How Backcasting Put a Man on the Moon—And What That Means for HR

Are you ready to take the next step in growing your business? Do you know what that next step should be? If not, how will you determine what’s most cost-effective or efficient? Growth brings with it a myriad of projects and undertakings: ACA compliance, employer branding, talent attraction, analytics, website development, cost management, succession planning—the list goes on and on. How do you get from Point A to Point Z without ravaging your budget or abandoning your timetable?

One word: backcasting.

What is Backcasting?

On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy stood before a joint session of Congress and made an astonishing announcement: he wanted the United States to put a man on the moon and return him to earth before the end of the decade. Kennedy believed that all the necessary resources and talent were already available, but that no one had ever created “long-range goals on an urgent timetable or managed our resources and our time so as to insure their fulfillment.”

President Kennedy was, in effect, backcasting. He envisioned a future goal, set a date for the accomplishment of that goal, and urged Congress and other involved parties to plan the steps that needed to be taken for its achievement.

The result? One giant leap for mankind.

At its heart, backcasting is the process of planning for a future goal by starting at your anticipated date of completion and working backwards:

Imagine where you want to be five (or ten) years from now.
Plan what you must do this year to reach that goal.
Plan what you must do this month to reach your annual goal.
Plan what you must do this week to reach your monthly goal.
Plan what you must do today to reach your weekly goal.

Backcasting timeline

That's backcasting.

How Backcasting Makes HR a Key Player in Strategic Business Growth

According to Business News Daily, HR now plays a more strategic role in business growth than it did in the past. That new role brings with it new responsibility for facilitating growth and development. It’s not just about management and support anymore. Running an effective HR department requires strategic planning to achieve the goals of the business. That can include a diverse range of growth tasks, such as:

  • Understanding and anticipating talent needs
  • Managing recruiting efforts to meet those needs
  • Building the infrastructure to support growth and new talent
  • Updating software to accommodate expansion
  • Planning for compliance issues, especially if crossing an ACA threshold

Each of these responsibilities requires lots of “how do we get there from here” brainstorming sessions. By incorporating backcasting into those sessions, HR can lead your organization forward confidently, planning for each contingency and preparing ahead of time for the implementation of each step in the process.

Need Additional Help? Partner With a PEO

Outsourcing part or all of your HR function to a professional employer organization (PEO) can also facilitate effective backcasting. For example, outsourcing your recruiting efforts can increase your networking reach and elevate your ability to attract and retain the right candidates. Partnering with a PEO to manage your HR function in its entirety removes the burden of administration from your shoulders, making it more feasible to reach the weekly, monthly, and yearly goals you have enumerated. The PEO will handle recruiting, compliance, employee onboarding, payroll, benefits participation, and many of the other tasks that accompany significant business growth.

Backcasting is a relatively simple concept that carries a powerful punch and helps you answer your business growth questions. Within the context of human resources, it has the ability to transform your growth initiatives and help you land your proverbial man on the moon.


About the Author: Susan McClure is our new resident content marketer at She writes about HR outsourcing, HRIS and general employment issues. When she isn’t writing, you might find her browsing shelves at the library, exploring a local hiking trail, or digging in the garden with her family and fur kids.