I get to meet with start-ups on a daily basis and am amazed how they all describe the same symptoms as major challenges for growth: They can’t get the talent they are looking for, on time, to deliver promised deadlines! By the time they recruit new employees, it is often too late to start training and bringing them up to speed. The reasons stated are always the same: lack of talent in the market, tough competition, multinationals and heavily funded start-ups offer higher salaries than what they can afford to pay…

These reasons, while are all true, are not the core problem. The fundamental problem is that these start-ups are making over, again and again, the same mistake:

wasting money and time on transactional HR, rather than conducting workforce planning before they start recruiting.

In my previous post, I explained why and how the recruitment process starts from culture. In this post, I would like to explain the second core component of recruitment: workforce planning. Yes, this concept applies to start-ups, not only to big corporates. You don’t need to have a person dedicated to planning, but without engaging in this process, you will find yourself hiring the wrong people, at the wrong time and wasting your (limited) funds for nothing- often feeling as if you are throwing your money into the bin.

Starting to recruit (writing PDs, adverts and interviewing candidates)

without engaging in workforce planning first is a recipe for failure!

What is workforce planning?

Workforce planning is a short, essential process to ensure the start-up has:

  • The right people (skills, competencies, and culture)
  • In the right positions
  • At the right time
  • With the right price / cost
  • Ready to execute the business strategy

Sounds scarier than what it actually is, right?

Why should we spend time on workforce planning?

Only by conducting workforce planning prior to recruiting people, you are able to achieve the following:

  • Understand which roles you need to fulfill the strategy and how to structure them
  • Attract and hire the right people- with the skills needed to perform the role at the right time; those that are motivated to join the journey and will stay despite uncertainties and difficulties over the start-ups rollercoaster
  • Meeting deadlines- by understanding the capabilities of your current team, you are able to reallocate responsibilities and recruit those that have skills that are currently missing in the start-up and are crucial for future success. Having the right number of employees at the right time to deliver any given project.
  • Ensuring positive culture- when recruiting under time pressure (because the position was really meant to be filled two months before you started the recruitment process), the first intuitive decision we often take is to make some shortcuts and compromises. This is exactly how you end up bringing the wrong person culturally, which affects the entire team.
  • Clients and stakeholders love you- having no employees to service your clients or having a turnover of employees that deal with clients significantly reduces their satisfaction. Overstressed employees (due to overload or turnover of their colleagues) project their dissatisfaction outside the organisation (even when they don’t mean it).

What Workforce Planning for start-ups includes

  • Business Strategy- including future growth, deliverables, and revenues.
  • Skills Analysis- understand current talent skills and capabilities and determine skills gap (What skills will you need in order to achieve the company goals and by when?). This analysis includes both technical and soft skills (such as leadership).
  • Future Structure- establish a number of future open vacancies, who can take new roles and how the future structure will look like to ensure strategy execution on time.
  • Talent Retention- when you plan your workforce in advance and offer core team members promotions and / or new challenges in accordance with the plan (and not reactively), they are more likely to stay with the start-up, even in difficult times.
  • Recruitment plan- When should you be starting the recruitment for each position? What are your sourcing options? How are you going to attract the right talent? How are you going to support the new employees to become productive on time?

Conducting workforce planning should be done periodically, as you review the start-up strategy. Changes in direction and reaching special milestones need to be followed by this short and essential process.

To sum up, transactional HR, especially in start-ups, does not support growth! Without workforce planning, no transactional recruitment will deliver the right people with the right skills at the right time. You can continue paying for transactional HR services, but is this really where your money needs to go to? Start planning your workforce TODAY and you will get the results you are really looking for!

Don’t know how to start or having some questions about the process? Ask me!

My next post will focus on the providing tips how to manage the transactional part of recruitment in an effective way, to ensure it consumes only 5% of your attention and effort during the recruitment process.

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Want to share your thoughts about culture and start-up? I would love to hear from you.