A Simple Strategy That Will Help You Hire More People
Overcoming the Frustration of Being Under Staffed
How many times have you seen a colleague ask for more resources? After all, their team was very busy and they could really use some more people. You’ve probably witnessed that discussion more times than you can count. Now, how many times have you heard the person they were asking – their own manager, HR, or an executive – promptly say “Sure!”? Probably never. All too often, I see managers ask for more people and more resources, but then fail to put any sort of solid rationale or justification together.
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Increasing Staff is A Liability
In the modern business era, there is constant pressure to tightly control staffing levels. The reason for this is that increasing the size of your staff represents a significant cost to the business. For many businesses that I have seen, the cost of an employee can represent as much as 30% – 50% above their annual wages, once you factor in things like benefits, insurance and bonuses. These values do not even include the upfront recruiting costs. Nor do these numbers include the hidden costs associated with training the new employee, since there will be a temporary drop in efficiency. Further, firms that use head hunters or professional recruiters will often pay an additional onetime fee of nearly 30% of the employee’s starting salary. So it’s a fact: hiring is costly, it is a distraction, and it is an unpopular request. But, sometimes hiring is actually necessary.
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Justifying A New Hire
Let’s face it, being under staffed is really frustrating. I often see exhausted managers complaining “We’re working non-stop. I keep asking, but my request never gets approved!” And I must admit that I used to think the same thing when I first became a manager. I would ask things like “How can they keep saying ‘no’ when I clearly need help?” Or “Imagine how much more we could do with just one more employee.”
Then, I was given some advice from a trusted colleague, who told me to take matters into my own hands. He suggested that I spend time collecting data to justify my reasoning. I had never thought about it in those terms, but it was completely true. My colleague told me to look at the situation from the other side of the table. “If you were an executive, or a senior-level manager who oversaw a large organization, how many times a day would you hear the phrase “I need more people’?” It made perfect sense. Hiring is tough, and usually an unwelcomed topic. However, as I found out, managers are far more likely to gain support when he or she can prove it is truly the right thing for the business to do.
Gathering Data to Make a Case
So I began my quest for data. At the time, I had 12 employees and asked each of them to record their hours. Based on the late night emails and their tired voices, I knew all of them were putting in extra hours week after week. I specifically told them to record actual hours spent on the job, not just the tasks they spent time on between the hours of 8 to 5 PM. After six months of gathering data, I determined that my team of 12 had averaged around 52 hours per week over that six month period. That was the equivalent of full-time work for 16 people. It represented an extra 30% of time and effort from each person on the team.
From a management stand point, the data was clearly concerning. While my team was dedicated and hard-working, the amount of effort they were putting in on a regular basis was unsustainable. Something would eventually, as is always the case when a team is over worked, falter and cause a larger issue. Quality of work would slowly diminish, employees would burn out, and some may decide to find another job.
Using Evidence to Drive Decisions
I collected the data and evaluated the team’s workload. I prepared my evidence. When it came time for a face to face meeting with the Vice President of my organization, I started by sharing our vision for growth. The plan outlined new product development ideas which we believed would help make the firm more competitive. As part of my strategy, however, I included the need to increase staffing. Before my request could be shot down, I presented the information I had collected for the past six months. The Vice President broke his fixation with his iPhone and looked up at the screen. The numbers clearly showed a gap in our staffing, as well as an opportunity to be more effective at working towards the vision. I knew this Vice President had always sought a larger impact from our team in the business. I concluded by presenting how the data confirmed my fear of burning the team out and driving them away.
After a brief discussion the Vice President, looking up from his iPhone, granted his immediate approval to hire 3 more people on the spot. He acknowledged that the evidence was clear and the vision and future goals we were working towards. I was stunned. But then again, the data did not lie. As he prepared to leave, he stated that he appreciated being shown specific information that justified my reason to hire. “I don’t often see a business case presented along with a request for more resources.”
Make a Business Case
For managers, the lesson here is to understand the power and importance of making data driven decisions. Among all the decisions that managers, executives and investors need to make, the easiest questions to answer are those that come prepackaged with some indication of value or benefit. Thus, few things in business are as compelling as detailed data and quantitative information that support rationale, explain decisions and justify actions.
Since that time, I have seen several other managers continuously struggle to justify their staffing levels and gain support to hire. I make it a point to share the same advice that I once received. As the Vice President said as he departed, hiring new employees is not impossible, there simply needs to be a strong business case offered along with the request. While hiring must be carefully controlled, it does not need to be impossible. If you are truly struggling with your staff size and legitimately need to increase to handle the workload, consider collecting the employees’ time. What will the increased staffing level do for you? How will it help? If you don’t get those people, what might be some of the impacts? Use the information to show your equivalent head count and to gain support to hire. Decisions are far easier to make when they are driven by data.
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