Workforce Planning and how to reduce ‘emergency hires’

Workforce Planning and how to reduce ‘emergency hires’

Time to Hire, Cost per Hire, Hiring Failure Rates, Stay Rates, Attrition Rates, the list goes on…

The future?  It’s all about Workforce Planning (WFP)  Get this right and the talk of woe around the above KPI’s are maybe not a thing of the past but should become a measure of satisfaction and improvement rather than dismay when presented at any Board Meeting.

How does a business tackle Workforce Planning?  The answer is actually very simple; it’s all about engagement.  The HR community needs to be close to the Decision Making Units (DMU), i.e. those in a position to know what the strategic goals of the business are.  What new products and/or services are being released or brought to market?  When?  Are the right people with the right tools in the right place?  What training is needed?

Previously I worked as the Head of Resourcing for a major FS organisation with over 7000 employees across four UK locations.  Through effective engagement and explanation of the reality of the timescales using specific examples, we secured a near 80% accuracy in WFP over a 2 year period.

A new product release in June meant the business started to hire in the September and October of the year before.  The combined timescales of the recruitment process, the on boarding, and the necessary training required from the Government authorities took 6 months.  With this knowledge, we had time to create an attraction strategy and engage with potential candidates.  It gave us time to produce a robust recruitment process to assess these individuals, other areas of the HR community could plan for training, and office planners could look at desks, IT and other working infrastructure issues.

Another critical aspect was to invite key strategic recruitment partners at all levels to a quarterly planning and update meeting which was hosted by the Resourcing Team but had members from the individual businesses that knew they would have future hiring requirements.  This gave our recruitment partners an advanced view of what the business was doing and they could keep an open mind to candidates who passed through their system.


Yes it took time, yes it took preparation but in the long term virtually zero “emergency hires” were made, temporary or contract staff costs were reduced, and time to hire and cost per hire metrics remained within budgeted timescales and cost parameters.  Candidates were better prepared because our recruitment partners were more up to date with what was going on and their experience scores were considerably higher than 12 months earlier when the business was more in a reactive recruitment mode.

How many Sales Directors have you heard lament “If only I’d had my Sales Manager in place 6 months ago, I’d have hit my targets or not lost a key client to my competition”?  The average Executive Search process takes between 6-8 weeks followed by 1-2 weeks’ worth of negotiation, offer production and receipt and then an 8-10 weeks’ notice period.  If a business does not take its WFP seriously, the new hire will not even be going through an on boarding process with their new employer for nearly 5 months!  This is not scare mongering, it is simply a reality.

We are now in April.  How many organisations are looking to release a new product in 3 months’ time or have someone leaving a critical role and are only just starting to think about hiring?  If you are one of them, you might need to reset your expectations and potentially plan for some sort of Interim cover.

The negative impact can be seen on virtually every KPI except Time To Hire which comes down to virtually zero and looks great in terms of statistics but in reality this is not a good thing for a company to be proud about.  Why? Because hiring managers start making decisions on candidates based on them being in place on time and not necessarily being the “right fit” for what is required.  Costs go through the roof.  Companies throw the whole advertising budget at it to “attract more people”, and agencies are used to secure temporary staff to “plug the gaps” until the permanent staff members have worked through their notice period.

Is the company comfortable?  I seriously doubt it.  Should they have planned better?  Clearly.  Did they understand the recruitment timescales?  I’d suggest not entirely.  By failing at these, the strain on the business is evident.  These KPI’s are useful metrics to use, however, I would challenge any organisation to see no benefit in considering its goals and its WFP issues.

Executives in Africa’s Managing Director, Sarah Fitzgerald, has just returned from Lagos, Nigeria, where she delivered a Masterclass at the HR Expo Africa 2018 on ‘Practical Tools to Attract, Engage and Match top Talent’.  Workforce Planning featured highly in her one hour presentation.  An official video of this presentation will be available on line soon – please do get in touch if you would like a copy.

In theory, if you can create a culture where your whole company, not just HR, buys in to effective Workforce Planning, then you can avoid ‘emergency hires’ and therefore avoid expensive recruitment and Search Fees.  In the meantime, whilst you strive to create this, Executives in Africa will be on hand to quickly provide you with our talent acquisition search capabilities where the need arises.

If you are interested in speaking to me further about how I have seen effective Workforce Planning in action, and how to engage the business in investing the required time to achieve this, then please do contact me, Simon Easter, at to arrange a suitable time to speak.

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