Entering into a growth phase is an exciting time for any business, but it also comes with uncertainty — there's no money-back guarantee if a new product, territory or client signing falls flat. So if you're the one charged with determining the staffing needs to support these ventures, you'll want to make doubly sure that you get it right to give your company the best chance of success.

If your business has big things brewing this year, read on for tips on how to set your staffing levels correctly. 

1. determine your business goals

Your personnel needs are directly related to your business goals, so before you start assessing staffing levels, link up with senior leadership and gaze into your company's crystal ball. What are your organization's main growth objectives for the future? Are they looking to take on new clients, sell into a new territory or launch a new product? The answers to these questions will help you get your bearings when it comes time to put a number to headcount.

what to do: 

  • Have strategic decision-makers lay out their growth plans over both the short and long term. A good spread would be to understand where the company wants to be in one, five and 10 years. 
  • Take note of any initiatives that will require new teams to be formed, expanded or relocated.
  • Prioritize immediate hiring needs, but break ground on a talent acquisition strategy to start building a candidate pipeline to cover future needs. 
crystal ball

get a good sense of your company’s plans for the future: this will be the foundation of your staffing needs assessment.

2. assess your existing workforce 

Now that you've identified your company's plans for growth and zeroed in on some major areas of need, you may be tempted to head straight to the hiring market. But doing so at this stage would be premature. To arrive at the right number of people for your future workforce, you need to take your existing one into account. Any opportunity to streamline operations you identify in this phase is one less new hire you'll have to make.  

what to do:

  • Analyze productivity and workflow to identify areas of improvement. It may be that certain duties can be dispersed among existing employees rather than a new hire.  
  • Identify candidates for promotion. If it's new leaders you'll need for the future, put top performers on the fast track to prepare them for leadership roles once the need arises. 
  • On the flip side, conduct a skills-gap analysis to pinpoint the major competencies that can't be fulfilled by your existing workers. What you uncover here will help you know what skill sets to focus on when sourcing external talent.

you’ve got a team of top talent already assembled: look for changes you can make to your existing workforce before searching for new hires.

3. crunch the numbers  

You've got a clear idea of the big picture and the various roles your existing workforce will play in shaping it — now it's time to figure out how many new hires you'll need. Use the insight you gleaned from your initial meetings with company strategists as well as the analysis you did of your current staff to guide you. 

The key is to match projected future initiatives with similar ones your company has already completed to calculate the correct level of coverage for all departments that will play a hand in expansion. Demonstrate the methodical approach you took to arrive at your final number, and you'll stand a much greater chance of getting sign-off to bring on new recruits.

what to do:

  • Look at past initiatives to estimate headcount: How many sales reps does it take to cover a given territory, or what kind of volume has a new product launch driven for your customer service team in the past? 
  • Calculate the costs you can expect to incur from each hire: A good rule of thumb is to add 20 to 25 percent on top of the salary you'll be paying to account for benefits, new equipment and extra office space. 
  • Prepare your final headcount projection (along with the total costs) well in advance to ensure you have your staffing needs met before new plans are set in motion — otherwise you'll be placing a major strain on your existing workers. 

past is precedent: review past staffing levels for similar programs to estimate future headcount.

leverage your existing staffing system

Defining your staffing needs can be challenging, so use your company’s current or past staffing programs as a starting point for setting headcount. If you don’t have an existing system, follow the steps outlined here to get an understanding of the amount and type of people your business needs in order to grow. 

If you just don't have the time to dedicate to building a staffing strategy on your own, consider partnering with a staffing agency. Working with a staffing agency can help you:

  • get an accurate read on your current and future staffing needs 
  • find quality talent quickly by accessing pre-established candidate networks 
  • design tailored staffing strategies to ensure you always have coverage — no matter how big or small the initiative may be 

For more staffing tips that you can use, visit the Randstad Learning Center, or get in touch with us today to discuss how we can work together.