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Headcount Planning

Mike Joyner

It’s hard to believe, but Q4 is upon us and 2023 planning is right around the corner. If you’re looking for guidance on how to navigate planning, we have a course and product designed to help you navigate this successfully.

This time of year is often the most challenging — you’re trying to stay on track to hit your hiring goals while in parallel trying to look ahead to anticipate and plan next year’s hiring plan. The challenge increases for those with budget reductions, which might be decreasing overall hiring goals or reducing recruiting team size, or both. Even if overall hiring goals have been reduced, the pressure to deliver can still feel peaked if you have what feels like aggressive hiring given a now much leaner team.

Here are our thoughts on how to juggle these parallel realities as a recruiting leader:

Start gathering data you’ll need for planning

Headcount planning can often feel like you’re having to pack for a big trip without knowing the destination. What will the weather be, how many stops will there be along the way, and are we talking flip flops or running shoes? So many questions. In truth, often the direction and pace gets established in planning, but there are inevitably significant pivots in the final destination (i.e. hiring goal) because of changing weather conditions. Terrible analogy aside, you can always start somewhere so that you show up prepared for these planning conversations. There are basics and essentials that will always be true: what have we learned from the hiring we’ve done already? And what reasonable assumptions can we make about the future?

It’s helpful to look at each of these through the lens of your team, the business, and the operating system.

  • The team: look at historical results and determine the typical productivity for recruiters, sourcers, and coordinators. There are many variables in recruiting that impact the results, like scarcity of talent, seniority, employer brand, domain experience from the hiring manager, and the list goes on. Stay focused on the themes: what are the key buckets of talent your team is responsible for? And what were the typical results by role? Don’t fall into the trap of false precision. It’s also important to look at the health of the team to put the results in context. There may have been lots of transitions because of downsizing, with recruiters picking up roles they’ve never recruited for, or a team working around the clock to get a new market up and running, but that level of productivity isn’t sustainable.
  • Recruiters: there are two approaches we’ve seen used most often.
  • Outcomes focused is commonly used when other funnel data is difficult to get to or doesn’t exist at all.
  • Your company results: determine how many hires your team has capacity to support based on how many recruiters are currently on the team x how many hires each recruiter has been able to historically close.
  • Benchmarks: generally speaking, engineering recruiters typically achieve five to six hires/qtr, corporate recruiters ten to twelve hires/qtr, and go-to-market around six to ten hires/qtr. There’s a lot of nuance in determining how to adjust these benchmarks to your company and specific recruiters, but these benchmarks can be a helpful reference as a starting point.
  • Activities focused is a bottoms-up approach you can take by looking at how many screening calls were needed to achieve the hires you’ve made.
  • # screens per hire = # screening calls / # hires made
  • Total screens possible = # recruiters you have x # of screens each recruiter can feasibly do in a week x # weeks in your plan
  • Recruiter capacity (# hires) = total screens possible / # screens per hire
  • Sourcers: what percentage of offers and hires were impacted by sourcing activities? Determine how many sourcers were on the team that achieved those results. For example, you may find that a typical sourcer played a role in two offer extends/month. Once you know this, you’ll be equipped to know how many sourcers you’ll need based on the percentage of future hires you want to target with sourcing support. There may also be other strategic reasons for sourcing support like proactively building pipelines in new markets or lack of diversity in the natural inbound pipeline.
  • Coordinators: how many screens and interview loops did the coordinators complete? You will likely run into natural limits and a range of results when looking across the team. Determine how many of these activities were necessary to achieve the hires for key groups (technical, business, go-to-market) and how many coordinators were on the team doing the work. Tools like ModernLoop, GoodTime, and Prelude can help with this. This will give you the baseline assumption you can use to back into the number of coordinators you’d need based on the hiring goal.
  • The business: there are three areas to focus on.
  • Attrition: what has the trend been with attrition? This can have a dramatic impact on the amount of hiring that needs to be supported. It’s important to connect with HR to determine employee engagement and possibility for more or less attrition in the future.
  • Hiring Pace: how have hiring plan changes and timing impacted results? For example, prioritizing sales and revenue roles over other parts of the business could be extending time to fill in lower priority technical roles.
  • Internal Mobility: is your company investing in career development and internal mobility? Determine what role recruiters will need to play and get aligned on how much effort and capacity will need to be reserved for internal transfers. Some teams estimate internal mobility and then discount recruiter productivity for transfers (e.g. counts as 0.5 of a hire vs 1). Our belief is that it should be factored as a full hire, because it’s often difficult to predict which roles will be lighter vs a similar level of effort to recruit to fill the pipeline across channels (referrals, inbound, sourced/outbound, internal). It just so happens that an internal employee filled it, but not all teams have the same philosophy, so make sure there’s alignment on how to factor transfers into your capacity planning.
  • The operating system: have there been any changes to your process, channels that you’re recruiting from, or tech stack that had an impact on your results? For example, has removing an unnecessary round of interviews, improving interviewer efficacy, or implementing a scheduling tool improved time to fill? We’ve talked to a number of companies that are experimenting with tools like Metaview and Brighthire to improve interviewer effectiveness in the same way Gong is used for sales teams. Consider what changes are planned in the future and estimate the impact it can have on the team’s productivity.

Now is also a good time to start getting a sense of next year’s plan, even if it’s just the themes of where the focus will be. For example, international or revenue or product development, or senior and specialized, or early career. As you get more of these signals, use what you know about your team's productivity to frame trade-offs with the business.

Happy planning!

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