Free template

Headcount Planning

Connect HR, finance, and operations data to plan for your workforce needs in order to meet business goals.

Best for: Companies who need a more consolidated view of their HR, finance, and operating data in order to plan for new initiatives.
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What's inside this Excel headcount planning template

Workforce planning templates like this allow you to load your HR details by line items such as:

  • Employee Name
  • Employee Position
  • Location & Department
  • Annual Wage
  • Start & End Date

This workforce planning template is meant to be used to load Salary Budget & Forecast alongside your Headcount details.

Each period you can compare your headcount salary vs. budget and forecast, looking at trends and comparisons to revenue and profit to plan to make future demand goals that fulfill business needs, close skills gaps, and meet your company's strategic goals.

Use this workforce planning template with Cube

This is an Excel template. You don't need to be a Cube customer to use it!

But if you are a Cube user, you can start using this workforce planning template for Excel in under two minutes. Here's how.

Step 1: Open the template in Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets.

Step 2: Customize the row and column headers to match your Cube's dimensions and filters.

Step 3: Select the range where you want to fetch your data. 

Step 4: Fetch your data.

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All About Headcount Planning

Analyzing your profit & loss with regard to headcount is one of the most important steps in headcount planning.

Human capital is the biggest asset that any company has, and employee costs typically represent the biggest expense category. Getting the whole company aligned on vision and strategy, and then linking that to the hiring plan, is one of the most important activities of any FP&A professional.

What is headcount planning?

Headcount planning means building a forecast to estimate your future hiring needs. It takes the information you already know about your workforce and compares it to upcoming company goals.

By comparing your current staff numbers and skill sets against what you need to deliver on your roadmap, you identify gaps. This helps HR prepare to recruit the right people.

How to approach headcount planning

Strategically approaching headcount planning requires a blend of data-driven insights, forward-thinking, and adaptability that aligns with the overall objectives of the organization.

This involves making decisions about hiring, promotions, and possible downsizing, all while ensuring that these choices take into account the company’s budgetary constraints and financial goals.

By integrating predictive analytics into the headcount planning process, finance teams can transition from a reactive to a proactive stance, ensuring that they are well-prepared to address future workforce challenges.

The overarching goal of headcount planning is to strategically manage the workforce to support the organization’s objectives, ensuring operational excellence, financial efficiency, and a strong foundation for future growth and adaptability.

How does headcount planning benefit your whole company? 

If you’re checking out this template, you already know that headcount planning pays dividends.

Using this template to establish a strong headcount plan offers the following benefits. 

Establish accurate budgets

Budget season is stressful enough without encountering unknowns.

Workforce planning gives Finance the data it needs to create on-target budgets and properly account for salary and compensation in a growing organization.

Accurate workforce planning also minimizes the impact of indirect costs on the profit and loss statement (P&L).

Reduce employee burnout and turnover

Accurate capacity planning and associated headcount plans allow managers to distribute resources effectively to projects.

Having enough human capital on a project is key to reducing the overwork, skills mismatch, and tension that lead current employees to seek greener pastures.

Replacing employees is costly, and losing institutional knowledge is sometimes impossible. Strategic workforce planning reduces the conditions that lead your current workforce to churn.

Align skills to projects

Workforce planning helps hiring managers identify skill gaps that could affect the business strategy. Performing skill gap analysis on your current employees helps HR find the right candidates for open positions.

Minimizing skill gaps in your existing workforce makes it easier to lead the business in a strategic direction.

Understand workforce challenges

Strategic headcount and workforce planning requires that you check in on your existing employees. Conducting workforce analysis to understand your current workforce makes it easier to create a workforce plan that identifies the needs and makeup of your future workforce.

Who should be involved in headcount planning?

Workforce planning is a team sport. You need input from every level of the organization to understand needs and form an effective hiring plan. When preparing your plan, consider input from these key players:

Human resources

They often lead the charge for workforce planning, as human capital management (HCM) is most often connected to talent management. HR holds much of the data about worker demographics, pay scales, hiring data, and tenure. 

Workforce planning benefits HR by creating a hiring roadmap and defining the skills needed for future projects. HR is also responsible for personnel management, succession planning, and for organizing your workforce data.

Department leaders

These are your eyes and ears with regard to HCM. They bring an operational understanding of business goals. They’re also closest to the individual reports, so they understand attrition risk, career advancement plans, performance management, and personal aspects of talent management. 

Workforce planning helps department leaders get the talent they need in the door. It increases the likelihood of project success and ensures they’ll have the right assets in place to execute the plan.


