“Join the rocketship” has become something of a mantra in the fast-paced, high growth startup world. But as companies barrel forward toward lofty goals, many don’t pay enough attention to one of the most important elements of growth: Their people.
Workforce planning, or the idea of growing a team intentionally based on company goals, on-the-ground needs, and data-driven insights, is essential to building a “rocketship” that can grow sustainably and effectively.
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Your guide to intentional growth
What is Workforce Planning?
Workforce planning is the process of analyzing your employees and team structures to understand what future staffing needs look like and then develop a plan to fulfill those needs.
Specifically, workforce planning takes into account a variety of needs, such as external factors like skills availability and internal factors like company goals and resource constraints, to help your team make informed decisions about where to hire. And workforce planning is not just for hiring. It can also play a critical role in developing growth plans for existing employees and helping think through succession planning for key roles.
Overall, workforce planning provides the necessary insight to make purposeful choices about how to structure your team as well as where and when to expand your team -- all of which is critical to growing your organization intentionally.
How Workforce Planning Supports Intentional Growth: Top Lessons from High Growth Teams
Workforce planning can yield numerous benefits, and with the right approach it doesn’t have to be a massive undertaking, even for small teams who are just getting started. With that in mind, here are actionable lessons from four people leaders that have successfully approached workforce planning to support their organizations’ intentional growth strategies.
1) Rémy Cointreau: Optimize for efficiency
Rémy Cointreau is a French, family-owned spirits group that wanted to enable its HR team to be a better partner to the business by shifting their focus from repetitive, manual tasks to more strategic workforce planning initiatives.
Historically, the team spent an average of four to five hours each week manually updating the company’s 200+ person org chart in PowerPoint and then reflecting those changes in multiple other systems. Not only was this setup time-consuming, but it also failed to provide any real-time insight for strategic workforce planning.
Rémy Cointreau decided to alleviate this challenge by automating the entire process through ChartHop. ChartHop’s integrations with the rest of the company’s HR tools means that any updates to the organization get reflected in ChartHop’s dynamic org chart in real-time. Beyond giving back the HR team several hours each week that they can devote to more strategic efforts, Rémy Cointreau’s HR Generalist, Joe Taranto, shares that this approach also allows the team to be purposeful with hiring decisions, leading to $450k worth of savings in headcount spend.
2) Wistia: Evolve your org structure -- transparently
Wistia, a software company with a mission to make it easy for businesses to find, engage, and grow their audiences through video, started out with a flat org structure. This approach helped everyone collaborate easily and gave team members a high degree of autonomy.
But as Wistia continued to grow, the flat structure started to become unwieldy. For example, it created a lack of visibility that made it difficult to identify who owned what and it created a bottleneck for decision making.
Recognizing these challenges, Wistia decided they needed to evolve to match their growing business by adopting a more structured organizational hierarchy. The team ultimately found that this shift helped them move faster by providing clarity around ownership and decision making and setting clear goals that nurtured the existing environment of creativity and collaboration. Wistia’s CEO, Chris Savage, notes that one of the biggest contributors to their success in making this shift was giving every team member visibility into the new org structure through a dynamic, easily accessible org chart.
3) Starburst: Empower your managers
Starburst helps companies quickly unlock the value of their data by making it easy to access through an open source SQL query engine. At the start of 2021, Starburst announced they had grown headcount 3x year over year.
Even with this rapid growth, founder and CEO Justin Borgman shares that headcount planning takes him almost no time at all because Starburst empowers its team leads to think about their hiring needs. This requires giving managers the clarity and insights to understand how their plans fit into the company’s larger goals.
Starburst does all of this through ChartHop. The team finds the ability to visualize data, in both the org chart and reports, much easier than trying to navigate through spreadsheets. Now, team leaders use ChartHop to build headcount plans and quickly understand the potential impact of different plans on areas like budget. This visual, data-driven approach also allows Starburst’s leadership to ensure each team scales commensurately.
4) Showbie: Prepare for any situation
Showbie, an educational app for teachers and students that makes it easy to create and complete assignments, provide assessments, and store grades, knows firsthand the importance of planning for any situation. This type of forward-looking approach has helped the company stay prepared so they can confidently respond to internal and external events.
Showbie does this through ChartHop’s scenarios feature, which allows them to build a variety of potential plans and easily visualize the impact of each scenario. The Showbie leadership team can then easily collaborate on each plan to secure alignment and maintain clarity around real-time changes.
The team has also brought these scenarios to board meetings, walking through several “what-if” situations that help them understand the implications of decisions like growing one department over three months vs. six months. Showbie’s CEO, Colin Bramm, says this insight has made their board meetings 10x more effective and saved their leadership team over $10,000 in lost productivity.
Start Planning to Grow Your Team Intentionally
Paying close attention to workforce planning and using data to inform those efforts is essential to any organization’s long term success, especially for rapidly growing startups. Of course these workforce planning lessons are just a few of many that can help high growth teams expand intentionally.
For even more on what it takes, including additional insights from leaders like InVision and Even Financial, download our Startup’s Guide to Intentional Growth.