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3 ways to harness people analytics for proactive headcount planning

May 11, 2021| Reading time: 8min

BY ChartHop

Last March, as coronavirus cases surged across the United States, business leaders were forced to change their plans almost overnight. While a certain level of reactiveness is inevitable in running a company, this shift was different: offices closed around the country, causing organizations to adopt a remote work model for the foreseeable future. A year later, and most companies are still working from home.

As we learned over the course of the pandemic, agility and flexibility are vital for maintaining business operations. And a reactive approach isn’t sustainable, especially when streamlining major business initiatives like workforce planning.

Instead, having an informed, proactive strategy in place can alleviate uncertainty and set companies up for better success. When backed by people analytics, or HR-related data, leaders can strategize deliberately to make better business decisions and, in turn, reap some serious rewards.

Want to harness people analytics for headcount planning? Below are three ways data can help you achieve a more proactive approach:

3 Ways To Use People Analytics To Fuel Headcount Planning

1. Foster alignment between stakeholders

Workforce planning, or headcount planning, is a complicated process. The sheer number of stakeholders involved can be daunting: between leadership approving headcount, hiring managers strategizing with recruiters, recruiters coordinating interviews with applicants, and finance allocating budget, headcount planning involves many moving parts. Inevitably, this can lead to siloes, confusion, and gaps in the strategy.

With people analytics and a people analytics platform, the workforce planning process is streamlined, allowing stakeholders to collaborate efficiently off of a single system. From open requisitions to job descriptions to budget, everything is accessible via one shared location.

Such alignment provides benefits for the entire organization. For example, our friends at Even Financial used to engage in workforce planning in silos, with hiring managers working off disparate spreadsheets. This level of separation stymied plans and created bottlenecks, which ultimately hindered organizational success.

Now using people analytics, employees at Even Financial can do their jobs more effectively. “Having people analytics located in a centralized location where everything is standardized makes sure everyone is planning along the same process and can see how decisions impact the business,” says Alyssa Nowicky, People Analytics Manager. “It ensures we’re making the proper workforce decisions down the road.”

With a people analytics platform, teams can work together seamlessly, allowing them to take a proactive approach from the start.

Having people analytics located in a centralized location where everything is standardized makes sure everyone is planning along the same process and can see how decisions impact the business. It ensures we’re making the proper workforce decisions down the road.

Alyssa Nowicky, People Analytics Manager @ Even Financial

2. Forecast strategically

There are some circumstances, like coronavirus, that are completely unpredictable. But there are other circumstances, like headcount planning and other operational initiatives, that are part of teams’ annual or quarterly cycles. For these situations, you and your leaders can use people analytics to forecast and mitigate risk. Rather than working reactively, you can understand the ins-and-outs of your current organization now, to better plan for the future.

Here at ChartHop, we use past headcount plans and current people analytics to inform scenarios and forecast how changes may impact our hiring roadmap, operational KPIs, budget, and more.

Similarly, our friends at Zapier use data to inform just about every part of their hiring strategy. At the executive level, Zapier’s leaders can see what roles are unfilled or might be opening up. From there, they can drill down into individual teams to account for headcount planning intricacies, like contingency plans, upskilling opportunities, and potential vacancies.

JT Haskell, Zapier’s Director of Recruiting, says access to this data is beneficial for talent acquisition partners. Retroactive information, specifically, empowers their recruiters to forecast effectively using past interview rates, onboarding completion rates, new hire performance data, and more. “It gives us predictable outcomes for the business, so that everyone can start delivering on what they’re working on,” says Haskell.

Even when those completely unforeseeable circumstances do come up — which they occasionally do — Haskell says access to this data gives Zapier the agility to stay resilient. “It’s fair to have grace for yourself and understand that you can only plan so much,” he says. “You can always leave a buffer so if things pop-up along the way, you can look at your total bandwidth and plan accordingly.”

3. Make more informed decisions

Workforce planning ultimately comes down to people. Rather than being reactive and making uncertain choices that can affect each and every person within your organization, use analytics to inform decisions. “Every aspect that we look at from a people operations perspective comes down to a data-driven decision,” says Haskell. That way, everyone is set up for success.

With people analytics, you can collect and analyze granular insights on individual contributors, teams, departments, and the company as a whole. Not just for hiring needs — but for the many facets of workforce planning, including:

  • Financial health, projected growth, and budget allocation
  • Company culture, eNPS results, and employee experience ratings
  • Remote work performance ratings and engagement levels
  • Core workforce demographics and DEI opportunities
  • Headcount requests,  team restructures, and succession plans 

Every aspect that we look at from a people operations perspective comes down to a data-driven decision.

JT Haskell, Director of Recruiting @ Zapier

Like at Zapier, these insights help propel workforce planning at Even Financial. “With data, we can start to map out exactly what resources we’ll need for each of the business decisions and start planning ahead, “ says Nowicky. “Proactive planning leads to much more informed conversations about hiring beyond, ‘I just need someone on my team.’ Now there’s a reason for that spend that’s known across the organization.”

Take the guesswork out of planning. Use data to get ahead of the game and leverage a strategic approach to decision-making, so you and your people can thrive.

Prioritize Proactiveness

Agility has its place in the workplace, but so does planning accordingly. Especially when it comes to large-scale initiatives that affect the whole organization, it’s not enough to be reactive.

Instead, a proactive, data-informed approach can help ensure the success of your workforce planning strategy. That way, when the unforeseeable does pop up, having stakeholders aligned and empowered with analytics helps everyone move forward with dexterity and grace.

For more insights on how to power strategic decision-making with your people data, tune in to this webinar recording with recruiting and talent management experts from Zapier and Even Financial.

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