5 steps to staffing right

1. Look at the big picture
Make sure you’re tuned in to your company’s overall business plans. Is your company planning to expand or change any competitive strategies? Even activities that don’t involve your team now may require your support further down the road. When in doubt, ask plenty of questions so you aren’t caught off-guard later.

2. Look at the small picture
What are the priorities for the department or its subgroups? Take a good look at what’s ahead and compare those projects with your personnel resources. Can your team realistically complete everything on the to-do list?

While you may need to ask your staff to work some overtime, this shouldn’t be your long-term plan for handling growing workloads. If people work extra hours with no relief in sight, you not only risk burnout but also the resignations of valued employees. Skilled professionals always have employment options, and they won’t wait around for you to hire appropriately.

3. Be honest about your employees
Next, write down the individual strengths of your team members. Do they have the necessary expertise for upcoming projects? If not, can they be brought up to speed through training in time to address new initiatives?

Recognize, too, that just because you have the right skills in your group, it doesn’t necessarily mean those skills are accessible. For instance, you may have an excellent technical writer on staff, but if that person is already booked with projects for the foreseeable future, he may not be able to help with documentation for a new product.

4. Mix it up correctly
Once you’ve determined your needs, it’s time to figure out the right balance of full-time and temporary staff that you’ll require to tackle them. List initiatives that will increase the need for personnel resources for a short time and those you expect to be long-term.

For example, you might note that your team will be particularly busy over the next three months while preparing for the introduction of a new software application. However, once the application is in place and they are comfortable using it, those demands should decline.

In situations where there are peaks and valleys in the workload, it may be best to consider the use of temporary employees. They can provide the flexibility and extra support needed only during busy times. However, if demands appear consistent throughout the year and you don’t have sufficient staff on hand, that’s a good indicator it’s time to hire full-time employees.

5. Make a list of what’s essential
Before you begin recruiting, establish clear hiring criteria. What skills are critical to performing the job successfully?

Be careful not to blur your “wish” and “must-have” lists. You may prefer to add a person who has an advanced degree, but would you be willing to overlook this requirement for the right experience? If you narrow your expectations too far, you may overlook candidates who are the best fit for your openings. In fact, when hiring conditions are competitive, you may not find anyone who fits all of your dream qualifications.

Staffing appropriately can be critical to giving your company a competitive edge. If you hire too many employees, you’ll cut into profit margins. Assemble the right mix of full-time and temporary staff, and you’ll be in a good position to help with changing business plans and demands. Taking the time now to assess your upcoming needs and get ready will help ensure you’re leading a group that’s well-prepared for whatever may come your way.

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