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Your 5 Step Checklist for Successful Headcount Planning

Nov 30, 2021| Reading time: 13min

BY Kerrel Brown

Senior Marketing Manager

As companies grow and business leaders continue to think about the evolution of their company goals, the term “headcount planning” might begin to bubble up in conversations with hiring managers and recruitment. This phrase is more than just another HR buzzword — headcount planning is a key part of securing a business’ future.

The good news is, it’s never too late to start headcount planning. While it might seem daunting to kick off, it doesn’t have to be. Keep reading to learn how you can get strategic about hiring, growing, and ensuring the success of your company’s future.

What is headcount planning?

Headcount planning, otherwise known as workforce planning or org charting, is the strategic process of creating and implementing growth initiatives to achieve short and long-term goals. Simply put, it’s planning to hire people to meet a company’s needs.

Why is it so important? Because without a plan, companies have no means of sustaining expansion or scaling successfully.

How to Confidently Approach Your 2022 Headcount Planning


Know Before You Grow

Considering how complex and time-consuming it can be, headcount planning sometimes falls short. In fact, more than half of corporate executives don’t believe their business has strong headcount planning capabilities.

While reasons vary, headcount plans often fail because leaders simply don’t have enough context to inform their decisions. To plan effectively, they need a full understanding of their current business, their people, and their goals. Without this knowledge and clarity, missteps happen. For example:

  • Ineffective forecasting: Leaders overshoot or underestimate how their company will grow.
  • Lack of agility: Leaders don’t account for uncertainty, like a recession or layoffs.
  • Failed recruitment initiatives: Limited talent pools might hinder recruitment, or worse, lead you to hire the wrong people.
  • Attrition and turnover: People leave, especially if they’re hired for the wrong roles.
  • Misalignment to business goals: New budgets, timelines, and product roadmaps can all throw a headcount plan off course without effective collaboration and clarity.

Don’t let these pitfalls scare you. Instead, familiarize yourself with them so you know what to avoid moving forward. Combined with the five steps below, you’ll have everything you need to create a successful headcount plan of your own.

Your 5 Step Checklist for Successful Headcount Planning

1. Talk to Current Employees

To understand your business and its headcount needs, you need to talk to your employees. Not just department leaders and hiring managers — everyone.

It’s unrealistic to sit down and have 1:1 conversations with every single one of your workers, especially at the enterprise level. Instead, use surveys and other anonymous forums to collect feedback on the employee experience, work-life balance, and corporate culture.

One easy way to do this is through eNPS surveys. Like the standard net promoter score (NPS) survey used to gauge brand loyalty, eNPS surveys gauge employee engagement and satisfaction. Normally, these surveys ask employees to rank and describe their experiences on a scale from 1-10.

ChartHop eNPS to support employee experience

To inform headcount planning specifically, send out eNPS surveys that include questions around hiring needs and work performance. For example:

  • On a scale from 1-10, do you feel like you have enough bandwidth to successfully do your job?
  • Do you feel burnt out?
  • As a manager, do you feel like you have enough people on your team to successfully meet your goals?

Pro tip: These questions should be different for individual contributors and managers. Managers are often at the frontlines of an organization. If they have consistent 1:1s with their team, give them a means to explicitly communicate how their team really feels. That way, executives have deeper insights into what employee sentiment might be and, in turn, will think strategically about adding headcount where it’s needed.

2. Identify Hiring Gaps

Having a holistic understanding of your organization and its current state helps ensure the success of your headcount plan. Specifically, knowing your current talent force inside and out can help you identify gaps so you know exactly what to hire for down the line.

With a platform like ChartHop, you can quickly access an up-to-date visualization of your people, your reporting structures, and your company goals to better understand your business and its needs.

ChartHop integrates with your HR tech stack

How? ChartHop collects and centralizes all of your people data into one, dynamic org chart. This information goes beyond job titles and names — ChartHop makes it easy to explore key demographics, hard and soft skill sets, communication preferences, compensation packages, and more.

With this knowledge, you can take “stock” of your workforce’s current skills, talents, and backgrounds to identify hiring gaps. For example, maybe your marketing department wants to prioritize SEO in the upcoming year, but the current team is composed of a public relations specialist, a content writer, and a graphic designer – this would indicate that hiring someone with explicit SEO knowledge should be included in upcoming headcount plans.

