Your Headcount Planning Playbook: Lessons from the Masters

There is one undeniable thread that connects every enterprise, from fledgling startups to global giants: people drive success. Every product conceived, every problem solved, every deal struck, it's all made possible by the dedication and hard work of your team. It's a universal truth: people are not just your greatest asset, they are the backbone of your organization.
min read
October 26, 2023
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But, here's the paradox: while people are the architects of your success, they also represent the lion's share of your expenses. Managing this dichotomy is a challenge, one that businesses grapple with daily. 

It's here that the Headcount Planning Playbook emerges as your guiding light. In this blog, we’ll share why we created the playbook, who helped us create it, and what you’ll learn when you download it. 

Why we created the Playbook

The Headcount Planning Playbook was meticulously crafted to address a challenge faced by organizations of all sizes and industries: headcount planning

For the sheer amount of operating budget and expenses that headcount represents, it simply does not receive the same level of attention and focus as other processes. The one thing it does swallow up, though, is time.

That’s because headcount data is scattered across different systems that don’t integrate well with one another. Yet, all of this data needs to be joined so that leaders can make informed decisions, finance teams can forecast accurately, and talent teams can execute headcount plans on time and within budget.

The only option is manual reconciliation of headcount data, which slows down hiring and puts goals and revenue at risk. Many companies have experienced these challenges firsthand, but not every company has figured out how to solve them. We created this playbook to highlight the people who have. 

This playbook stands as a testament to the wealth of knowledge and expertise gathered from seven masters in the field, offering innovative solutions to the complex puzzle of headcount planning.

Who you'll meet in this Playbook

Within the playbook's pages, you will encounter some of the brightest minds we’ve met as it relates to headcount planning and management. These leaders have not just navigated the headcount planning process successfully, but have discovered novel ways to make it work for them. 

As you journey through the playbook, keep an eye out for the following visionaries:

  1. Florian Gendeau, Head of Finance at Novo: Florian's masterclass is all about setting the right pace for your company's growth. He delves into the fundamental consideration of how quickly you need to expand your organization to meet your goals. His insights reflect a return to the basics, including detailed pre-work before planning meetings, thinking through your organizational design, and establishing the important headcount ratios in each department.
  2. Jeff Merlin, Sr. Director of Strategic Finance at Harness: Jeff adopts a statistical approach to headcount planning. He guides you in building precise financial models, defining ratios for roles within teams, and, most importantly, ensuring that forecast variances are minimized.
  3. Dave Wieseneck, VP Finance at Demostack: In times of economic uncertainty, Dave's approach focuses on preserving capital. His masterclass emphasizes the importance of laser-focused ROI, a clear consideration of the total cost of ownership, and planning headcount for sustainable growth.
  4. Daniel Fulmer, Finance Director at Invoca: Daniel stresses the importance of strong processes as the foundation of effective headcount planning. His insights revolve around adopting a 12-month rolling forecast, leveraging processes as guardrails, and investing in the right headcount planning tools.
  5. Amanda Gregg, Talent Acquisition Manager at Second Front Systems: Amanda's perspective is a cautionary tale. She draws attention to the consequences of bad headcount planning, highlights the need to resist the allure of competing with tech giants, and insists on building clarity and consistency in every role you hire for.
  6. Mike McDonald, Head of Talent Acquisition at Snap: Mike advocates building cross-functional connections within your organization. His focus on speaking to as many people as possible and understanding business objectives brings a unique perspective to the headcount planning process.
  7. Jim Miller, VP of People & Talent at Ashby: Jim encourages organizations to dare to go against the grain. He believes that the traditional models of headcount planning often fall short, and it's time to build a model that works for your unique business goals.

Key takeaways from The Headcount Planning Playbook

When you download the playbook, you’ll get detailed recommendations from each of the leaders mentioned above. In their chapters, top learnings include:

  1. Growth requires strategic alignment.
    The playbook shares that aligning your headcount planning with your company's strategic goals is crucial. It means setting the right pace for growth, as suggested by Florian Gendeau, and building a financial model that supports your aspirations, as advised by Jeff Merlin. This alignment empowers your organization to invest in the right talent and allocate resources wisely to realize your long-term vision efficiently.
  2. Make data-driven headcount decisions.
    Throughout the playbook, the importance of data-driven decisions is evident. Whether it's the emphasis on role ratios within teams or uncovering the real cost of hiring, data is central to effective headcount management. This principle is echoed by experts like Dave Wieseneck and Daniel Fulmer. By leveraging insights from different facets of your organization, including finance, HR, and talent acquisition, you can make well-informed decisions that balance growth with financial sustainability.
  3. Agility and adaptability is more important than ever.
    An underlying theme in the playbook is the need for adaptability and resilience. By maintaining a rolling 12-month forecast, as recommended by Daniel Fulmer, your organization remains agile in the face of rapidly changing market conditions. Jim Miller's counsel to construct a custom organizational design and tech stack highlights the value of flexibility over rigid, one-size-fits-all models. This agility enables your organization to pivot, thrive, and stay competitive, regardless of the scenario.

These key takeaways encapsulate the core principles of modern headcount planning. They pave the way for strategic, data-informed, and adaptable growth while ensuring financial sustainability, transforming your headcount planning from a mere process into a key driver of success.

Download the Headcount Planning Playbook now

The Headcount Planning Playbook isn't just a resource; it's a vision for the future. It's not just about headcount; it's about smart growth, focused investment, and aligning your organization with a future full of promise.

Download the full playbook and embark on your voyage towards visionary growth, fiscal responsibility, and smarter workforce management. The Headcount Planning Playbook is not just a playbook; it's your guide to building a brighter future.

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

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