How to Create a Smart Staffing Plan

By Robert Half December 26, 2017 at 11:30am

Are you an employer trying to determine how much staff and budget you’ll need for the next six to 12 months? While I don’t have a crystal ball, I do have some tips that can help you create a smart staffing plan.

Assessing your firm’s staffing plan begins by answering one question: Do you have an adequate number of workers currently in place to achieve your objectives, at least over the near term?

This is much more than a simple yes-or-no question, though. Let me explain, using two scenarios.

Scenario #1: You are fully staffed

Even if you feel you already have enough employees to meet your business goals, and your staffing plan is complete, you still have a few more things to consider. And not accounting for them could spell disaster. More than anything, you need to ask yourself these follow-up questions to ensure your staffing plan will help move your business forward in the months ahead:

How quickly can you adjust to unforeseen staffing challenges? Even though you may have enough people on hand to support your plans, what would happen if business conditions or priorities change? What if a critical team member — or worse, multiple key players — suddenly left the organization?

Do you have the right skills in the right places? Just because you have the right number of people doesn’t mean you have them focused on the right projects. What are your business goals for 2018, and what portion of your team is working to achieve each one? Roughly speaking, the more important the goal, the more people you should have dedicated to meeting it. Prepare yourself now for the possibility that you may need to reallocate members of your team — or bring in new workers if your staff lack key skills to support evolving business priorities.

Given these realities, I recommend setting aside a portion of your budget for unplanned hiring needs. I’d also suggest establishing a relationship with a reputable recruiter in your area who can help you locate skilled professionals should you have an immediate need. A good one can help you react to a staffing shortfall more quickly than you could on your own.

Scenario #2: You plan to hire in the year ahead

If, on the other hand, you don’t have enough people or the right skill sets in-house to achieve your business objectives, you’ve got a little more work to do in formulating a realistic staffing plan. In particular, you need to ask yourself several key questions, including:

How quickly do you need to hire? Skilled candidates are in demand, and it can take weeks to find the right hire. If you’re in a geographic location where competition for talent is fierce, it might take even longer. So, you might need to start your candidate search right away.

How quickly can you hire? A key step in setting your staffing plan is making sure all stakeholders understand the hiring priorities and have agreed on key details, such as the number of people you plan to hire, salary ranges, start dates and the like. Getting these particulars ironed out early on will make the hiring process go more smoothly and increase your chances of success.

What factors could make it difficult for you to hire? Be aware of anything that could make hiring even more challenging — or near impossible. Start with the employment market in your area. How deep is the pool of candidates you seek? What is the demand for these professionals? Also, think about your job offers. Your firm must be prepared to offer compensation that is at least on par with what competitors and peers are providing to top candidates.

Should you adjust your priorities? Consider postponing any initiatives that aren’t imperative, at least until you’re confident that your business is truly prepared, from a staffing perspective, to take them on.

My point with all this is that it takes a great deal of thought and effort to put together a staffing plan, even if you think you don’t need one. It’s worth the work. Really understanding where your business is at today in terms of its staffing strength provides a foundation for determining where it needs to be in the near future — and allows for you to withstand the unexpected.

Paul McDonald photograph
Paul McDonald

Paul McDonald is senior executive director at Robert Half. He writes and speaks frequently on hiring, workplace and career management topics. Over the course of more than 30 years in the recruiting field, McDonald has advised thousands of company leaders and job seekers on how to hire and get hired.

McDonald joined Robert Half in 1984 as a recruiter for financial and accounting professionals in Boston, following a public accounting career with Price Waterhouse. In the 1990s, he became president of the Western United States overseeing all of the company’s operations in the region. McDonald become senior executive director of Robert Half Management Resources in 2000, and assumed his current role in 2012. He earned a bachelor's degree in business administration with a concentration in accounting from St. Bonaventure University in New York.

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