It helps them create the budget, including the salary and compensation packages used to attract new talent to the business. When a department asks for a new headcount, most often, they make the business case to finance, which must approve the expenditure. 

Headcount forecasting gives Finance the data needed to create accurate forecasts and align spending with business objectives. 

9 tips for better workforce planning

For the best results in workforce planning, go beyond the spreadsheet to understand the larger impacts of hiring and attrition on your business. 

1. Align your departments

Communication is key when it comes to accurate capacity and human capital management. Before conducting a headcount modeling exercise, solicit advice and feedback from department heads, finance, and executive stakeholders.

Learn what projects are in flight and how the C-suite views future roadmap changes. Gaining consensus with the key players adds value and reduces friction in the workforce planning process.

2. Understand the big picture

Salary and compensation numbers are the beginning of accurately budgeting human capital needs. Keep an eye on the larger indirect costs associated with hiring, such as recruiting costs, training and onboarding, real estate, software spending, stipends, travel expenses, and employee enrichment.

While these costs may be small on a per capita basis, they can have an exponential impact on the entire business as the organization grows.  

3. Use the freshest workforce data

If your data isn’t in the best shape, take the time to centralize and sanitize your information. Confirm that data points are up-to-date:

  • Dates of hire
  • Pay scales and ranges
  • Educational data (degree advancements, etc.) 
  • Risk/attrition profiles
  • Competitive benchmarking data

Centralizing the data process allows stakeholders to help fill in the blanks. While you should assign a project owner to the data collection process, ask for input from hiring leads to make the process easier.

4. Opt for regular planning

Many companies that perform headcount planning commit to an annual review of staff numbers, skill sets, and business objectives. However, change is the only constant, so you may find performing adjustments more frequently to be beneficial. Any time your organization or a department undergoes substantial changes in its project plan or roadmap, adjust your assumptions and headcount model accordingly.

5. Track your progress 

Once your plan is in place, it's important to monitor progress and compare your assumptions to actuals. Establish metrics for measuring the performance of your headcount plan. If things deviate from the plan, you’ll have advanced notice and more agility in responding to changes. 

6. Perform skill gap analysis

A gap analysis is when you evaluate the difference between a current state and an ideal state.

Skill gap analysis applies this to the skillsets of your current workforce. To meet your company's key metrics and objectives, you want to ensure your individual employees have the right skills.

As you construct your workforce plan, include time for a skill gap analysis.

7. Think about succession planning

Succession planning is when you identify gaps in your existing workforce that need to be filled to meet your strategic goals. Succession planning helps you make an action plan to ensure the company's future success by seeing that those roles are filled in the years to come.

8. Create workforce planning templates for internal use

As you're working through your workforce plan, write out your process in a separate workforce plan template document. These process documents help your make informed decisions as you're monitoring progress, identifying workforce issues, and creating future workforce plans.

9. Don't overlook strategic values

Cultural fits are important to consider when creating a workforce profile template. What employee characteristics do you value the most? What are the competencies you expect them to have?

Be sure to include these in your workforce plan.

Common mistakes to avoid when using a headcount planning template

Using a headcount template in Excel can streamline workforce planning, but it’s crucial to avoid common mistakes to ensure accuracy and effectiveness. Here’s a summary of pitfalls to steer clear of:

Overlooking Data Verification: Always verify the data, especially if it’s been imported from other sources. Errors during data transfer are common and can significantly impact your analysis.

Ignoring Data Security: Employee data is sensitive. Ensure that your headcount template is securely stored and access is restricted to authorized personnel only.

Focusing Solely on Numbers: While quantitative analysis is crucial, don’t ignore qualitative aspects such as employee morale, skills, and performance, which are equally important for effective workforce planning.

Disregarding External Factors: External factors like market trends, industry shifts, and economic conditions can impact your workforce. Make sure to consider these when analyzing your template.

Not Leveraging Visualizations: Excel offers a range of data visualization tools. Not using them to their full potential can make it harder to interpret the data and draw meaningful conclusions.

Skipping the Documentation Process: Document any changes made to the template and the rationale behind them. This creates a reference point for future updates and ensures transparency in your workforce planning process.

By being mindful of these common mistakes and taking steps to avoid them, you can enhance the accuracy and effectiveness of your headcount template, leading to more informed and strategic workforce planning decisions.

Additional resources

Whether you’re looking to enhance your skills, streamline your processes, or adopt best practices, these guides and tools are designed to take your workforce planning to the next level.

Conclusion: Grab your free headcount planning template for Excel

Our free headcount planning template for Excel is designed to help you organize and analyze your workforce data.

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