and respond to them. You will reduce turnover costs and gain a better ROI as your workforce becomes more efficient. Moreover, a flexible workforce will enable your staff to be more agile and responsive when change needs to occur quickly.

Make Future Plans

As an employer, you cannot escape some degree of turnover. A workforce planning model enables you to plan for staff to leave in a way that causes the least disruption. For example, with a staffing plan, it’s possible to hire in connection with growth projections, change your business model and develop employees who can become future leaders.

Crafting the Right Workforce Planning Model

Workforce planning models can be as simple as a few basic recording processes or involve multiple systems and lots of data analysis. Whether you opt for a simple or complex design largely depends on the scale of your workforce and the variety of positions within it. Once you have made this decision, you can craft a workforce planning model suitable for your organization. We will be reviewing four workplace models for your board’s consideration.

When considering the best workforce planning model for your organization, you will want to answer the following questions:

  • How many people do you have in your workforce?
  • How many positions do they fill?
  • How accurately do you want to forecast projections for workforce needs?

Let’s look at your options a little more closely.

Simple Workforce Planning Design 

A simple workforce planning design is a streamlined process that allows space to enter the number and types of positions needed, and the skills employees need. A simple workforce planning design can be created using a grid or spreadsheet.

The benefits of a simple workforce planning design are:

  • It’s simplicity
  • Requires little time, effort or funding

The drawbacks of a simple workforce planning design are:

  • Only provides a brief overview of the workforce needs
  • May not give sufficient details to optimize the workforce

A simple workforce planning model can be based on factors relevant to your organization. For instance, consider basing it on sales for the last five years for one or more products or services if your organization experiences losing fewer employees than expected due to an unusual slowdown. Similarly, you may use a simple workforce planning design if your organization anticipates needing to hire more employees than usual due to the potential launch of a product or program.

Develop a workforce planning model based on the number of workers needed for each line. HR should be able to determine the skills and work hours required for each position. The data may also suggest certain workers could be retrained for other positions.

The simple workforce planning design is best suited to smaller nonprofits with few employees and volunteers and a limited number of worker positions.

Complex Workforce Planning Design 

A complex workforce planning design breaks your workforce needs down even further. It accounts for the fact that certain positions are more critical than others to growing your nonprofit. A complex workforce planning design determines the skill sets needed for the most vital roles. Consider using this design if your organization employs hundreds of employees and offers hundreds of positions, making it difficult to plan for the right talent now and in the future.

The benefits of a complex workforce planning design are:

  • Identifies gaps in skills
  • Provides a clearer picture of your existing workforce

The drawbacks of a complex workforce planning design are:

  • Requires a software program and a budget to support it
  • Takes more time and effort to document

Furthermore, a complex workforce planning design can be broken down to your nonprofit’s revenue per employee. Also, a closer look at the data may indicate which employees are flexible enough to be cross-trained in other positions. Flexibility and retraining may be essential if your nonprofit is amidst digital transformation.

The more data you have in developing your workforce planning model, the more meaningful and effective it will assist your nonprofit to achieve its mission.

The complex workforce planning design is best for nonprofits with many employees, possibly working in multiple locations such as credit unions, healthcare organizations, and higher education institutions.

For simple and complex workforce planning designs, the data you collect could shift the workforce to favor the most profitable lines.

The following four workforce planning models will assist your nonprofit in customizing its own model.

4 Common Workforce Planning Models

1. Equilibrium Model

The equilibrium model is a workforce planning model based on the concept that “the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.” This model requires reviewing historical data to help you plan for current and future workforce needs. For example, if your nonprofit has had a poor retention rate historically, it will be beneficial to factor in time and funding for recruiting and hiring.

What if your nonprofit is getting off the ground or you don’t have historical data? Every nonprofit has to start somewhere. Develop a system to begin collecting data now and analyze it in the coming year.

In the meantime, make changes as situations call for them. Keep an open mind, and continually reassess the data.

2. Deterministic Model

The deterministic model is a workforce planning model based on generalizing what will likely happen in the future and addressing situations as they occur to develop a realistic succession plan.

The deterministic model is instrumental when planning for upcoming promotions and retirements. In looking toward the future, some employees may be ready to move laterally to a new role., while others may want to move up within the nonprofit or gain the skills necessary for promotions.

Many employees desire to work past the traditional age of retirement, keeping themselves in the workforce longer. This is another factor to keep in mind as you’re developing the deterministic model.

Whether you’re planning for changing roles, promotions or retirement, it is important to determine how many new employees you need to recruit and hire to fill these potentially vacant positions.

3. Flow Model

Effective workforce planning requires your nonprofit to align workers with your goals and plans for the future. Pull out your strategic plan and take a look at your long-range goals. The basis for flow models begins with a good brainstorming session where you might pose the following questions:

  • Will new programs and activities require a stronger workforce?
  • Will future initiatives require more sophisticated types of talent?
  • Will there be a need for consultants?

Just one new program or activity can significantly impact your workforce, and that should signal a change in your workforce planning model. Advanced planning can lessen the impact of potential challenges and increase the chance of a successful new venture.

4. Optimization Model

Unlike the deterministic model, which is forward-thinking, the optimization model is a workforce planning model that takes a backward perspective. The concept is to look at your nonprofit’s future goals and work backward to understand the changes you need to make to achieve future goals.

For example, let’s say your nonprofit wants to bolster its cybersecurity measures to protect sensitive data. What will be required to achieve that goal? Will you need to hire additional IT staff? Will someone need to train staff on new programs? Will you need to purchase a software program or SaaS subscription?

Determine how this goal will impact your workforce and budget and then plan accordingly to bolster your systems’ cybersecurity.

The Role of Technology in Creating Your Workforce Planning Model

In years past, HR departments merely recruited employees based on wherever the organization had gaps in positions. Technology can glean the right data, which can be enlightening when planning your workforce needs.

Workforce planning software systems will make the task much more manageable, whatever model you use. It is truly amazing how enlightening the right data can be and how helpful it can be in planning your workforce needs and providing a clear path to keep you on track.

BoardEffect’s board management solution is the best platform to document your board’s work as you pursue the best-fit workforce planning model for your nonprofit organization.

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