Now is the time when employers are starting to set budgets for the coming year and pay closer attention to the monthly jobs report.

And for good reason: Any signs that might indicate changes in business or economic conditions can help them decide how their workforce should grow or contract in the New Year, if at all.

Assessing your company’s workforce plan for the coming year 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. Here are two scenarios you might possibly be facing:

Scenario #1: You are fully staffed

Even if you feel you already have enough employees to meet your business goals for the coming year, and your workforce 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 the plans you’re making for next year, what would happen if business conditions or priorities change in 2020? What if a critical team member — or worse, multiple key players — suddenly left the organisation? There are many factors behind why employees leave, and in today’s employment market, that’s well within the realm of possibility.
  • 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 2020, 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 changed business priorities.

Given these realities, setting aside a portion of the 2020 budget is worth considering for unplanned hiring needs. Establishing a relationship with a reputable recruiter in your area who can help you locate skilled professionals should you have an immediate need is also recommended. 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 in the New Year, 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 several 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, especially if you need to have these additional team members in place by early 2020.
  • How quickly can you hire?; A key step in setting your workforce 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, expected salary range, start dates and the like. Start preparing now. 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? How much staff training;and professional development will they need? Also, think about your job offers. Your company 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.

It takes a great deal of thought and effort to put together a workforce 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.

Start your workforce plan now and be prepared for the New Year

One more thing to keep in mind: Many employers slow their hiring efforts in the fourth quarter, assuming the job is more difficult now and that they can restart the process after the beginning of the year. Now is not the time to tap the brakes.

There is a shortage of skilled professionals, and those who are looking for employment do not remain available for long. So, if you need to secure in-demand talent for your team, you must continue to move quickly and recruit aggressively.

This blog was originally featured as "How to Create a Smart Staffing Plan" on the Robert Half US blog.