The battle for headcount is always raging, but there's hope on the horizon. More than a third of employers (36%) expect to add full-time, permanent employees in 2015, according to CareerBuilder's annual U.S. Job Forecast. This marks a 12% increase over 2014. The numbers are trending even higher in four key sectors: Information Technology (54%), Financial Services (42%), Manufacturing (41%) and Health Care (38%).
As a manager staring at the best job outlook since 2006, how can you make sure that your team gets some of that love?
1. Increase Your Visibility
You can't effectively influence what you can't see. If your team is overwhelmed and you suspect it's time to staff up, the first thing you need is a clear vision of what everyone's working on, who is maxed out and who has time and energy to spare, what projects are on the horizon, and what issues are in the way. This is best accomplished with a comprehensive work-management solution that gives you a bird's eye view of work as it's happening. Without complete visibility into all of your work processes and every individual's performance, you don't really know how efficient your team is being or how you are adding value. And until you know that, it's difficult to advocate for more hands on deck.
2. Rule Out Productivity Problems
Before you make a request for additional staff, make sure you've already addressed any endemic productivity or efficiency issues. Upper management is likely to ask you if you can't just accomplish more with your current team, so come prepared to describe the steps you've already taken to maximize individual and group productivity. It all starts with tracking your team's work, which brings us to tip #3.
3. Dive Into the Data
A simple system of tracking the right kinds of metrics can give you—and those above you—an objective view of your team's success that is not based on gut feel or anecdotal evidence. Make sure you have an ongoing record of:
• How many projects are on time
• How many projects are within budget
• How much value each project creates for the organization
• How many total team hours each project requires
• How much overtime your team is logging
But how should you track all this data? And how much of it should you share with upper management? Use a dashboard to display key metrics in a simple, easy-to-understand fashion. Over time, as you regularly report objective facts that help management understand your team's contributions, you'll build the kind of trust that will lend legitimacy to your requests for added staff.
Even if you have no staffing issues at present, start collecting these metrics today. Having a historical record that charts changes in workload as well as individual and team capacity over time will be key in making the case that you need a permanent, full-time employee instead of temp or part-time help—and that a brief upsurge in overtime hours won't solve the problem.
4. Present Stats & Solutions
Even without looking at any numbers, both you and your team members know that you need more help. You can feel the squeeze every day. But it's numbers that will make the case to those above you.
"Don't go in there saying, ‘I have too much work' because your boss has too much work, too," Joanna Broussard, president of the BizMark Group, told The New York Times. "It's much more politically astute to offer some solutions and ask for support."
Comb through all the data that you're gathering and prepare a simple, well-organized proposal. If you prepackage your request with a strong business case that outlines the benefits, provides relevant stats and ties in to organizational goals, you'll make the decision a no-brainer for your boss. Consider data points like:
• A list of work that's not getting done now
• How much overtime your team is logging and its impact on morale
• How much money you could save by onboarding a new employee vs. outsourcing the work
• What else your team could accomplish with additional help
• How all of the above impacts bottom-line revenue
• How the proposed resources support key company objectives
• The proposed salary range for your new hire
• An org chart showing how the new hire fits into your current structure
Be as brief and specific as possible with your stats, and be prepared to provide deeper context for each point if needed. Consider modeling your proposal off of another one you've seen at a current or former company, or use this sample proposal from The Manager's Resource Handbook as a starting point.
5. Learn to Say No
If you're seriously understaffed and your efforts to secure additional headcount have proved unsuccessful so far, you may have to pass some of the pain up the chain of command.
Start missing deadlines. Stop the uncompensated overtime. Tell management no on their next request, or ask them to tell you which ball to drop in order to absorb the new project. This may sound like a last-resort solution, but it will send the message that your team is at or above capacity. Asking team members to pull more than their weight for too long will destroy productivity and harm morale. And considering the high cost of employee turnover—from 50% to 200% of an employee's annual salary—it makes good business sense to avoid burning out your top performers.
As long as you're tracking the right kinds of metrics, you'll be able to demonstrate with cold, hard facts that your 'no' is justified. A comprehensive work-management solution with built-in reporting tools will make it easy for you to prove, for example, that while individual productivity has increased by 10% since last year, the number of project requests your team is handling has doubled. You now have a strong case for either a larger outsourcing budget or a new full-time position or two.
There's Power in Numbers
On sunny days and stormy days alike, during times of recession and times of growth, internal battles over headcount rage on—as predictably as the weather. To make sure that your staffing requests can rise above the clamor, build a strong foundation of trust with upper management that's based on complete visibility, provable productivity and unassailable data.
Then, when the numbers you're gathering support your hunch that it's time for a new hire, pull together a simple but thorough proposal that makes a compelling business case in support of your position. If you still get a no, remember that you have the power to say "No" as well—and that you have the numbers to back you up.
Get Blog updates straight to your inbox