Financial Planning & Analysis

5 Keys to Successful Headcount Planning

Headcount planning is more than simply finding bodies to fill seats. It’s strategic. It’s about ensuring your business can thrive. It’s having the right people in the right places to make that happen. Simply put, it’s one of the most impactful responsibilities your Human Resources (HR) department has, and yet:

According to PeopleFluent, 60% of HR leaders say headcount planning is one of their weakest links.

In the everyday world, headcount planning is tough. When you add the effects and uncertainties of a world responding to a pandemic, it can feel almost impossible. Good news is the best practices of headcount planning stand true in any world – but execution can be drastically different.

Now more than ever, timing is critical. We’ll all hopefully be returning to work very soon, and any business mired in its current, pandemic-reactive state could be left behind. The answer is looking forward – to think about the current state but also to plan for near- and long-term needs. To do that, businesses should follow these 5 keys to successful headcount planning:

#1 – Align with business strategy.

COVID-19 has drastically affected the strategies of many businesses. It’s safe to say that no one planned for a pandemic quite like this. That’s why headcount planning needs to be part of any strategic discussion. Successful leaders will create cross-functional war rooms that include HR. As these groups model best-to-worst impacts of the pandemic, HR representatives can ensure that headcount planning aligns with overall strategy.

#2 – Identify any skills gaps.

In a best-case scenario, your current employees can contribute to your war room planning. However, any shift in overall business strategy could create gaps in skills and expertise. For example, with supply chains broken, businesses may need to ramp up sourcing instead of continuous operations. Sourcing is drastically different than operations and requires a different skill set. HR must be able to identify and respond to gaps like these.

#3 – Allow managers to help identify and fill gaps.

Managers know their people. They’re in the trenches with them every day. They can help identify and respond to gaps by aligning employee strengths with current needs. HR should collaborate with department managers to help redefine roles and responsibilities. It’s easier than trying to hire, and this responsiveness helps in the short-term while providing a potential long-term solution for both the business and the current employee.

#4 – Hire the right candidates.

Even in a perfect world, hiring is necessary. When gaps can’t be filled with current staff, take time to determine headcount required from the outside talent pool. And don’t forget that today’s social distancing norms come with a unique set of challenges. Be sure your HR teams know how to assess candidates in a world of Zoom and FaceTime. Work closely with managers to identify the skills needed for new jobs. Don’t waste valuable time putting the wrong candidate through to an interview.

#5 – Project costs.

Once you know the job requirements for your organization and what resources are available internally versus what’s needed externally, you can start to project costs. It’s important to remember that hiring, onboarding and training might not be the same as they were pre-pandemic. Technology and IT are more important than ever before, meaning new and different costs could be lurking. Realize that post-pandemic cost crunches are inevitable. Ensure your HR team can change their processes to be more cost effective and nimble during hiring and training.

Headcount Planning for the Post-COVID World

From where people work to how people work – the world has changed. Businesses that can respond by fully integrating headcount planning into overall strategies will win. But why go it alone? Contact us here to learn how an 8020 Consultant can help, or download our service sheet below.

los angeles financial consulting firm

About the Author

Kendra has 19 years of diverse finance, operational strategy and project management experience in the retail, CPG, med-device and real estate industries. Prior to joining 8020, Kendra was the VP of Finance at Centric Parts and also held Director of Finance positions at PetSmart and Karl Storz. Other experience includes a position at St. John Knits, Panattoni Development Company and external audit experience at BDO Seidman. Her expertise includes FP&A, operational strategy, budgeting and forecasting, reporting, cash flow forecasting, sales operations and compensation, risk management, project management, KPI management, business process re-engineering, and financial systems implementations. Kendra holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from Washington State University, an MBA from Pepperdine University and is a California CPA.

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