Child Welfare Quality Improvement Center for Workforce Development (QIC-WD)


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An action plan can be a useful tool for implementing workforce analytics, especially if there are multiple people involved in the process. This resource provides some general advice on action planning, with specific examples for advancing the use of workforce analytics. What is an Action Plan? An action plan outlines the actions, resources, and people needed to achieve goals. It is vital to strategic planning. Action plans include the following components: • A well-defined goal • Tasks/steps needed to reach the goal • Individuals or teams responsible for each task • Task milestones and timeframes • Resources and data needed to complete tasks • Evidence or measures to evaluate progress • Desired long-term outcomes Having this information in one place makes it easier to plan and to track progress. Why Develop an Action Plan? Developing an action plan is essential to project success. An action plan provides credibility to a project and increases efficiency and accountability. In addition, an action plan helps to prepare for potential obstacles. Benefits of an action plan include the following: • Provides clear direction • Helps prioritize tasks • Highlights what steps need to be taken and when they should be completed • Tracks progress towards meeting the goal(s) How to Write an Action Plan 1. Determine what you want to achieve and define your goal Start by thinking about where you are and where you want to be, and write down your goal. Then, ensure that it is a SMART goal: • Specific: well defined and narrowed for more effective planning • Measurable: evidence to show progress or that the goal has been achieved • Attainable: make sure you can reasonably accomplish your goal within your timeframe • Relevant: your goal should align with your mission and desired long-term outcomes • Timely: set a timeline and completion date Use a SMART goal worksheet, like the following example, to assist your team in defining your goal. What do you want to achieve? We want people from Human Resources (HR) and Child Welfare (CW) to work together, break down silos, and get the right people at the table. We want HR and CW to use workforce metrics to make data-informed decisions to address workforce challenges Specific. Once key stakeholders are identified, the first meeting will be scheduled at least 6 weeks in advance to allow time on everyone’s calendars. This will also allow time to pull initial workforce metrics to review or create a catalog of potential metrics to discuss with the new team during the first meeting. After this, meetings should occur at least quarterly, allowing sufficient time for follow-up on recommendations between meetings while ensuring a sustained focus. Ongoing meeting frequency should be guided by the needs of the agency. Your goal should align with your mission and desired long-term outcomes. By creating a multidisciplinary team, the agency can make more informed decisions about the child welfare workforce (e.g., decisions about recruiting, hiring, training, promotion, staff development needs). Identify and contact stakeholders to participate in the initial meeting within the next month. Host the first meeting within the next quarter. This group will convene regularly, and no end date is planned at this time. Rewrite your goal using SMART principles: Establish a multidisciplinary team (comprised of HR and CW leadership and frontline staff) to regularly examine CW workforce metrics to make data-driven workforce decisions. 2. Determine the steps/tasks that are required to meet the goal: Start by clearly defining each task and ensuring they are manageable; break down larger, more complex tasks into smaller ones if necessary. It is important that the entire team be involved in this initial process, to ensure everyone is aware of their roles and responsibilities in achieving the goal(s). A table, such as the one used in the example below, can track tasks, people responsible for each task, and due dates. This will be the foundation of your action plan. 3. Prioritize tasks and establish timeframes Prioritize each task and determine realistic timeframes. Ensure the person or team responsible for task completion knows their capacity before establishing timeframes. For example, in the table above, the HR and CW directors are assigned a number of tasks. However, if these individuals are taking vacation or have other pressing deadlines during these timeframes, then the due dates may need to be adjusted. 4. Establish milestones Milestones are smaller goals that indicate project progress. Milestones motivate the team and provide them an opportunity to recognize their achievements. Milestones can be especially motivating for long-term projects, when the final due date is far away. When establishing milestones, it is helpful to start from the end goal and work backwards. Do not spread milestones too far apart—2 to 4 weeks is best. For example, with the tasks listed above, milestones could include “select members of the project team” or “determine which workforce metrics CW/HR can each provide to the team.” 5. Determine the desired outcome for action steps The overall goal is determined at the beginning of action planning, but there may be several desired outcomes to achieve in pursuit of the overall goal. These outcomes are another way of breaking down the goal into smaller, incremental steps. To establish desired outcomes, determine what changes the project would like to see and link these to the action steps. Sometimes several activities result in achieving one outcome, and sometimes one activity has several outcomes. An example of a desired outcome may be “Establish a multidisciplinary team to examine combined workforce metrics from CW and HR to address CW workforce issues.” 6. Identify what resources are needed Before beginning the project, ensure the team has the necessary resources to complete the tasks. Resources can be financial, human resources (e.g., staff, consultants, volunteers), technology, or other material goods. If the necessary resources are not available, develop a plan to acquire what is needed. Continuing with the example above, resources could include those required for examining workforce metrics, such as a list of HR and CW reports and data available, reporting software, time allocations for analysts, etc. 7. Establish what evidence determines a step has been achieved As action steps are developed, consider the information sources and data collection methods needed to help the team determine when an action step has been successfully completed. Sources of information may include project staff, stakeholders, project documentation, project reports, data from trusted sources, interviews or focus groups, and/or observations. An example of this could be “CW and HR staff from various levels commit to participate in the workgroup.” 8. Create a written action plan Develop a written action plan that everyone understands and that can be shared among the team. The document should be accessible by all team members and should be editable so that any continued adjustments can be made. Ensure that the plan clearly conveys the essential components.