Predicting the Future of Talent For Your Workforce

Predictive workforce planning

Your data has the power to transform your hiring practices and create more predictability and alignment across your entire organization. But taking raw data and transforming it into a strategic list of next steps can be tricky at the best of times.

That’s why we recently teamed up with leaders from Hired and Side Inc. for a webinar titled Predictive Workforce Planning to share a three-step process for achieving partnerships between your hiring managers and CFOs on company and talent strategies.

But first, meet our panel of experts:

  • Mike Bailen, our moderator, and the Vice President of People at Lever, where he leads recruiting and HR efforts. Before joining Lever, he led recruiting teams at Zappos and Eventbrite.
  • Amy Shat, VP of People Ops at Side Inc., who has nearly 20 years’ experience leading people operations, IT, product training and recruiting working in the A games industry at places like Electronic Arts and Lucas Arts.
  • Ed Schagger, CFO at Hired and a VP in technology for over the past 20 years, serving in both finance executive roles, as well as operational capacities and as consulting.

Keep on reading to hear what this trio of talent leaders had to say about using data to transform your hiring and achieve partnerships at the leadership level.

Step 1: Partnering HR and Finance to build a company strategy

Mike believes that helping define and shape the company strategy is a really crucial first step, and really at the stage, you are considering a whole host of different options of where to invest in the business so you can maximize company results. One thing he quickly realized in his career is that HR and recruiting is often the recipient of the company strategy but actually not involved in this step. Nowadays, more about more C-level executives are expecting HR to have a seat at the table in this conversation. No longer is a company strategy just handed to you.

More and more C-level executives have expectations for HR to have a seat at the table in conversations around company strategy and growth. So what’s the new model now that the days strategy was just handed over and acted upon are gone?

“I believe that helping define and shape the company strategy is a really crucial first step, and really at the stage, you are considering a whole host of different options of where to invest in the business so you can maximize company results,” says Mike.

3 ways to earn a seat at the table:

  1. Think strategically.
    According to a Human Capital Institute Survey, 90% of HR leaders know they need to be more strategic, but only 49% of those HR leaders know what they need to do to get there. Amy says that 10 plus years ago, this statistic was even more true, with HR being viewed as a tactical (instead of strategic) function. But if you just look at spend alone, companies are spending anywhere between 75-85% on people. So leaders are starting to realize the responsibility of HR to take on a more strategic function by partnering with the CFO to drive better results for the business.
  2. Focus on analytics.
    Amy says if you can speak to the total compensation month over month and how that impacts cash flow, it will be impactful. Her advice? Don’t just focus on people happiness and experience, which is important, but also be able to tie in how that impacts business.
  3. Identify mentors.
    Mike identified that speaking the language of the CFO will work to create a strong partnership. Ensure that in HR, you are speaking the language of the business. Ed echoed that when his talent teams talk in terms going above and beyond numbers and fully understanding strategy of the business, it creates an incredible partnership to align on the strategy and how each team will drive impact. “Knowing what those plans look like, knowing what that strategy contains, and then being able to articulate the talent where that talent might be and to Amy’s points at what cost,” says Ed. “These are imperative parts of the conversation.”

3 ways to include employee experience in the company strategy conversation:

  1. Tie cost of attrition potentially impacting revenue.
    Ed hears this come up a lot and thinks it’s a fascinating question. He was involved in the merger at another company in a prior role and the other company focused solely on that engagement piece. Yet, they saw turnover of literally 90% over one year and lost less than 5% of revenue over the same time.

    “It is critical to have a workforce that is engaged with the organization and happy with where they are,” says Ed. “Culture is paramount, but it is not sufficient and so I think understanding the role that is also played in how they help drive the strategy is just as critical. I think both dimensions are very important. What is the cost of that risk and how is attrition potentially going to impact revenue numbers. You have to tie those two together for it to be thinking intelligently about staffing people about making sure that we are ahead of the curve in our high end processes.”
  2. If you talk about culture and engagement, put it into the larger context.
    Amy agreed that it’s not that culture and engagement aren’t important. It is that, in her opinion, in and of themselves, they aren’t as important as some other things. In other words, if we talk about culture or if we talk about engagement, it should be in a greater context of strategy and business and how this directly affects the business and what levers to pull within the business to make the business more productive.
  3. Contextualizing what the business risks are is key.
    Mike said that contextualizing and understanding what that actually represents or means in terms of risk to the business and ability to achieve those kind of topline outcomes. And from Ed’s point of view, the business is about the people. Amy characterized that around 80% of our cost these days in any of the tech companies are comprised of the people, so companies have got to be really focused on that.

