Zero-based Workforce Planning with ChatGPT in Tableau

Written  by Scott Reida on LinkedIn on  27th November 2023.

Original article link:

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of any current or former employer. Any content provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as professional advice.

In today’s dynamic business landscape, workforce planning stands at the forefront of strategic decision-making. As companies navigate through ever-evolving market conditions, the traditional approach to workforce planning may have some organizations looking for a revised approach. Enter zero-based workforce planning—a methodology that can shape how businesses align their human capital with organizational goals and enable a more cost-effective solution that gets closer to having the right people at the right time.

This article will progress through the steps to create a dashboard that utilizes outputs from ChatGPT for demand and aligns them with the supply of FTEs, facilitating the understanding of capability gaps. This dashboard can be accessed and downloaded free from Tableau Public here (desktop recommended):

As a preview, the final output with gaps between supply and demand by role and experience level is shown below. The idea here is that it is an at-a-glance dashboard providing the ability for a user to quickly see every role (across) and level (down) where there are too many FTEs (blue) and vice versa (orange).

Supply and demand, along with the delta, by role, cut by experience level

Zero-Based Workforce Planning

Zero-based workforce planning isn’t just a buzzword; it’s a strategic imperative. Unlike conventional methods that rely on historical data and incremental adjustments, zero-based planning starts from scratch, challenging preconceived notions about workforce needs. This approach demands a comprehensive understanding of every organizational role, function, and activity, fostering a leaner and more agile workforce structure.

Leveraging ChatGPT for Strategic Insights

In the pursuit of redefining workforce strategies, innovative tools such as ChatGPT are invaluable. Leveraging its capabilities, ChatGPT can assist in crafting meticulous templates delineating roles, experience levels, and corresponding compensation required for diverse business activities. Organizations can gain a clearer understanding of their workforce landscape by tapping into its analytical prowess.

As part of a notional sample of a workforce plan with demand (what mix and number of colleagues are needed over time to execute the work forecasts) and supply (how many colleagues are currently staffed and projected into the future), I prompted ChatGPT for sample data related to demand. For this, I asked for software development projects in three different sizes. The full thread, from inception to generated tabular data, can be viewed at this link:

The thread from ChatGPT is on the left in the image below. The data provided by ChatGPT with needs for each project type are loaded into Tableau Public as shown at the right of the view. The idea is that an organization would have a repository of at least 20-30 activity types like these three examples. There are restrictions on how tools like ChatGPT can, or cannot be, used in the workplace, and the composition of the work by activity will potentially need to be created without ChatGPT in their entirety. Confidential information should be omitted from the public domain or a news article may be written about it, like this one:

ChatGPT thread on the left provides the data visualized in the table on the right

I mention refining the ChatGPT outputs, which should be considered mandatory and part of the process. The necessity for this can be found in OpenAI’s testing of the accuracy, or inaccuracy of the outputs from GPT-4 and prior iterations. Their recently published visual of output accuracy is shown below and can be accessed here:

OpenAI. (2023). GPT-4. Retrieved November 24, 2023, from

The free version of ChatGPT (which I’m using) uses GPT-3.5 and hovers around an accuracy of 60% (dark blue bar). The remainder of these outputs may have some error as OpenAI defines the balance of outputs as not matching answers “judged to be in agreement with human ideal responses”. For a future trivia night question: a term used for these inaccuracies is “hallucinations”.

Demand: Collaborative Forecasting of Activities

The beauty of zero-based workforce planning lies in its collaborative nature. ChatGPT facilitates an initial bank of activities, which initiates downstream user interaction, receiving feedback on the frequency and magnitude of various business activities. This collaborative exchange fuels the process, enabling data-driven resource allocation and workforce distribution decisions.

The tab in the Tableau Public dashboard with the user-provided projections for each activity type is below. Users will enter the iterations of each activity type projected out to five years. Note that the upper left provides an aggregate of FTEs over time, followed by double-click views by experience level and role. The lower left follows this same path but for compensation. The right side provides this data in a tabular format.

Bottoms Up Five-Year Workforce Planning Model

Supply: Current and Forecasted Future Workforce

Supply in the dashboard is an internal-only data set and would be provided by role and experience level. For simplicity, there are eight roles with three levels (early/mid/late) and only two inputs for each: current number of FTEs and annual growth rate for years 2 through 5. The line graph provides a visual for what is entered in the parameters above it.

Workforce Baseline Supply over the Next Five Years

Visualizing Insights with Tableau

Turning raw data into actionable insights is where visualization plays a pivotal role. Integration with Tableau enables the transformation of workforce forecasts into visually compelling dashboards. These dynamic visuals provide a holistic view of workforce dynamics, aiding stakeholders in making informed decisions.

To this point, we have gathered sufficient information on both supply and demand. Referring back to the desire to have the right people at the right time, the goal is to see a perfect alignment of supply and demand. The visual below plots the demand (blue) and the supply (orange) on the top and they seem to be nearly perfectly aligned. The gap between the two is provided in FTEs on the bottom. The worst delta is in year two with 8.9 FTEs off of a base of around 250 FTEs. This essentially represents an “error” on the right people right time of less than 4%. That sounds good. What we will find though is that it gets quite a bit more ugly as we peel away a layer of the onion.

Workforce Status for Supply vs. Demand

The dashboard allows two layers of “cuts” in this view for job family and experience level. They can be applied in isolation or in either order. A sample of this data dive is shown below.

Multi-Cut View of Supply vs. Demand

The prior view becomes rather difficult to digest as cuts are applied and scrolling becomes excessive. A superior view would allow an at-a-glance view and allow one to see the big picture within seconds. This brings us back to the first image in this article. This view allows the viewer to digest quickly where excess colleagues exist (e.g., early career software engineers) and where shortages exist (e.g., mid/late career software engineers, early career UX/UI designers, and early career QA testers).

This example provided for only three theoretical activity types with eight roles. In reality, an organization will have quite a few more of each. Filters will be necessary for dashboards like this to allow for tailored views that are relevant and accessible (need-to-know permissions) for each user.

At-a-Glance by Job Family for Supply, Demand, and Delta

Conclusion: Empowering Decision-Making

Interpreting the data generated through zero-based workforce planning is the crux of its effectiveness. These insights are more than numbers; they’re strategic intelligence guiding resource allocation, talent acquisition, and skill development. Understanding the nuances of workforce trends equips businesses to adapt swiftly to market shifts.

In conclusion, zero-based workforce planning, powered by cutting-edge AI tools like ChatGPT and visualized through platforms such as Tableau, heralds a new era in strategic workforce management. Embracing this methodology empowers businesses not just to react but proactively shape their workforce, ensuring alignment with organizational objectives. It’s not merely about planning for the present but strategically envisioning and preparing for the future—a future where agility and adaptability are paramount for success.

I invite you again to please download and iterate on the dashboard that I have posted on Tableau Public. It is free! Thank you for sharing some of your busy schedules with me and again, that link for the dashboard is:

Best wishes, Scott

Note: The caption to give credit for the image at the top of this article was not working properly. It was sourced from DALL-E and I generated it with the following prompt: “picasso style painting with many people with an impressionist style blended in with lots of color” and can be viewed at the source here:

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