It’s exciting when your company starts growing quickly, but it can get a little overwhelming when half of your departments need more people—and they needed them yesterday. If HR departments don’t adapt past that point, they’ll always be a step behind the company’s needs. Compare that with strategic HR departments that plan to have new people in place and ramped up just in time for the increased demand. How do they do it? With a hiring forecast. Here are some tips for creating your own:
1. Start with the company’s goals. Forecasting your hiring is a pretty complex process, but you’ve gotta start somewhere. A great place to start is at your company’s goals—for instance, revenue. The math isn’t too difficult (but it might remind you of the story problems you did back in high school). If your company wants to make X by a certain date and each salesperson typically brings in Y, how many more salespeople will you need in order to make the goal? It might look something like this:
We want $100,000 in revenue per month by one year from now.
Each salesperson averages $1500 in revenue per month.
In order to meet our goal we need a total of 67 salespeople.
Since we currently have 45 salespeople, we need to hire and ramp up 22 salespeople in the next year.
Revenue isn’t the only goal to consider, of course. Perhaps your product team is planning to add to or completely revamp your product. You’ll probably need to hire a few new developers to meet that demand.
Not too difficult, right? But the effect of hiring in one department ripples to the entire company.
2. Map the impact. Hiring in one department impacts other departments. After you’ve mapped the simple hiring needs to reach the big goals, consider how increasing your staff in those departments will create needs in other departments. For instance, if you bring on all those new salespeople to increase revenue, you’ll impact the customer service and product-implementation departments. Also consider the support those new employees will need. If marketing will need to increase leads so that the new salespeople have potential customers to contact, you may need to bring on some more marketers. Perhaps you’ll need a new recruiter or HR generalist to find and support all those new hires too.
3. Talk to hiring managers frequently. Often it’s hard to understand how increases in one area will impact other areas. And sometimes there are so many moving pieces within departments that it’s impossible to understand what’s needed without talking to the people on the front lines. This is why it’s vital to loop in hiring managers frequently. If you set up a monthly meeting, you can simply ask managers how they think they’ll be impacted or what they need. Tell your marketing manager that you’ll be hiring 22 new salespeople and that she’ll need to provide enough leads to keep them busy. Then let her tell you what she’ll need to meet that demand. Keeping constant communication also helps you see things that you may not necessarily be able to “calculate.” For instance, you wouldn’t be able to calculate that your marketing team wants to create a blog. But your marketing manager could tell you that she’s planning to do so and needs you to hire a writer with blogging experience.
4. Consider ramp-up time. You should have new hires ramped up before you really need them. Otherwise they’ll come into the office, no one will have time to help them, and they’ll feel immense pressure to just start contributing faster than they’ll be ready to. This is one of the reasons that forecasting is important in the first place. When you don’t plan to hire at precisely the right time, new employees come in and are set up for a bad work experience. Hiring before additional help is desperately needed leaves time for appropriate training and acclimation which are vital to employee success. This also ensures that employees won’t feel overwhelmed because by the time work is getting to be too much, they’ll have a coworker ramped up to take some of the load.
5. Add in attrition and turnover. Don’t forget that you’re probably going to lose a few employees over the course of the year too. If you have an HRIS, you should be able to pull a turnover report to see how often people are leaving from each department. If you lost five salespeople, two marketers, and one developer last year, you should put those people in your plan too. This could also help you forecast storms on the horizon in the form of increasing turnover. If more employees have been leaving recently than in years past, you may need to re-evaluate your retention plan. If a certain department is experiencing higher turnover than others, you may want to check out the unique factors driving employees in that department away.
6. Get the hiring info up front. Save yourself a lot of time by requiring hiring managers to provide all the position information for the job up front. Get the salary range, realistic qualifications (let’s stop pretending that our dream list is actually required), desired qualifications (this is where the dream items go), responsibilities, and perks. Try using a standard form (Google forms work great) to make the process even quicker. Do it right the first time and you’ll find the right applicant more quickly. Getting all the information up front and with plenty of time also allows you to recruit more strategically. You can do market research to scope out the competition for the talent. You can target your applicants more effectively. Overall, you’ll be able to find better talent and be more selective.
7. Consider the status quo. This means you need to look at a couple of different things. First, are departments requesting additional employees working at full capacity? Before a team hires someone else, everyone on their team should be meeting the status quo for efficiency. If there’s someone who isn’t contributing as much as they could, get them doing all they can before you bring someone in to pick up their slack. The second possibility is that you have a team who wants to move past the status quo and become more strategic or comprehensive—that will require them to have additional help. For instance, if your HR team wants to invest in some more strategic initiatives, but they’re bogged down by operational tasks, they’re going to need more help. The first thing to do is to get a system to free them from those tasks. If they still can’t do it all, you may need to hire someone to help them so they can up their game.
8. Prioritize. This is important in a forecast, but it’s also something that’s difficult to do without one. How will you be able to accurately project how soon one department will have their new employee if there’s potential that “emergency” positions will open up and take priority? Organizing the different hiring needs of your company will help you chart your work throughout the year and let hiring managers know when they can expect to receive new hires.
9. Consider reduction processes when necessary. Hopefully your forecast involves hiring most of the time, but there may be a time when you will need to reduce your workforce. Perhaps a certain department isn’t really necessary anymore (or won’t be in the near future) or the entire company will need to do a reduction. If you have a plan, you’ll be able to control how a reduction will affect your employees. If you don’t, you’ll just have to do massive layoffs that will kill morale. You might also need to figure natural turnover, encouraging retirement, or possibly gradual layoffs. Either way, it’s better than out-of-the-blue large group of firings.
10. Internal talent inventory. Putting together a hiring forecast is a great time to assess the current talents of your employees. Your employees want to grow, so you should be paying attention to their succession planning. In scheduled meetings with hiring managers, set aside time to discuss untapped skills and talent within their department. Even if there isn’t a position currently open that fits the bill, you’ll have a list of employees to consider if something does come up.
The main goal of a hiring forecast is to enable recruiters to be proactive rather than reactive. By following the tips above, you’ll be able to plan to hire exactly who you need and precisely when they will be needed. Hiring forecasts are just one way for HR professionals to be more strategic and effective in their roles.