Or perhaps equity and inclusion has been a company weak point in the past, and leadership wants to increase diversity hiring by 25%. Using ChartHop, you could slice-and-dice your current DEI information by demographics like race, gender, ethnicity, preferred pronouns, and more. You can then use this data to see which departments and teams lack diversity so you can make a plan to add headcount and drive meaningful change.

3. Examine Your Roadmap

Looking ahead also naturally provides businesses with a needs analysis. When creating a headcount plan, it’s vital to examine your business roadmap to inform your hiring decisions.

To start, look at upcoming key milestones: What’s coming down the pipe that might need additional headcount? This could include a new product launch, the introduction of an entirely new department, or a new round of company fundraising.

Then, examine your internal goals and company mission. What did your company set out to do, and do you have the headcount to meet these objectives? For example, maybe your company’s board wanted you to expand your sales team by 30% in the next year  — do you have the sales headcount in place to do that? Do you have enough marketing staff to feed the sales pipeline and drive revenue? Hiring is comprehensive, so consider how your organization works holistically to achieve KPIs when setting headcount.

ChartHop org chart time travel

Pro tip: Looking back on past headcount plans can be helpful for accurate forecasting. ChartHop uses a dynamic timeline feature to visualize how reporting structures have changed over time so you can iterate with intention.

4. Align Stakeholders

In headcount planning, transparency and context are key. Hiring is holistic and includes a variety of different people who need to collaborate, like recruitment teams, finance, human resources, and individual hiring managers. To be successful, everyone needs to be aligned.

ChartHop align stakeholders to headcount plans

A platform like ChartHop fosters alignment come headcount planning time. This means:

  • Collaboration is seamless: Everything you need to forecast effectively exists in one platform, so you can plan together, even in a remote setting. With ChartHop, you can easily open and close vacancies, merge teams, and see how other teams are restructuring to plan accordingly.
  • Communication is effective: Stop working off of emails and PowerPoints. ChartHop allows you to communicate directly on the platform, so you can centralize changes, share hiring ideas, and more.
  • Workflows are streamlined: Eliminate hiring bottlenecks and simplify processes between stakeholders. With ChartHop’s permission controls, you can enable leaders to approve headcount plans, allocate budget, and create succession plans.

ChartHop allows us to streamline the planning process. Now when managers see the proposed changes on ChartHop, they’re amazed by how easy it is to chart out plans for the future.

Joe Taranto, HR Generalist & Project Manager @ Rémy Cointreau (See more customer stories here).

It’s not just for decision makers: ChartHop serves as a go-to resource for the entire company to leverage, so everyone can see finished headcount plans and know exactly where the business is headed.

5. Support New Hires

In order for your headcount plan to be successful, you need to have the resources and training in place to support new hires when they join the team. Implement onboarding plans that prioritize tactical training, so new employees can hit the ground running on their first day.

With ChartHop, you can dive deep into your current onboarding initiatives to see what’s working and what’s not. When integrated with your HR stack or onboarding platform, ChartHop makes it easy to see metrics like time-to-fill, 30/60/90-day plans, and other insights. Taking the time to analyze this data makes it easy to improve on initiatives down the line.

ChartHop Dashboard Company Values

While tactical training is key, onboarding is also a time to familiarize new hires with the company culture, its mission, and its brand values. Have resources readily available for employees to learn about your organization. This could be a company intranet, Slack channel, or a Google Doc that simply outlines what your mission and values are. ChartHop users can customize their home page dashboard to showcase their mission and values. Regardless of what it is, it should be a resource they can access easily and turn back to as needed.

ChartHop About Me Form

Pro tip: Share ChartHop with your new hires ASAP so they can familiarize themselves with the company, its structure, and their teammates. Encourage them to fill out a personalized “About me” profile as well, so their teammates can learn a little bit about them, too.

The Bottom Line

As your company grows, your hiring needs grow, too. With the help of this checklist, you have everything you need to start creating a successful headcount plan.

The key word is “start.” Strategic workforce planning doesn’t end with these five steps — in order for your company to scale and thrive, you need to be vigilant in continuously examining your needs, aligning stakeholders, and supporting current employees. That way, your business and your people will be ready for anything.

Need help getting started on your strategic headcount plans? Download our guide on how to confidently approach your 2022 headcount planning to learn more.

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