HR best practices: Scale faster, smarter, and more efficiently

In this guest post, experienced CHRO Holly Cafiero shares her advice for collaborating with Finance, Talent, and hiring managers to deliver on the company's headcount plan.
Holly Cafiero
CHRO at Newsela
min read
February 9, 2022

Fast growth necessitates “hiring to plan”

The number one goal for the human resources (HR) team of any hypergrowth startup is to hire to plan. I’ve worked in HR for over 30 years, including for multiple fast-growing organizations in Druva and Newsela. Hiring to plan is crucial to efficient growth. 

What do I mean by “hiring to plan?” This is the ability to hire all the people as requested by the department owners in the headcount plan, on time and on budget.

Delivering on the company’s hiring plan is fundamental to growth, meeting revenue goals, and your company’s valuation. 

In my experience, hiring to plan requires accurate, consistent, and real-time data to inform better decisions. But how can you collect these data insights and help support the business as it scales?

Here are some best practices I’ve learned throughout my career.

Join the headcount planning process early 

In all my years in HR, one trick I’ve learned is that hiring is more effective when I insert myself into the headcount planning process early on. 

Too often, HR will receive the headcount plan just before the start of the fiscal year, with the expectation to start filling positions immediately. 

This reactive approach is rarely a recipe for success. 

When involved from the beginning, my team and I can line up recruitment resources, prioritize roles, and build compensation strategies. We can negotiate with finance and business partners to focus energies on hiring for the right roles. 

In a smaller company, where things are less predictable and more fluid - especially in the post-COVID world - this early visibility enables HR to stay flexible enough to hire to evolving plans.

Join the planning process early

Bring together top-down and bottom-up priorities

An HR executive’s key role is to deliver headcount growth. 

For instance, at Druva, my mandate was to grow the team to about 1,000 employees, all of whom would build the product, grow revenue, and eventually increase profits. 

To enable this, my team and I needed to find a way to bring together top-down and bottom-up priorities.

  • Top-down priorities are about geographies to hire in, budgets, expected return on investment, and projected profitability.
  • Bottom-up priorities are the decisions about teams/managers to hire, compensation structure, and management capacity. 

One of the challenges you’ll likely face is that all of this data sits in disparate silos in the form of spreadsheets across the company. The spreadsheet model is not ideal. 

At Newsela, we’ve implemented TeamOhana to bring these data sets together in one clean view and single source of truth. Learn more in this video.

Collect relevant external data

Become data-obsessed - and make sure it’s accurate

Start by answering these questions: 

  • How many roles do you need to fill? 
  • What’s your expected turnover rate? 
  • How many backfills do you need?
  • What is the offer decline rate? 

Based on these numbers, you can calculate how many recruiters you need and how quickly you can meet hiring goals.

External data is also important to collect, especially market data on compensation.   

For example, at Druva, we were having trouble filling positions because of the rapidly-changing market, and our compensation data was out of date. In other words, our budgets were too low. 

To hire to plan, my HR team had to work closely with Finance, adjust budgets for each role, and collaborate more closely going forward.

Avoid miscommunication

Maintain clear and streamlined channels of communication across teams

We all know how the pandemic has forced new ways of working for teams of all sizes. Whether it’s an entirely remote, hybrid, or flexible work schedule, communication has become increasingly scattered across email, Slack, spreadsheets, text messages, and more. 

Poor communication causes friction in the hiring process. 

For instance, recruiters might be looking to fill a Director position, but the Hiring Manager actually found a great candidate for a manager-level position with similar responsibilities. How does the hiring manager effectively communicate this update? 

If this information does not pass on to the recruiter on time, they will continue to hire to the old plan, causing delays and frustration. A great candidate can easily slip away. 

No matter which channel or communication method you decide to use, it’s the HR team’s responsibility to lead this process by example. Holding other stakeholders responsible for strong communication helps everyone in the end. 

Stay on top of performance with better data.

Develop better reporting for hiring managers

We’ve talked about the HR teams' data, but what about the data you need to show your stakeholders? 

For instance, every hiring manager wants to know real-time data on the hiring progress and metrics, such as time to hire and offer acceptance rates. We can have them directly log into the Applicant Tracking System (ATS), but an ATS cannot show the full picture. 

The ATS only has information on the currently active roles and does not have any information about all the approved hires in the hiring plan.

To address this, I’ve hired data analysts to build custom dashboards. 

They go through our ATS data to collect data about candidates sourced, offers sent, offer acceptance rate, reasons for declines, and diversity metrics. They reconcile these data points and build dashboards on Looker for hiring managers. 

This allows deeper collaboration between hiring managers and recruiters to stay on the hiring plan.

Better reporting for hiring managers

Hiring to plan requires better tools, plain and simple

In today’s remote, hybrid, globally distributed world, we can’t just walk over to someone’s desk and ask a question. Communication is harder, and it has exposed a significant challenge around people data: there’s no single source of truth.

As I mentioned previously, we’ve switched to TeamOhana to improve our headcount management process. It’s solving some of these major challenges for Newsela: 

  • Consolidation: Data from spreadsheets, applicant tracking systems, emails, and Slack is automatically ingested to create a single source of truth. There’s no need for a data analyst to copy-paste information.
  • Stakeholder alignment: Hiring is a shared priority across Finance, HR, hiring managers, and recruiters. With TeamOhana, we’re all working from the same data and get real-time updates to hit our hiring goals.
  • Analysis: Performance metrics are now readily available for analysis. We can reference KPI-driven dashboards with time-to-hire, acceptance rates, and other key KPIs.
  • Access control: Compensation, interview notes, and succession plans are only accessible by the right people at my company. We no longer need to create multiple copies of shared documents to maintain the right privacy and permissions.
  • Collaboration: Our team is distributed. TeamOhana has become the canvas for meaningful and productive conversations around hiring to plan.

Watch Holly's video here.

About Holly

Holly Cafiero has over 30 years of experience in HR across large enterprises and hypergrowth startups. In her last role, she was the CHRO at Druva, a pre-IPO startup based in San Jose, CA. Currently, she is the CHRO of Newsela, an e-learning Series D startup based in New York City.

To learn more about TeamOhana and strategic headcount management, contact us.

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