Hyper-growth companies face unique challenges when it comes to hiring. The rapid pace of growth and the need to quickly fill positions to keep up with demand can increase the likelihood of poor hiring decisions.
In my career, I’ve seen firsthand how inefficient headcount management can have significant consequences. The last thing you want is to bump up against financial constraints, or worse, layoffs.
Today, I will share my four tips for optimizing headcount management, no matter if you’re in growth mode or not.
In this post, I will cover:
- How to get a deeper understanding of your approved hiring plan
- Why it’s critical to keep track of start dates
- How to use your ATS to get insights on a quarterly basis - minimum
- Why it’s important to embrace change
But first, let’s do a quick recap of what effective headcount management entails.
What’s the key to effective headcount management?
Effective headcount management requires aligning headcount with business goals. It’s about employing the right workforce and strategically deploying them to meet both short-term and long-term business objectives.
In my mind, three teams must collaborate to achieve effective headcount management:
If you’re a RecOps professional like me, you play an important role in keeping all the different teams aligned throughout the process.
Process-wise, typically headcount plans are made on an annual basis. Most times, it’s at the end of the year, when Finance is creating the budget for the the upcoming year. Then, these requests are periodically reviewed and adjusted as needed.
It’s up to the HRBPs, partnering with management, to identify talent gaps and pinpoint areas of need, including any potential internal movements that could address those gaps. Once an approved hiring plan is established, the recruiting team steps in to assist in fulfilling it.
This means we have to sequence hiring, plan recruiter capacity, and begin working with the budget owners and hiring managers on all the open roles.
As you can see, it’s a collaborative process, and it’s important that all stakeholders remain aligned to make sure they are delivering on the headcount goals.
4 tips for Recruitment Operations professionals to help guide planning
1. Get a deeper understanding of your approved hiring plan.
Oftentimes, you encounter data gaps in the hiring plan. The key is to catch them early so you don’t delay hiring, which would affect both the budget and your goals.
Once you get hold of the approved hiring plan, it is crucial to schedule a kickoff meeting with HRBPs and hiring managers to discuss:
- Role definition: Clearly define the must-haves and nice-to-haves for the specific role and understand how it fits into the organization's current structure.
- Compensation: Gain an understanding of the company's existing compensation structure and grading system. You should ensure that the compensation for the new talent aligns accordingly.
- Interviewing and collaboration: Define who will be responsible for conducting the interviews and who will be working closely with the new hire on the team. With this information in mind, create an interview plan that focuses on gathering valuable insights that are relevant to the position.
- Sourcing strategy: Before defining a sourcing strategy, it is crucial to evaluate the diversity within the team. This assessment will give you valuable insights into potential talent pools and guide you in identifying where the required talent can be found.
All in all, it is essential to shift the perspective of a headcount plan from a mere list to a more comprehensive understanding. It shouldn’t be approached as a simple shopping list of items. That’s just the first step, but it leads to further considerations like defining requirements, budgeting, aligning roles and responsibilities, determining seniority, prioritizing positions, and establishing compensation.
2. Be the expert on start dates.
RecOps needs to be the one everyone trusts when it comes to the target start date of a given role. We’re the ones tapped into how long a role should realistically take to fill.
Finance and hiring managers typically don’t have the same level of understanding of the talent pool to make informed decisions around start dates.
But anytime a start date does need to change, both of these stakeholders need to know as soon as possible. These changes will have a direct impact on the headcount budget, so it’s crucial to maintain constant communication with them.
Furthermore, while it's possible to have multiple people start at different times, it’s essential to ensure that each person starts at the right time and in the right position. This will, for instance, determine whether a product can be developed.
3. Embrace change.
The vetted list is established at the beginning of the year. However, we’ve all seen how frequently the plan changes, especially if your company is growing fast.
Sales deals fall through. Products are built faster than expected. One director-level position becomes two entry-levels. Compensation bands shift.
“Things don't always go as initially planned. However, having a plan B or C provides a sense of reassurance. This mindset has allowed me to bring a competitive edge to companies. I personally believe that being flexible and comfortable with change is a crucial success factor for any hyper-growth startup.”
4. Use the ATS to its fullest potential.
There are many great ATS products out there, but how you use it matters.
What I’ve seen work best is to have at least the approved roles for the quarter uploaded into the ATS. This gives you and the rest of the recruiting team enough insights and foresight to sequence hiring and capacity plan.
Challenges still exist around prioritization and alignment, though, since Finance and hiring managers generally don’t work out of the ATS. To tackle this, I try to mimic a hiring plan within the ATS as much as possible.
This includes creating custom fields and entering key data, such as:
- The target start dates
- Compensation ranges
- Job levels
By mimicking the hiring plan, the ATS becomes more like a source of truth, which can be a true game changer.
Nevertheless, this isn’t an ideal approach. It helps, but it doesn’t change the fact that you still can’t collaborate in the ATS.
That’s why I love what TeamOhana is doing, bringing a single source of truth for the hiring plan, budget, change requests, and replans.
A powerful collaborative tool fills a major need for companies in growth mode.
The future is bright for RecOps
I’m very optimistic about the future for both RecOps folks and the hiring market in general. I have seen a lot of new systems like TeamOhana coming into the fold to help move us out of manual spreadsheets and into more configurable, transparent, and automated tools.
As we look towards the future, I hope these tips will help you in your RecOps career, especially as it relates to headcount planning.
I also invite you to check out my episode of The Headcount People, where we go much deeper into everything I’ve covered here in this blog and more!