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Maximize Your Holiday Headcount Strategy to Start the New Year Out Right

October 12, 2020

2020 has thrown businesses across the country for a loop. While some companies were decimated by the pandemic and the aftermath of recovery events, others found themselves under tremendous pressure to staff specialized talent to cope with additional and unexpected needs.


Even if your company was able to weather the economic storm of 2020, we’re all bonded by the uncertainty companies surely felt at some point this year. While many companies were caught completely unprepared at the beginning of the year, 2021 is right around the corner, and it’s time to take the learnings from this topsy-turvy year and apply them to next year.


Get this: 70% of HR executives understand the need for workforce transformation, but only 37% of these same leaders are confident their HR departments can make future progress.



Companies that were smooth sailing at the top of 2020 suddenly experienced:

  • Furloughs
  • Layoffs
  • Uncertainty in workforce planning
  • Budget cuts
  • Dips in morale
  • Pivots in hiring
  • Lack of talent
  • Glut of talent
  • Product changes


With these changes impacting companies worldwide, many, if not most, experienced wild ebbs and flows in workforce management, revealing the increasing need for talent and outsourcing solutions that scale and flex with business needs.

Do you have a #headcountstrategy going into the holiday season? You need to have the right number of people with the right skills in the right roles so your company can execute its #businessstrategy. Get tips from @IQTalent:Click to Tweet

Executives and HR Managers already know that talent costs and goals align across the organization, but what to do when those goals are changing as rapidly as they have?


That’s where headcount planning comes in! You need to be sure you have the right number of people with the right skills in the right roles so your company can execute its business strategy.


Creating a flexible, strategic headcount strategy will ensure HR Managers can make sure they start 2021 off right. Here’s how:

Identify Your Current Challenges

This seems fairly obvious. However, we encourage our clients at IQTP to really look at their talent needs. Chances are, these have been a little skewed lately and will change again. If you find yourself slower on the holiday season, use this time to your advantage. When identifying your current challenges, ask yourself these questions:

  • How are your customers’ needs evolving?
    • Have their needs changed due to COVID or the after-effects?
    • Is this change permanent or temporary?
    • Do you offer a solution that tracks with their needs now?
  • How has your competition evolved? Many businesses are trying to shift models or offer new services or products to stay relevant during this difficult period. Pay close attention to how your competitors are handling the change. Is there a hole you can fill? What kind of staff will you need to compete with a model you’d like to emulate or evolve for your own business?
  • Are you in need of new tech, automation, or other innovations? As nearly every company finds itself changing, many are keenly aware of how business continues to get done. Assessing your processes, programs, and people to find gaps and overlaps is essential to keeping momentum into 2021.
  • Do you need to grow within your current market or expand to new markets? In some cases, the market you had at the beginning of 2020 may look very different from the one you’ll be serving at the beginning of next year. This may mean a cultural shift in who you hire or a new approach to the openings you’ll be filling.
  • Will the business add products or services or focus on the existing offerings? Pivoting needlessly out of fear can happen, so look at the larger picture to determine your next steps.
  • Is there anything on your product roadmap that has changed or been delayed? Moved ahead? You’ll need to make staffing decisions accordingly, so this is a big part of the process.

After you answer these questions, you’ll have a better idea of what your team will need to handle.


Establish Your Metrics. All Metrics.

Your headcount planning strategy needs to be free of bias, guesswork, and any room for error. Establish the metrics by which you’ll determine if your current teams are appropriately staffed going into the holiday season and, if not, the difference between where departments currently perform and where they need to be.


To get started, focus on:

  • Position requirements
      • Do you have the skills you need?
      • Are there skills or requirements you could remove?
      • Do you have enough bandwidth in the position to manage current workload?
      • Do you have positions that prepare your workers for “the next step”?
    • Performance metrics. Before you begin headcount planning, you need to know where your current performance is. Productivity levels have fluctuated so wildly over the last three quarters; you might have to dig deep to find accurate numbers. Keep in mind that productivity is difficult to measure when the workforce is under prolonged stress.
  • Skill sets, certifications, licenses
  • Turnover and retention rates. These might be tough to gauge for the past year. However, rather than go back to pre-COVID numbers for 2021 staffing goals, consider finding a general average or comparing turnover rates averaged over the past three years to the current year. There may be a similar trend in the numbers to help you glean more insight than 2020 numbers alone.
  • Opportunities for growth and succession planning. Organizational charts have gone somewhat out of fashion these days, but when it comes to the path of a role or career, they’re pretty helpful. Look for the job before the job and after the job. You may find that three jobs can move into two roles, each with room for advancement or growth potential. Or you might realize what was once an FTE only role could be handled by a contractor based on seasonal changes. Bottom line: Identify these opportunities and mark them for employees craving career advancement.
  • Salary data. This might be all over the map as well. Once again, look at what you and your competitors were paying before the pandemic and get a sense of where inside that range you fall. Have your compensation bands changed? If you’ve furloughed or laid off staff, are you planning on replacing them or having them return in the new year?


Then, put those metrics to work and think outside the box. Which roles are critical right now? Which positions can you do without? If you’re experiencing high turnover, what’s the leading cause (that you can control)? Is there room for growth within the company?

Creating a #headcountstrategy going into the holidays is the best way #HRManagers can make sure they start 2021 off right. Check out these tips to create your roadmap with @IQTalent:Click to Tweet

Identify Skill Gaps

Any changes you’ve already seen in your company throughout 2020, along with any changes you anticipate, could create massive skill gaps within your team. When supply chains break, for example, sourcing becomes the priority. When sales departments lose clients, suddenly cold calls and attracting new business becomes the priority. If your current team isn’t ready for these changes, you’ll need to respond accordingly.


Work with management, as they can identify these gaps best! They'll recognize changes in their department’s needs and help align current employee strengths to close the gaps and identify when there’s a need for new talent.


Project Total Costs

Once you acknowledge your business challenges, metrics, and skill gaps, it’s time to project how much you’ll have to dip into your budget to close the holidays and the year. Sourcing, hiring, onboarding, and training probably won’t cost the same for your department as it did pre-COVID. You may need to try new agile, efficient, and cost-effective tactics to meet the moment. Prepare yourself to start at square one. If you already have a talent pipeline, it’s time to utilize it and attract passive, interested talent.


Bonus: Here’s Your Go-to Candidate Pipeline Projection Tool


The Best Strategy for Normalcy

Headcount planning is the best way HR departments can begin to feel a sense of normalcy and control toward the end of a very uncertain year in talent acquisition. Your headcount strategy connects strategic organizational priorities and budgets to talent management. It can align leadership at all levels to manage the needs of individual departments and the company as a whole.


When you have a clear roadmap for success, along with metrics to refer to, your company is sure to maximize on the holiday hiring season and start the new year with the talent you know will help you reach your company-wide goals.


Augment Recruitment During the Holidays to Attain 2021 Hiring Goals

Even a clear headcount planning roadmap can leave room for uncertainty. You can see where you need to be and what talent you need to get there, but that doesn’t answer how your team will source and recruit.


Outsourcing your recruiting function is the perfect way to be sure your headcount planning strategy is solid. But, that’s not to say you need to hand over your process completely. Reach out to our experts to see how we’re revolutionizing talent acquisition with a transparent, scalable, and adaptable model while augmenting your in-house team.


The recruiting you need. When you need it. Contact IQTalent Partners today