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American Public Human Services Association
American Public Human Services Association


Workforce strategy is the agency’s overall approach to maximizing the performance of its workforce by defining the goals, objectives and expectations of the workforce. It encompasses all aspects of the performance management system required for the workforce to function, including recruitment, selection, retention and professional development. An agency’s progress toward achieving its overall mission depends on the successful implementation of its workforce plan.

Strategic Work

Agency leadership and senior management are ultimately responsible for the effective planning and implementation of the workforce strategy. Aspects of agency strategy that must be established and clearly communicated are:
  • An inspiring agency vision and a set of explicit values and principles that guide employee performance and agency practices.
  • An agency-wide approach to workforce practice that is fair and equitable.
  • Protocols for recruitment, hiring and retention including compensation/benefit packages that will make the agency an employer of first choice and build a highly competent workforce eager to learn and grow professionally.
  • A positive image of the workforce among external stakeholders, including legislators, funders, colleges and universities and the news media, which conveys the message that the agency is invested in building and maintaining positive relationships and is a good steward of community resources and public funds.
  • A positive agency culture and climate that leverages capacity through engagement with and empowerment of staff, stakeholders, children, youth and families.

Workforce Plan Components

A workforce plan provides written step-by-step procedures for executing a workforce strategy. The workforce plan lays out what is needed to get the job done and calculates the human and non-human resources needed to build a competent and properly deployed workforce. It assesses the agency’s workforce and estimates current and future needs to achieve agency goals. Realistic projections are essential to justify budget requests and to plan for effective programming.

The workforce plan contains five components that define the context, characteristics and capacities of the workforce – both program and administrative support staff – and how, together, these drive the agency’s work. These components are:

Successful implementation of a workforce plan requires inclusion and engagement of staff at all levels as well as the external stakeholders that the plan will affect. The result of inclusion is an empowering process that heightens investment in the workforce plan’s success and commitment to the overall mission of the agency. It takes into consideration the needs of the children, youth and families served. Behaviorally, this process mirrors and will reinforce the principles of child-focused and family-centered practice and the tenets of community capacity building. Some important groups who must be aware of and support the workforce plan include:
  • Involvement of agency staff in the planning and development process will strengthen the plan with a broader spectrum of expertise and exchange of ideas. Each staffing level has a unique perspective on the potential impact of the plan on the workforce and, ultimately, the clients. In addition, such involvement garners the commitment of the workforce to the workforce plan and will have a positive impact on its implementation.
  • External stakeholders play many roles. Stakeholders, such as policy makers, must be briefed and those expected to participate as resource partners—providing services, recruiting or training staff, unions and executives who control budgets — must not only be informed, but also actively engaged in the workforce planning process. The information received by these resource partners and how they interpret it is critical since they interact frequently with the legislature on funding and the allocation of non-financial resources.
Example: A union can be a powerful ally when it comes to advocating for funds or establishing performance management protocols.
  • The engagement of clients provides an understanding of how the agency is perceived by the children, youth and families it serves, the environments in which workers deliver services and how these contexts can promote or hinder good practice.
Example: Clients can provide feedback on how they perceive the availability of quality medical services or how foster care regulations impact them.