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How to Meet the Challenges of Employee Headcount Planning for a Remote Workforce

Employee headcount planning for a distributed workforce can be a challenging process, but the correct tools and technologies can support accurate forecasting and workforce planning in a hybrid or even completely remote scenario.


Formerly, employee headcount planning meant estimating the number needed and hiring workers who would typically be on-site, working a set schedule, and who had predictable needs and wants. Today, companies across the country are now struggling to accurately assess and predict their staffing needs in a world where work flexibility is the phrase of the decade.


Related: 5 Factors That Affect Employee Headcount So You Can Plan Like a Pro


Organizations require employee headcount planning solutions that don’t merely predict how many employees will be needed at any given point, but where they may be located, how and when they will work, and what type of compensation and benefits plans may apply across a range of geographic locations. 


Being proactive about workforce management in a competitive hiring landscape means merging headcount planning, talent intelligence, and remote recruitment strategies to create better-distributed workforces. 


Related: 6 Trends Affecting Employee Headcount Forecasting


The Three Assessments Employee Headcount Planning Should Support

An employee headcount planning solution needs to support the following assessment processes:

1. Current business needs

These are the needs that the business has right now in terms of headcount - which shouldn’t be determined as just the exact number of full-time employees (FTEs) required to cover all necessary shifts, but instead the complete number of employees required to cover all needs taking into account all potential absences requiring coverage. Expecting existing employees to simply work overtime is asking for trouble; 32% of workers say that kind of expectation is directly responsible for burnout.


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2. Future business needs

If a company is scaling, or growth is on the horizon, more employees will be needed. The issue here isn’t only making sure that employee headcount is accurately forecasted, but that skills required in the future will be supplied by existing and future employees. This also applies to companies that experience regular seasonal fluctuations in their need for employees; headcount can be expected to increase and decrease based on historical data.

3. Skills gap analysis

To that end, employee headcount planning should assess skills present in the organization currently, skills needed currently, and skills that are anticipated to be needed in the future. Fewer than half of respondents to the McKinsey Global Survey on future workforce needs said their organizations have a clear sense of their current skills, and nearly nine in ten executives and managers said that their organizations either already face skill gaps or expect gaps to develop by 2025.


Employee headcount planning isn’t just numbers; it’s a well-rounded look at an organization and its goals, and a way for leaders to determine what their workforce needs to look like both now and in the future. Assessment is the first step, then action can begin.


Related: Quiz: How Are Your (Employee Headcount) Forecasting Skills?


Challenges Posed by a Distributed Workforce

Having a distributed workforce poses extra challenges related to headcount planning and makes the process slightly more involved. In addition to the above assessments, where and how employees and their skill sets are deployed must be factored into the equation.

Geographical distances and communication 

Managing a dispersed workforce often means navigating time zones. If HR is in one time zone, consider staffing issues that may arise when that personnel is “off the clock”. Coverage may need to be staggered to ensure all employees are supported at all times. 

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Human resources (HR) information technology (IT) and facility management teams must all be prepared to work together to support remote employees and this must be factored into headcount planning as well. 


Communication and collaboration tools are critical for managing a remote workforce. Managerial staff must be capable of meeting the challenges distributed workers can pose. Again, the availability of senior management and coverage across time zones may affect employee headcount planning.

Cost of living/salary differences

With a remote workforce, it may be cost-effective to hire from regions where the cost of living is lower, and workers may be willing to accept a lower salary than their counterparts living in major metroplexes on either seaboard. 


While employees are in a position to demand what they think they are worth, many will trade a slightly higher salary for flexibility in work location or hours and be happy with the tradeoff. In fact, according to one survey, a third of workers who switched jobs said they took a pay cut for better work-life balance.


Related: 6 Reasons Why Remote Work is Here to Stay


This can be challenging when employee headcount planning, as salaries may be all over the place if offers are made based on situational data about an employee and their location. One area could be a source of cost-effective hiring, but another more costly area might offer unique talent with skill-sets not readily found elsewhere. 

Cost of remote employment based on location

With a remote workforce, employees living in different states can be subject to different laws, and employers may be bound by variances in state and local tax regulations. If remote employees are in another country, there are completely new sets of rules to follow and compliance can be increasingly costly.


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Many companies get around such details by using an Employer of Record (EoR), an entity that handles all of the legalities and provides employees to meet staffing needs with a minimum of extra work required by the organization in need of new hires. For some, this can streamline employee headcount planning and deliver staff on demand. 


Ultimately, employee headcount planning should be seen as a way to proactively strengthen and support the recruitment of a remote workforce. By analyzing the organization’s strengths and weaknesses and identifying where skills gaps exist or may appear, leaders may leverage headcount planning as a strategy to create a future-proof workforce.


Related: How Candidate Quality of Hire Differs for Remote Workers


Remote Workforce Headcount Planning and Recruitment

Flexible employee headcount planning can be more readily achieved with the right tools, whose employee headcount management and planning software streamlines the process of analysis and makes it easier to plan for a remote workforce. Tools like Crosschq Recruit provide a remote talent pipeline built on a trusted candidate-checking process for accurate skills and role matching.


To learn more about how Crosschq can drive better headcount planning and remote workforce recruitment, contact us for a demonstration today.

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