Sometimes it’s crystal clear that it’s time to hire, like when you need to replace a professional who filled a critical role on your team, or when your company is opening a second local office. But what about those times when it's less clear that you need to add more employees?
In those situations, managers can feel like there's no right answer. If you hire someone when it's not necessary, you could end up dealing with an employee who's unhappy because he or she has nothing to do — or worse, having to lay off the person when you can't justify maintaining his or her position. But if you wait too long to add staff, you risk burning out your current employees and missing out on growth opportunities.
It can be a difficult decision for managers to make, but we're here to help. Here are some common scenarios that can assist you in determining whether you’re adequately staffed or it’s time to hire:
Growth vs. Survival
When your company has the right number of employees, you can think about the future of the business and the initiatives that will take you there. When you're understaffed, though, those things take a backseat. Think about whether these scenarios ring true:
Adequately Staffed: Employees are focused on their work and you're focused on yours. You're able to devote time to big-picture management issues.
Time to Hire: Big-picture issues? You can't recall the last time you were able to be proactive. Your team is so busy you've had to cover the gaps. It's not uncommon for you to greet customers, answer phones and ship packages, when needed.
Adequately Staffed: Your company has just landed a major new customer for your products. Everyone celebrates the great news and what it means for the organization.
Time to Hire: A major new customer? Not only do you feel deflated, but so do the people on your team. How in the world is everyone going to take on more work supporting that customer? You wonder why anyone pursued additional business in the first place, given the impact on employees.
Success vs. Struggle
Sometimes, you can tell whether it's time to start the recruiting process just by observing your current employees. Consider these scenarios:
Adequately Staffed: Your star employees are at their best. They’re wowing everyone they encounter with their excellent service and contributions.
Time to Hire: Employees who once earned accolades for their work are now missing deadlines, making mistakes and generating complaints.
Adequately Staffed: Your staff works hard and puts in the extra effort with occasional overtime when necessary.
Time to Hire: It’s no longer rare to receive emails from your employees time-stamped well after hours or on the weekend. People aren’t at the office late for special situations; it’s routine.
Adequately Staffed: People are for the most part healthy and present at work every day.
Time to Hire: Employees are out frequently due to illness, or they're showing up sick. Punctuality also is an issue, with staff members coming in late more than they ever did in the past. These are indicators people may be feeling the physical effects of stress or lack the same motivation they once had in their roles.
A Defined Position
It's important to make sure you have the workload, and the means, to support a new employee before you start recruitment. Here are two more scenarios to ponder:
Adequately Staffed: Everyone in your office has defined duties that make sense for his or her position, and no one has to take on an unreasonable amount of extra work for a long period of time.
Time to Hire: Your employees have set responsibilities but also keep picking up new duties whenever things come up, and there's no rhyme or reason to it — people simply get new assignments based on whether they're busy or not. Put all of those extra tasks together, and you'd have enough work for another full-time employee.
Adequately Staffed: Your firm is healthy and making money, and you're able to pay your employees at market rate, or above. But your profits aren't so high that you feel comfortable taking on another employee's salary and benefits.
Time to Hire: Your profits are good, and it looks like revenue will continue to rise well into the future. You know it's time to reinvest in your company, and hiring new staff will help you keep growing your business.
Don't Jump the Gun
Even if you identify with the time-to-hire examples, you shouldn't necessarily rush to add more employees. Instead, thoughtfully consider where you need help most, and for how long.
If you and your current staff feel overwhelmed because of a big project with a definite end date, it may make more sense to bring in temporary professionals just to support that project. When there's a defined set of duties that need to be fulfilled for the long-term, on the other hand, it's probably best to bring in full-time help.
In other words, when it comes to adding new employees, take some time to think about your needs for today, and for the future. A well-planned staffing strategy will ensure you’re not just adequately staffed now, but also in the months and years ahead.