Deciding when to hire is one of the biggest challenges you’ll face while scaling your brand, and we talked all about how to know when the timing is right for it in this post.
Today, we’re taking the conversation one step further and helping you figure out who to hire. A salesperson or a marketing manager? A developer or an IT administrator? Each position brings unique skills and can impact your operation in different ways.
Follow these steps to figure out which position you need most for your next hire and how to make sure it has the biggest impact for your business.
It might sound obvious, but timesheets are one of the most overlooked tools for assessing your staffing needs.
If you have hourly workers, this will be easy, as time is logged daily. If your workers are salaried, time tracking isn’t as straightforward, but there are plenty of applications to help you do it. Project management platforms like Basecamp or Asana are good options. Keeping an eye on what time people arrive and leave for the day also works, as does having regular check-ins with department heads about the hours their teams are logging.
The idea here isn’t to micromanage every minute of your staff’s time; rather, it’s to monitor for situations when someone on the team is overworked for an extended period. If they’re a good employee and it’s not a skills or productivity issue, then this is a surefire sign that position is a good place to look at adding more hands for your next hire.
Monitor Work Activities
Not every hour of work is equal in terms of business output. The content of the time your employees are spending matters as much as the quantity, and it’s up to you to make sure your people are spending their time doing the work that A) they were hired to do and B) produces the proper business outcomes.
For example, is a high-level developer who you hired to build custom applications consistently spending most of their day working on minor website updates? This is a poor use of the time you’re paying a premium for.
If you notice someone consistently working outside their core competency, especially if they’re doing work at a lower level than they were hired to do, it’s an indicator where your next hire should be. Bring in a lower-level person like a junior developer or website administrator so the higher lever person can get back to working on more impactful projects.
If a person is consistently doing work that’s above their job title, this is actually a great problem to have as it presents an opportunity to promote from within, which helps with retention. Move that person up the staffing chart with a pay bump to match and hire someone to replace them at their current level.
As a rule of thumb, employees should be spending about 75 to 80% of their capacity on their core skills--work that matches their job description. The other 20 to 25% should be spent on growth initiatives, like professional development, and special projects, which give them an opportunity to cross-train or flex their creative muscle (more on this in a minute).
Assess Your Depth Chart
Is there any position on your team that’s only one person deep? Meaning, if John suddenly decides to hop on a plane to Aruba and never come back, would things fall apart? This can be a good indicator of where to hire.
People leave their jobs all the time, and not just for spontaneous island vacations. They get sick, have family emergencies, get irresistible offers from other employers, decide to go back to school, move, and even pass away. Failing to plan for these inevitable departures is an error that will hamper your growth.
This isn’t to say you need to have at least two people in every position; that wouldn’t be practical. Rather, when hiring, you should be mindful to allow enough overlap in skills that if one person on the team leaves, someone can take over in the interim without the operation grinding to a halt. It’s a must to cross-train and have defined backup roles to maintain business continuity.
The “special projects” we touched on earlier are a good way to encourage collaboration and help staffers master skills outside their core job function.
Create A Pipeline
When your team is small, each new hire tends to be a big production. Advertising the position, gathering resumes, and conducting interviews all have to happen for every single open role.
As you grow, though, this way of hiring isn’t sustainable. You need to create a hiring pipeline. A hiring pipeline ensures a steady stream of qualified candidates is always on deck so that when you need to make a hire, you don’t have to start from square one every single time.
We’ll use the developer example from earlier to show what that might look like.
You notice that your developer is spending a lot of time making routine updates to your website in Wordpress--a task that hardly makes use of his development expertise. You hire an intern at an hourly wage and train her to make the Wordpress changes.
The intern works for you all summer and becomes a master at executing site updates. In the fall, you hire her on as a junior developer and bump your developer into a senior role. Because the intern has been hanging around all summer, she reaches full productivity quickly and can even take on a few additional duties.
In addition to bringing a constant stream of talent into your company, hiring interns is an easy way to secure employees who are already experienced with your culture and processes and have working relationships across your organization. Offering a full-time job to these interns after graduation is one of the best ways to hire entry-level staff that can hit the ground running and have an immediate impact.
So, you repeat the process the following semester. By the time your senior developer jumps ship for his dream job at Google a few years from now, you’ll have a whole roster of seasoned developers that can cover his duties in the interim or take his place entirely.
Use this pipeline model in every department of your company as you grow so that your next hire is a no-brainer and doesn’t require finding someone from scratch.
Not every next hire should be a person.
If you follow the steps above, you’ll quickly get a good handle on how everyone on your team is spending their time. Are any of the tasks low-level, easily repeatable ones that could be executed by a machine?
Marketing, customer service, fulfillment, and accounting all involve tasks that can be automated to save time and reduce costs. Investing in technology instead of or in addition to hiring could be the right answer.
Although automation may come with a larger up-front investment, it can save you the cost of several salaries over the long term--money that can be used to hire for roles that require uniquely human skills like creativity and problem solving.
When people are consistently overworked or feel like their skills aren’t being used fully, they don’t stick around for long. So, proactive hiring isn’t just a necessary step to successfully scale your business; it’s also key to retaining the excellent employees who help you stand out, and no amount of automation or marketing can replace that.
We’ve covered a lot, so let’s summarize: ensure your business has the staff it requires now and in the near future by monitoring to predict your needs and aligning those needs with the skills you hire for. Simplify future hiring by creating a pipeline for cost-effective, impactful entry-level employees and promote them from within. Protect business continuity with cross-training. Use technology to automate processes and scale up the business without having to add headcount as the company grows.
If you follow these steps, hiring isn’t a guessing game but a carefully mapped strategy that ties back to your business objectives and supports your continued growth.