Need to know: employee numbers

How many people work in each of the product areas? How has this figure changed in recent years?

While all HR professionals are likely to have easy access to the overall employee numbers for a business, it’s important to recognise that different businesses have different levels of sophistication in terms of their HR database. What this means is that while breaking down staff numbers by product area may be a very simple thing if your company has access to global databases, in other firms that haven’t got access to these systems it may actually be quite difficult, especially if they have global product offerings.

This is especially true for any company making acquisitions or carrying out a widespread restructure, as large amounts of data will need to be regularly updated. In these cases, it’s important to focus less on knowing the precise figure, and more on understanding the general picture.

On a similar point, if product or service areas change, this can have a knock-on effect on job descriptions and role priorities, which means that the detailed changes in the numbers of people working in each area can be impossible to quantify.

Regardless of how precise the data, you will be able to gather an overview of the numbers and changes. What’s vital is to know why the numbers have changed in the way they have, whether it’s for positive reasons or not, and what the influences are. Does it show a growing or a shrinking business, or a change in strategy and priorities?

You can then use this information to help you forward plan on your manpower and talent development because you can see which areas are growing and what skills are going to be important in the future. You can also see any areas that are becoming less important, which will help you prepare for any possible redundancies or role changes.

Ultimately, while the precise number is just a starting point, the important thing to remember is that this information can be used as a tool to watch how your business is growing and changing. This can put you a step ahead when it comes to planning your people management strategy, which will enable you to make more proactive, more strategic decisions. It will not only benefit the business, but also improve the perception of HR within the company.

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