Keeping Track of Headcount: How to Stay Afloat Despite Shifting Staff
As we reach the end of the year, we can take stock of what has continued to be an uncertain market in the UK. Broadly speaking, unemployment figures have continued to drop, but questions around contracts and types of employment have remained. Regardless, it’s safe to say that many organisations are continuing to grapple with shifting workforces, including varying numbers, changing roles (as new positions are created and traditional roles decline) and geographical dispersal. These shifts create challenges across the business as teams look for support to drive new opportunities and require the HR team to be closely synced up with the lines of business to ensure they understand the pain points and requirements in providing and supporting staff across the organisation.
Like the “curate’s egg”, this is both good and bad news for HR leaders. On one hand, it is always good to be assessing resources to address the current needs of the organisation; on the other hand, some of their best people will inevitably be among those making career moves looking for new opportunities in shifting markets. If a single member of a large back office department suddenly leaves, a company can cover their workload by offering extra hours to the rest of the team or hiring temporary staff. Both of these options will have some impact on operating expenses. However, if someone in a key position suddenly takes off without warning, it is a much more serious matter, and can even put significant revenue streams at risk.
Succession planning and human capital management can mitigate some of these issues, but to prevent the sudden surprises that anger boards and their investors, companies should also review their planning and budgeting processes. Agility and insight are important capabilities for managing during times of uncertainty and fortunately, you can build them into your planning processes. As a first step, you should examine your use of spreadsheets. They are laborious to use, prone to errors and have none of the immediacy of a modern, real time, planning solution. At the same time, there are considerable benefits from building dynamic planning models that link key individuals and their activity directly with the revenue streams which they are responsible for generating. Similarly, modelling the workload and productivity of support functions can identify headcount requirements and their cost.
What is crucial is that HR leaders consider implementing these types of models and ensure that they update any piece of data in such a dynamic model to see how any changes in the organisation will ripple through to the profit and loss account, giving better visibility into the future and a deeper understanding of the causality behind the numbers. None of this is new; you may already be doing it. However, if it is on disparate spreadsheets, you will never enjoy the benefits others gain when they turn it into a unified process in a single solution, across the business. As we move into 2016, I would advise all HR leaders to look at how they can position themselves as a centre piece in the organisation, both in communicating with lines of business and putting in place the technologies to formalise more focused people planning.