How to plan for future hires when you can’t forecast

20 January 2021

If you were waiting for 2021 with bated breath, full of anticipation for a fresh start for your business, it’s safe to say you won’t have been alone. Many of us saw a new year as a sign of hope that business could get back to some sort of normality, including returning to recruitment strategies and growth plans.

Your business may have had to adapt to change over the last 12 months, and the future may look completely different from what you previously envisioned in a five-year plan. While 2020 was all about preparing to succeed in a new normal, 2021 will be about preparing to take yourself to the next level, which left many of us excited to embrace change.  

However, right now, it feels like we’re living in some sort of Groundhog Day. We’re facing yet another lockdown, and plans for the future once again have to be put on hold. At a time of year when we’d usually forecast and layout predictions for future recruitment needs, this task seems almost impossible. No one can predict what will happen to a business, what will happen in the world and when hiring will resume never mind what your employer brand and talent strategy should be.

However, we need to remember that a year is a long time, and a lot can happen in 12 months. With a lot of positive news coming through every day, there finally seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel. While it’s understandable that hiring managers are sceptical about planning for the future, it makes sense to put some plans into place to prepare for when we return to business as usual; we just can’t predict when that will be. It will pay to have a recruitment strategy in place ready for when things pick up again.

It’s okay if you don’t want to rush into hiring at a large scale when things remain so unclear, but it poses the question, how can you prepare to hire without forecasting?

Acknowledge the need for change

For many companies, 2020 was a year of change, redefining business models and re-evaluating who they are and where they want to be. Many employers had to undergo significant changes rapidly to keep up with the changing world: like shifting to a remote workforce, adjusting their employer brand messaging or digitising the business.

In 2021, although we may see the light at the end of the tunnel in many respects, it feels as though we should prepare to make more changes or at least prepare to complete the significant hires which we need for our adaptations to succeed. Businesses who have yet to adapt must realise it is necessary to keep up with the competition. In contrast, other companies like tech startups must prepare for significant growth as more and more individuals become reliant on their platforms. Whether the change is as small as deciding to hire an in-house developer rather than outsource or, it’s completely reinventing your workforce, planning for recruitment means planning for transformation.

For change to happen and for new hires to become successful, everyone in the business needs to acknowledge the necessity for them. The biggest obstacle to change is often getting everyone on board in the first place. While things remain so uncertain, you have a golden opportunity to try and get all stakeholders on board with your vision and create a robust plan to present to them.

To ensure you can prepare for future hires, you first need to think about what your business should look like in the future and how you need to hire to get you there. Do you need to embrace artificial intelligence to automate your systems and menial tasks? Would your website benefit from having an in-house developer fix bugs quickly and save outsourcing costs?

Segment your business

Once you’ve worked out your goals, aims and recruitment needs to help you achieve them it’s a good idea to segment your business into smaller more manageable chunks. Even if your business is relatively small, breaking it down into smaller areas can give you a bigger picture, helping you to identify areas to grow and where to invest your recruitment budgets.

Whether your current departments are unstructured, outdated or work well for your current business model, you need to align your workforce to new conditions if they are going to work to your new business goals for 2021. Break your team into segments, understand where change is needed and therefore, where you should focus your hiring efforts, to begin with. This way, you can form your recruitment strategy based on your redefined goals and with segmented departments in mind. Planning on a smaller scale, i.e. per department rather than for your whole business will make the recruitment process more manageable and flexible.

Redefine the roles you need

Acknowledging the need for change within your company means that the roles you need for your business to succeed may need to be redefined and altered. Redefining roles opens up a dilemma for many employers as it conflicts with loyal employees; you don’t want to let valuable team members go because you’re changing direction. However, this goes beyond loyalty – it’s about business continuity.

Try to think of your workforce objectively while engaging in talent mapping your team and assessing both the skills you already have and the skills you need. This way, you can plan for future hires and find ways to keep hold of dedicated and talented employees, even if it means shifting their department. Breaking down your business into chunks and departments will make this process much easier; you can compare different business areas and work out where new hires are necessary or where existing talent would be a good fit.

In the right organisation, talented and loyal employees can be reskilled to fit in with changing business models; their passion for the project and leadership will help them understand what a change in direction assures them a future in the business. Plus, remember your business isn’t the only one that’s changing. By redefining your loyal employees’ existing roles, you’re helping them further a career in a world that has undergone a significant transformation.

Be flexible with timeframes

Now is not the time to set yourself tight and rigid timeframes for hiring, instead set yourself goals but understand that you may have to be a bit more lenient with your time frames. You may not be able to hire a large amount of tech talent at the exact time that you planned; things may come up that take priority over budgets for example, or it may take longer for you to source talented individuals.

However, adjusting and being flexible with timeframes doesn’t mean you’ve failed; it means you’re keeping your businesses best interests at heart and are doing what is right for you at the time. Of course, there is nothing to stop you from reallocating your recruitment budgets and hiring the required talent later. Don’t give yourself or your business the added pressure of a tight deadline when no one can predict the future.

Talent Works are experts in helping businesses find the talent required to scale. Our flexible approach to RPO means that even when plans change or cannot be set in stone, you can access our range of recruitment services from employer branding and recruitment marketing to sourcing talent directly. We’re a flexible RPO provider with offices in Manchester and Northampton, UK as well as Boston, US.

Our services scale with you, meaning you can cut them back whenever needed, making it the perfect outsourcing option for a year when planning for recruitment isn’t always easy. If you’d like some advice on preparing for future hires, contact our experts to start a conversation.

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