Step 2: Building a hiring plan to power your company strategy

Having the right people in place when the time comes is no small feat — but it’s one of the most important tactics you can develop to drive business success through change and growth.

“This is critical,” says Ed. “I was with one company where, as CFO, stepped in sort of midway through the fiscal year and the first thing I noticed is that it wasn’t possible. There’s no way we could have achieved the plan and it was solely because of the connection between output running the plan and the inputs, which we required to know exactly when to hire and have people in the seats to be able to achieve both sales and on the product front. They didn’t have the resources onboard to do and no plans for how they were going to bring them on in time to do it. Suffice to say, their plans didn’t achieve. And no one thought carefully about what was needed to get the right people in the right places to succeed.”

2 tips for front-loading a strategy or plan:

  1. Start with a rolling expectation.
    Ed says that he tends not to think as much of the hard and fast fiscal end at the beginning. He has more rolling of rolling expectations, but getting ahead of the plan is something that he has witnessed a number of times and there are two aspects of doing this. One is hiring ahead of plan and the other side is knowing that hiring plans rarely come to fruition. So add a bit of a cushion in the financial mode. In some cases, if hiring ahead of schedule, you’ll see better business results. HR and finance teams need to be in lock step to make sure they are pacing at the right level for the business.
  2. Know what hires can be made and when.
    Amy believes it’s her job to forecast what hires can be made and by when. For example, her team of 4 needs to hire 300 software engineers in 3 months. We all know it’s an egregious goal, but the key is to get in early in the planning process — the goal being not to say no, but to discuss the resources you will need in order to hit recruiting plan. For most CEOs and CFOs, they want to hear like, “Okay, great, if you want 300 engineers in 3 months we are going to have to spend X amount of dollars on this many recruiters and we will probably going to have to use agencies and we are probably going to have to do some contract hires in the interim and here is how.” Give examples to how you are going to solve for those talent needs.

Step 3: Predictably executing on your hiring plan

There’s a reason why Mike opened up the panel discussion with the question: What is your C-level asking of you as it relates to recruiting or pipeline metrics? Being clear about expectations from the top down is key to moving forward.

“We work really hard with hiring managers and look at the actual job needed to get that person hired,” says Amy. “Then we work backwards to the goal rather than the other way around. Be less reactive with hiring. And have a plan B. The last thing you ever want is a hiring manager caught off guard when you can’t make the hire that they need to grow the business.”

2 things CFOs want to hear:

  1. Time to fill.
    First and foremost, Ed looks at how long a role went unfilled last the time it needed filled because that is how the plan works.his is especially true in revenue generating positions. “The goal is to plan carefully for what you want to achieve,” he says. “Ideally, then you back up the process to extend. That means, for instance, ramp takes 60 days or 90 days. A CFO will want a good understanding of a typical hiring and ramp cycle for most key positions.”
  2. A bird’s eye view of the recruiting pipeline.
    “The second aspect that I also take a look at is, for lack of a better metaphor, asking heads of recruiting if the flywheel is going properly,” says Ed. “There are certain types of positions that you will see ongoing recruiting and attrition for, so are we keeping the pipeline full and balanced by not bringing on too many people too early for the expected attrition. Instead, we keep that process going because in roles — be it sales development, representatives or in account executives — you will see that turnover as the organization gets larger is a common thing. The same principles apply, for example, in the product and development world as well.”

Final Thoughts: Building a Predictable Workforce Model

“The way we think about growth from a recruitment angle at Lever is that we’re always trying to think about how to maximize the capacity of our recruiters,” says Mike. “The same thing can be said on the attrition side. Forecasting is hyper critical to organizations. The goal is to always do a better job informing the business as to when there is actually risk and attrition risk and then deploy strategies that will make all the difference to helping you hire the best for your company.”

Discover four more things your CFO cares about when it comes to recruiting in our eBook, How to Get Your CFO’s Buy-In for Better Recruiting Software.