Key signs that it’s time to hire

You seem to be very busy and business is picking back up. It seems like it’s time to hire more employees to support this growth, but you don’t want to have to lay off staff if demand wanes. On the other hand, you also worry that your team could burn out if workload continues to be high.

How can you tell when it’s really time to hire? Here are some key signs:

  • Overtime is a daily occurrence. Long hours have become the norm for your employees rather than the exception, and this has been going on for some time.
  • Even your top performers can’t keep up with workloads. You’re receiving more requests for deadline extensions with projects or assignments turned in late.
  • There’s no delight in company growth. When your firm lands a major new client or plans to expand, you’re immediately worried about how your group will handle the resulting demands.
  • Complaints are on the rise. Employees who once received praise for their skills and dedication to customer service are now generating complaints from other departments, vendors and clients.
  • You have to decline or postpone growth opportunities. You now have the budget to invest in new initiatives, but simply don’t have the personnel to research and launch those projects.
  • You’re covering subordinate roles on your team. You’re so understaffed that you’re handling lower-level job duties in addition to your own management responsibilities.

If these signs sound familiar, you’re likely short-staffed. But that doesn’t mean you should immediately rush to hire. To ensure you’re making the best staffing decisions – ones you won’t regret in six months – consider the following steps:

1. Look at the big picture.

Many firms make the mistake of focusing on filling old vacancies the first chance they have an opportunity to add staff. While this may be a smart move if there remains a strong need for those roles, often demands have shifted over time.

Instead of looking at individual positions, evaluate your overall needs and your entire talent base. Where are there skills gaps within your group? Make a list of the abilities and knowledge that would benefit your team most right now.

Also consider the long term. What projects or business plans are on the horizon? For instance, if your organisation is planning to open an office in another country at the end of the year, you may need staff who are knowledgeable about international rules and regulations in such areas as accounting and finance. Do you already have the expertise in your company? If you expect demand for new skills or additional support to be ongoing, this is a good indicator that it’s time to hire more permanent employees.

2. Take a long-term stance.

By being proactive and taking the time to ensure you have both the plans and relevant members of staff in place in order to prepare for company growth and new opportunities, will mean your organisation can react quickly when times change. This will prevent you from being on the back foot and ultimately losing people and potential new business to the competition.

3. Know when you need flexibility.

If you’re less than certain about future prospects in certain areas or know that you’ll need a particular skill set for a short period of time only, consider bringing in contract or temporary professionals.

By turning to contract staff, you can quickly re-adjust your workforce based on shifting demand. You have the flexibility to add, or reduce, staff easily. In addition to supporting specific initiatives, contract or temporary professionals can help existing staff avoid burnout when workloads are at their peak.

4. Ask employees for their feedback.

Don’t forget to solicit input from your staff about where they see the greatest needs for additional resources. Even if you’re a manager at a small company, you still may not notice skills gaps as clearly as your front-line employees do.

For example, you might believe that your department needs more transactional personnel to handle daily responsibilities within the group, while your employees advocate for more experienced additions who can hit the ground running and support key projects. Give serious consideration to staff feedback before finalising your staffing plans.

Once you’ve developed a strategy and put it into action, be sure to make similar needs evaluations at least every six months. The earlier you identify staffing gaps, the better prepared your team will be to keep up with business demands.

Companies that invest time in achieving a balance between workloads and staff levels will keep morale high and position themselves to take advantage of new opportunities. Yes, it takes work to determine when it’s time to hire and what types of employees you need, but, as time goes on, you’ll be glad you made the effort.

Article last updated 17 July 2012