Raising the Bar on Headcount Planning with Luan Lam

July 7, 2020

Originally posted on Lever, written by Alicia Garibaldi.

Luan Lam, VP of People at Harness IO, will speak at the Next Concept HR Association 2019 Talent Acquisition Summit on Thursday, June 13th at Golden Gate University. Lam will present, Full Cycle Recruiting is More Than Filling Jobs to open the Summit at 8:30 a.m.

Learn more and register at nchra.org.


Luan and I have known each other for years, and as both VP of Talent at Harness and Talent Advisor for the VC Unusual Ventures, he’s had his share of overcoming hurdles when hitting hiring plans, all while scaling companies for high growth. In fact, he built up the talent at AppDynamics, growing from 115 to 2,000 employees in just five years.where you can hear from professionals on full cycle recruiting, reality based hiring, and more! We’ll end the day with a diverse panel discussion on alternative sources of talent.

In February this year, my good friend Luan Lam, VP of Talent at Harness IO, and I teamed up to host a 30-minute webinar on all things headcount forecasting. It was a blast, with nearly 100 questions pouring in prior to the webinar for Luan to address during the session.

Which is why it was such a treat to sit down with him and discuss this complicated topic. Of course, we had more questions than we could answer, so we decided to publish a post with more of Luan’s expert advice. Keep on reading to discover our expert’s answers to the following five headcount reporting challenges!

How do you figure out headcount when expanding globally?

We know all too well at Lever that expanding globally can greatly impact talent forecasts and headcount plans. We just opened a Toronto office, where our recruiting and talent teams at Lever are going through this very process. So what do you do if your company decides to expand? And how can you help advise on the best locations to open a new office in?

According to Luan, it’s a numbers game. You need to understand the DNA of your company and how many candidates you actually need to put into the pipeline to convert the number of hires necessary for success.

Says Luan, “I think as the leader or as the recruiter, if you have a number of candidates in the pipeline, this is actually when you understand your own DNA in terms of how many candidates you can actually put into the pipeline that will convert as well.”

Takeaway: Understanding conversion metrics, from app to hire to your time-to-hire by role, can make all the difference in driving these conversations.

How do you calculate when to add more recruiting headcount to your division?

Once again, looking to your numbers is critical to finding the answer here. “At the end of the day, the numbers don’t lie,” says Luan. “For example, if now the plan calls for 300 headcount and you have a capacity of recruiters that can only do 250 headcount for the year, then your gap is about 50 headcount that you have to hire for. That is when you go back to your management team and actually ask for the additional resources.”

Takeaway: Are there resources that you aren’t considering today that might make your recruiting teams more efficient?

Is it common for finance & TA teams to not be on the same page?

For many organizations, it’s about having the right collaboration tools in place to help strengthen ties between teams. “I think having an integration into WorkDay, for example, syncs everything seamlessly,” says Luan. “Integrations into Lever also help so that you can forecast how many hires you have to hit in that particular month or in a particular quarter to plan accordingly.”

Do headcount plans typically always blow up by the 3rd or 4th quarter?

They don’t have to, not when you have the system and processes in place to help you keep things on track. Applying a sales mindset to your recruiting team can also help here because you can set hard goals and work together to hit them.

“Running the recruiting team like a sales model helps because at the end of the day you have to have a number of recruiters to get the number of hires for the company, just like the number of sales reps to get the number of revenue for the company — and you should use the same analogy when you go and justify for more resources,” says Luan.

“But you have to know your data, you have to scrub your data, and again, it goes back to what I was saying about having good hygiene of leveraging a system like Lever with a track. Then you would have all the analytics available to you.”

Takeaway: If your current ATS isn’t supporting you with the data you need, then it’s time to research your options. Get things started with these three easy steps.

How do you forecast in a startup environment with little data?

This is a tough one, because you really are starting from scratch. First and foremost, though, be sure to choose the right agencies and technology partners to work with. Second, establish the company’s vision and story — and use that to inform your goals for the early years. Third, get your capacity modeling in place so you can make key hires that will in turn help you hire the right roles as your company scales.

“Creating or articulating the vision/direction of the company and how do you get people to buy into that vision and direction of the company,” says Luan. “At some point, to actually have your story right. Your ability to tell the story but to make sure that you tell your own story in your own words and not reading it from a script. That is an employment advice that I have gotten and utilize to this day.”

Luan also shared his love for Lever’s new Agency Portal when consulting for all of the companies he advises at Unusual Ventures. “I think it is important to first, make sure that you select the right agencies to work with and second, ensure you can leverage Lever to forecast for their upcoming headcount plans,” he says. “When I advise with Unusual Ventures, we typically set them up in Lever, so when they submit a candidate to us, they actually stay within our systems, so we can forecast and track the process.”

Prior to that internal headcount planning, he says, capacity modeling comes into play to ensure that there is a level setting per role: “For instance, building that advisor partnership as your second set of arms to work with to ensure that companies are hiring for the right roles to scale growth.”

Curious to hear the rest of Luan’s tips and answers? Watch the on-demand recording of Headcount Forecasting: Ask the Expert!

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