Dive Headfirst into Headcount Planning Before It’s Too Late

Forecast 2019’s staffing needs now or risk falling behind competitors

Right now your team is small, and when you’re small it’s easy to respond to hiring needs on the fly.  But as you grow, and hiring processes extend beyond your immediate networks, you must plan ahead to keep pace with demand. Headcount planning becomes both a science and an art.

People Fluent defines headcount planning as “a systematic process designed to ensure an organization has the right number of people with the right skills in the right roles so the company can execute on its business strategy.” HR teams understand the basis of the plan, of course. The question, though, is how to devise and execute it.

Work Back from the Optimal Outcome

At HireLabs, we often reverse engineer our way into a solution. By starting with the end goal, we work our way backwards to fabricate a sound plan of action. That’s why, to reach your hiring goals, you’ll need to know where your company and its individual teams expect to be at the end of each quarter and the end of the year. Then you can break down the goals you’ve set into individual components.

For instance, if the engineering department typically makes the most hires each year, you can probably expect that trend to continue. But what if this year the group changes its tech-stack?  Then you will need to account for additional headcount outside the candidate pools you may have already built. And what if Customer Success has huge turnover? You’ll need to account for expected attrition as you ramp the staff’s overall growth. Retention programs, bonus and compensation packages, industry cycles, and other related factors can also have a significant effect on your planning.

Follow Best Practices

While every company is unique, some hiring practices are universally essential. A good headcount planning and acquisition model:

  • Aligns talent strategies with organizational strategies and goals

  • Identifies skills the current workforce lacks and needs to be successful

  • Focuses recruiting teams on candidates with the skills you need in the next two quarters

  • Develops accurate budgets based on all the costs you’ll accrue in hiring new staff in addition to developing and further incentivizing and promoting current employees

Throwing Darts While Blindfolded Isn’t Easy

Headcount planning often feels like trying to hit a moving target. What’s more, it can be like doing it in the dark.

To do so effectively, leaders throughout an organization must keep HR and recruiting teams involved in all conversations, including non-HR activities like sales projections and product release schedules. Otherwise, the teams setting these lofty goals fail to think though the staffing requirements needed to meet them, or how employee turnover can impact their projections.

A good recruiter ensures you stay one step ahead of the game. And helps you focus on meaningful metrics that may include: performance ratings; position requirements; employee skill sets, certifications, and licenses; attrition rates, overall and by department; department hierarchy; and salary data.

You don’t have to be a wizard at math--just a smart planner--to answer the final question everything boils down to:  

Total headcount = current staff + headcount to deliver X - unexpected attrition - planned attrition

Always Be Agile

A company’s projections are never perfect. Sales goals may be missed, R&D may push back the expected release of a product. As 2019 evolves, you may find that what you think you need now is a far cry from what you’ll need come August. However, you have to put some “good-faith” stakes in the ground to get the ball rolling and do your best based on what you know NOW.

Realize however, that change is constant, and your organization will need to recalibrate its plans when the time comes to do so. HireLabs believes a good recruiter is 100% committed to the plan while charging full steam ahead, but a GREAT recruiter can easily pivot in a new direction when necessary without really losing momentum. Be prepared for change--it’s the only guarantee you get in an early-stage company.

You Don’t Have to Go It Alone

In the end, it’s important not to spend so much time planning that you overthink things and delay putting the plan into action. Always remember: It is a living document and it will change.  Get your best guesstimates down on paper to get yourself moving forward.

And if you’re ready to get things rolling, HireLabs can help. We specialize in early-stage companies.  Whether you have 2 guys in a garage or 2 floors downtown, we can help optimize your talent acquisition strategies and forecasting. Want a free session with us?  Click here!