Update Your Staffing Plan in 6 Steps


August 22, 2020


180 Engineering

To say that the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to disrupt the engineering and IT markets is an understatement. However, the frantic pace of change in the early days of the crisis are behind most organizations, and many have settled into revised business processes and working arrangements. The significant unknown is how long companies will continue to operate under those new arrangements.

This spring, we offered some thoughts as executives prepared to reopen their companies’ doors. Although the reopening realities look a bit different than we thought they might at the time of publication in April 2020, the thoughts relayed are still valid today. We encouraged business leaders to evaluate the markets they serve, identify areas of risk, and think about how to capitalize on new growth markets. 

For instance, for companies whose revenue streams rely heavily on new aircraft or office space construction—industries that will almost certainly be slow to recover—what opportunities are there to pivot to new growth markets? Perhaps there is an opportunity to serve manufacturers as many work to reshore some of their production, or maybe there is an opportunity to manufacture items to make at-home exercise and remote working more comfortable.

Many companies don’t need to restructure the markets they serve, but now might be the right time to invest in process automation to increase operational efficiencies. Unsurprisingly, a recent EY study revealed that 41 percent of executives accelerated investments in their automation strategies when the extent of the ongoing disruption caused by the pandemic became clear. More strategic use of artificial intelligence and robotic process automation technology might be the right priorities for the time. 

Regardless of the directions and priorities established, virtually every organization has been changed in a meaningful way. New staffing plans are likely needed, and now is a great time to tackle that project. Below, we offer some ways to do exactly that.

Six-Step Staffing Plan Creation Process

1. Create HR goals for each business unit or functional area. What are your organization’s goals and strategic direction, given the new market conditions? If a strategic business plan review process is not underway or has not been communicated effectively to the HR Department, a change is definitely in order.

Once the strategic direction and needs of the company are established, HR leaders will need to work with each business or functional area head to determine the level of HR support required for each area. For instance, perhaps one area of your company anticipates a virtual hiring freeze for the first half of 2021, but talent retention is an important goal requiring HR support. In contrast, maybe another group within your organization needs to hire electrical engineers and software engineers with IoT experience to support digital transformation priorities.

Meaningful strategy adjustments will likely be needed across your organization; therefore, goal setting needs to be a thoughtful process to assure HR is well-positioned to support the needed efforts.

2. Identify external influences. Although there are always factors outside of your organization’s control, this is an excellent time to revisit this issue and think about how changing market conditions are likely to impact your staffing plan. 

Do you need electrical and software engineers with IoT experience, but state and municipal labor statistics suggest that recruiting such talent will be especially difficult? If this is the case, do you need to consider a distributed team approach or a partnership with a specialized recruiter?

Additionally, are there new regulatory or worker safety constructs at play? If new regulations are impacting your industry, do you need to hire regulatory experts to help or find an external partner to fill the gap? Or there may be staffing changes directed by your company’s primary funding sources.

3. Analyze talent resources. With an understanding of your company’s goals and additional factors likely to impact your staffing plan, create an inventory of your company’s current talent resources for each business unit or functional area. Make sure to include all internal personnel, contingency workers, and consultants.

4. Establish needs. What talent resources will be needed to accomplish outlined goals and to navigate anticipated market conditions? What skills will you need? How many people will you need? Can some needs be filled by contract workers or consultants?

5. Recognize gaps. Where are the differences between where you are and where you need to be? What talent will you need to acquire, and how many positions need to be filled? Do you currently have team members whose skills are not currently needed, but who can be retrained? Are there areas where cross-functional or cross-department collaboration and resource sharing could be helpful?

6. Create an execution plan. How do you best use the information you have gathered to achieve the goals established at the beginning of this process? What will the HR team need to do to support the goals, given market conditions, lack of talent resources, or currently misaligned talent resources? What is the timeline, and what is the budget to accomplish the plan?

Few of us need to be reminded of how turbulent these times are. However, some of us need to be reminded that thoughtful planning, processes, and strategy review are vital. This was also true in recent years, given the accelerating pace of change. But now, more than ever, most plans should be considered working plans and revisited regularly. 


What is certain is that HR teams have critically important roles to play in helping organizations navigate these demanding times. If 180 Engineering can help don’t hesitate to contact us.