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5 Reasons Why Organizations Need Employee Headcount Planning and Forecasting

Talent management teams can’t be reactive in recruitment; instead, they must focus on headcount planning and forecasting to hire proactively. This is even more critical in unpredictable times when the labor market is in flux and talent is scarce. 


Understanding how to predict future talent needs based on current staffing, productivity, skills gaps, and business goals are key to winning at the long game of talent acquisition and retention. Nearly one in three organizations in one survey chose “building talent pools of the future” as a top recruiting priority.

What Is Employee Headcount Planning and Forecasting?

Employee headcount planning and forecasting ensure that an organization can meet short- and long-term business needs within a defined staffing budget. This process is often referred to as org charting. The goal is to guarantee that the company has enough people with the right skills to execute predetermined strategies, without labor overspending. 


According to the McKinsey Global survey, 87% of executives say their organization is already experiencing or is anticipated to shortly experience serious skills gaps. Nearly 60% of L&D experts worldwide say upskilling and reskilling is the #1 priority of their function. Employee headcount planning is directly tied to workforce development and retention.

Who is involved in employee headcount planning and forecasting?

Many people within an organization should participate in the employee headcount forecasting and planning process. This includes all department heads, senior executives, human resources, and finance specialists. Leveraging a multi-disciplinary team provides a clearer outlook and can make it easier to shift course if needed.

What is involved in employee headcount planning and forecasting?

Teams who work on employee headcount forecasting and planning typically focus on the following:


  • Creating hiring plans or targets
  • Analyzing worksite occupancy
  • Reviewing space utilization data
  • Identifying skills gaps
  • Reducing employee churn


Data analytics can provide organization-specific insights and direction and help headcount planning and forecasting be more accurate.


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Why Is Employee Headcount Planning and Forecasting Important?

It's critical for an organization’s leadership to understand exactly what their company is paying for labor and why. Labor is a major line item in the budget, but it’s more than just salaries. The cost of recruitment, onboarding, training, and L&D all factor into labor costs, and employee turnover is a massive multiplier.


By connecting headcount forecasting to financial planning and analysis processes, company leaders can align talent acquisition efforts with business goals, reduce costs and maintain a headcount that satisfies both productivity and skills needs.


Employee headcount planning enables future stability for established companies by helping executives implement succession plans. For companies in growth stages that are seeking funding, employee headcount forecasting creates a clear picture of organizational design and human resources expertise, as well as current and future expectations surrounding labor costs and productivity goals.

See 6 Strategic Workforce Planning Tips to Hire Better Quality Candidates


5 Benefits of Employee Headcount Planning and Forecasting

The main goal of employee headcount planning and forecasting is to support current and future business goals. When done correctly, employee headcount planning activities can benefit organizations in the following ways:  

1. An enhanced ability to respond quickly on a workforce level

Emerging challenges across the business, industries, and overall economy are making accurate employee headcount forecasting a priority for many companies. By investing in employee headcount planning, companies can work towards futureproofing their workforce and be able to pivot to meet new challenges rapidly.

2. A more efficient, productive, and effective workforce

Companies that focus on employee headcount planning hire with long-term candidate/job matching in mind. As a result, employees are more likely to possess relevant skills and be good fits for their positions. Higher quality of hire directly affects productivity and efficiency in the workplace. 


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3. Controlled and quantified costs

Understanding what labor actually costs an organization makes it easier to find areas in which to improve. Employee headcount planning provides a way to help both control and quantify costs by directly linking talent expenditures (including recruitment and retention costs) to business objectives.

4. Ongoing monitoring of attrition

Employee headcount planning and forecasting don’t just apply to scaling and growth when it comes to staffing demands. Attrition can play a large part in recruitment needs. Headcount forecasting and planning can help organizations identify where openings are likely to occur, and ensure there is a talent pipeline in place to fill critical roles.

5. A better understanding of ideal candidate profiles

When employee headcount planning and forecasting are combined with talent intelligence data, the resulting analysis can help in identifying skill gaps and demographics within a company. This makes it easier to design ideal worker profiles built around skills. Combine this knowledge with a commitment to diversity, equity, inclusivity, and belonging, and these insights can be used in recruitment processes to build a stronger workforce while shaping HR policies to maximize talent goals and employee experiences.


See 5 Things About Talent Intelligence You Really Need to Know


The Best Time For Employee Headcount Planning 

It’s been a standard practice to do employee headcount planning annually, but with so many external forces and industry-specific fluctuations affecting employee headcount forecasting, the process needs to be more agile and iterative than that.


An employee headcount plan should be a living, documented process that stakeholders can visit repeatedly so adjustments can be made as needed based on real-time data. This allows organizations to respond swiftly to changes that could disrupt business operations or impede growth. 


Employee headcount planning should be an ongoing activity, continually evolving and advancing to keep the organization appropriately staffed while seeking to identify and fill skill gaps and encourage employee retention long-term.


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3 Tips for Successful Employee Headcount Planning

These tips can help organizations create and deploy an effective employee headcount plan:

1) Identify business challenges

What will be affecting the company in the months or years ahead? Leaders must consider:



These insights can be leveraged to inform employee headcount forecasting and planning processes.

See 5 Ways to Know if You are Hiring a Toxic Employee

2) Establish key employee headcount metrics

Leaders who base decisions around existing historical data while factoring in potential scenario-changing trends can achieve greater success. These factors include:


  • Position requirements
  • Payroll data
  • Employee skill sets
  • Departmental hierarchy
  • Performance ratings
  • Attrition rates 
  • Retirement eligibility


Benchmark and track key metrics to identify where forecasting is being pushed off track.

3) Evaluate the current workforce

Metrics can also be utilized to evaluate the current workforce, revealing 


  • Shortfalls inability to fill current and future critical roles
  • Problems with attrition
  • Potential challenges associated with salary range or benefits offerings
  • Employees considered flight risks
  • Current or potential skill gaps
  • Employees suitable for development and promotion.


Employee headcount planning and forecasting goes hand in hand with talent intelligence and workforce development. By paying attention to headcount needs in the context of the future of the organization, leaders can build workforces that are future-proof and win at the recruitment and retention game.


Learn 6 Ways How to use Talent Intelligence Tools


For more information on how Crosschq can help your organization predict and plan for recruitment needs while improving retention and quality of hire, contact our talent intelligence team for a free demonstration of our entire suite of products today.

Heather Miller

by Heather Miller

Staff Writer

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