When your L&D team is under pressure to deliver on a mounting pile of training requests, the knee jerk reaction is to look at hiring extra resources to pick up the load. But justifying those extra resources sometimes takes some convincing and some hard data to prove the need for a few extra pairs of hands. Without defined parameters and hard numbers to back up your need for extra resources, it may fall on deaf ears. That’s where capacity planning comes in.
By taking the time to develop a closed-loop capacity planning and monitoring process, you can accurately plan resources and get instant insight into the availability of your department for new projects when they are requested.
Capacity planning should be more than a one-off exercise whenever budgetary decisions roll around on an annual basis. By integrating capacity planning and resource management, you’ll have a full understanding of your team’s capacity, workload, and availability at all times. To help you get there, here is your five step checklist for capacity planning in L&D:
Step 1. Define Existing Resources
Before you can understand your team’s capacity and decide whether it needs to be expanded, you need to understand the boundaries of your existing resources.
Create a demand forecast report
First, understand the upcoming demands on your team’s time and skills. Define all planned tasks and requested training projects by their required time commitment and skills needed. This can be done on a quarterly or annual basis depending on how you work, but should account for everything from the smallest task to the biggest project, including:
- One-off strategic projects for the L&D team, such as developing brand new training programs
- The introduction of a new course series or format (e.g. microlearning)
- Conversion of existing courses to new platforms and formats
- Updating of outdated content
- Regular administrative tasks
If you don’t take the time to developaccurate data on upcoming and pipeline projects, your capacity planning will be little more than educated guesswork.
Defining your resource demands and capacity down to the hour helps to draw as accurate a picture as possible of your capacity and resource planning. It also allows you to see on a granular level the hours that can be depended upon by FTE (both full time and part time).
By doing this at an hourly level, you can predict with much more precision the number of contractors or freelancers that are likely to be required to meet demand – right down to the hourly rate you will need to spend.
The availability of working hours is one thing, but the skills needed for each task and project is another. A skills inventory should be drawn up for each individual team member. This includes:
- Secondary skillsets
- Experience areas
- Software and tool familiarity level
A properly compiled skills inventory means the best suited resource is on board for every task on every project. When the time comes for dividing these skills (and the employees’ time) across different projects, you’ll have unconditional visibility into niche skills and experience level. Dividing resources across projects will be more efficient and project success ever more likely.
Step 2. Set Up Capacity Monitoring
Even with the best intentions and the most organized training team management, unexpected projects and tasks can crop up. Teams can also experience unexpected resource cuts such as losing experienced staff members, layoffs, and budget cuts for temps and contractors. So, it’s essential to continue monitoring your capacity on an ongoing basis.
Don’t forget to also take staff vacation and other leave into account when monitoring your capacity planning on an ongoing basis. It’s also essential to monitor project timelines and ensure your resource planning aligns with your capacity. Take the time to develop detailed timelines that allocate resources to projects to ensure you are making the most out of your team’s capacity.
The most essential piece of data to take from continuous capacity monitoring is your minimum capacity availability in order to meet capacity requirements. If you find your capacity slipping below requirements, the decision must be to add more resources or cut down demand.
Step 3. Create a Contingency Plan
Should the worst happen and you find your team low on resources and high in demand, it’s essential to have contingency plans in place to address urgent requests and unexpected difficulties. What will happen if a project is more complicated than initially thought and some of your most experienced resources are tied up for twice the duration than was predicted? Which will be the first planned projects to go if your department suffers budget cuts or layoffs?
Contingency plans will look very different from one organization to the next, but may include factors such as:
- Temporary hires (instructional designers, project managers, external developers)
- Highly detailed project prioritization plans
- Bolstering your departmental budget for emergency contractors or freelancers
- Handing off more training creation to SMEs
Step 4. Address Long Term Capacity Shortages
While it may seem as though your training team is getting along just fine, a properly defined capacity planning process can help you see where resources are strained. Whether your resources are under pressure due to time or skills shortages, capacity planning can help you to address shortages, both short and long term.
Capacity shortages can be addressed through:
Skills shortages can often be remedied easily. Pay particular attention to junior staff members who express an interest in developing the particular skills with which your team currently struggles. An investment in training can drastically expand the capacity of your team.
- Long Term Hires
The main cure for a capacity shortage in working hours is hiring more resources. The good news is that having a detailed overview of your capacity goes a long way towards justifying the need for extra resources to the powers that be.
- New Tools and Software
There is lots of room for automation and streamlining of certain processes in training development. Capacity planning can help you examine where new technology can help to bridge the gap between demand and capacity. And if budgets simply won’t stretch to extra staff, they may easily stretch to taking on a few new tools to expand capacity and meet demand more easily.
Step 5. Align Capacity With Resource Planning
Now that you properly understand your team’s capacity, you can use it to distribute resources effectively to different projects and assess the need for extra budget, skills, and staff in your resource planning phase. To do this, you need to understand the demands different training requests and planned projects will place on your team on a more granular level.
Define individual project demands
When it comes to mapping your resources to individual training projects, your detailed capacity planning will really come into play.
Define project demands the same way you defined capacity in order to appropriately map hours and skills to each project.
Devise a team schedule
The next most important factor in leveraging capacity planning for effective resource allocation is developing timelines. If you have a shortage of a particular skill set, for example, ensure your projects’ start dates and timelines allow for availability of that resource where it is needed, and when it is needed.
Learn more about capacity planning in L&D: