Build Your Case: Increasing Headcount on Your Team

How can you justify an increase in staff? This question is easily one of the most frustrating things for hiring managers. You feel your team is understaffed and overworked. Even worse, you’re starting to worry about employee morale and the quality of work being pushed out the door.

So, what are some of the reasons it’s so hard to advocate for more staff? And more importantly, how can you overcome the common objections raised by the decision-makers when it comes to hiring more employees?

Why it’s so tough to convince decision-makers:

Costs – People are a large expense for companies. Eliminating employees increases equity for owners and decreases costs associated with benefits, salaries, equipment, training, etc.
Productivity – Companies sometimes downsize to increase productivity. Counterintuitive? Maybe. But, some companies think they can increase individual worker output while keeping production constant.  A company might also downsize to increase productivity by replacing workers with technology.
Value – Downsizing generally signals restructuring or change. If shareholders/investors think these changes will increase profitability, it will increase the value of company stock. This can result in more investors coming on board or current investors increasing their contributions. In either case, downsizing can increase the company’s perceived value.
Failed Evaluation – Some managers fail to critically evaluate their needs and the type of help required.
Outsourcing – Some companies overextend the number/types of services they offer which leads to the elimination of products/services or outsourcing certain activities. In turn, this often leads to a decrease in employees.

How to build your case:

Follow the steps in this guide to help you build a solid business case to justify an increase in headcount for your team.

Step 1: Identify your needs

Identify your needs by asking yourself some simple questions:

  1. Do you need help during specific times of the year?
  2. Are you seeing a higher volume of work right now? Do you expect that volume of work to continue?
  3. Do you have specific gaps on your team? Do the gaps frequently change?
  4. Is your business growing?
  5. Do your team members seem more emotional and/or sensitive than usual?
  6. Is the quality of work on your team decreasing?
  7. Are you experiencing a higher turnover than normal?
  8. Are employees working early mornings, evenings, on weekends and missing family or social engagements to work?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, it’s time to identify the type of help you need…

Step 2: Be specific about what you’ll be asking for in a new hire

Not being specific with your requests is a critical mistake to avoid! When you’re asking for an increase in staff, focus on:

  • Skills/knowledge
  • Industry experience
  • Specific backgrounds
  • Personalities
  • Skills gap

In addition, think about how many employees you need to hire and what kind (full-time, part-time, temporary, freelance, etc.).

Step 3: Collect the right data

You’ll want to collect the data that will help you frame your argument for why you need more staff, exactly how many new employees, what kind, and why.

The best data you can collect on your own to help you make your case include things that will show:

  • Trends
  • Impact on goals a company is trying to achieve
  • Indisputable facts that highlight a need for action
  • How the business has been/will be negatively impacted by not hiring

Examples of data you can collect to showcase trends (some may currently be tracked by your team and some may not):

  • An increase in the number of projects being assigned to the team but with the same number of resources (or less) assigned to complete the tasks
  • Working hours of current staff, which show everyone is consistently working extended hours. You can use data like this to calculate a specific deficit in your needs. For example, 6 months of tracking shows a 2-head deficit relative to capacity (ask salaried employees to track their hours in a spreadsheet)
  • An overall decrease in employee satisfaction, work quality, and customer service

And, if you don’t already have a Headcount Planning Strategy, consider creating one, so you can not only show how you can maximize efficiency but also help justify your need for hiring when necessary.

Step 4: Show your current state and the consequences of not hiring

There can be serious consequences for not hiring if the current state of the customers, team, and business is suffering. Point out some of these consequences to the decision-makers:

  • Increased attrition/turnover
  • Decrease in qualified marketing and sales leads
  • Decrease in sales revenue
  • Missed growth opportunities
  • Competitive disadvantages
  • Other enormous impacts on the overall goals of the company

Step 5: Exhibit the positive impacts of hiring (for the customers, employees, and business)

Compare the current state to the future desired state. Focus on the impact. When you outline your plan, include how these things positively impact customers, employees, and business. For example:

  • Improved marketing efforts can positively impact the customer experience from a consumer perspective
  • Time to pursue career development opportunities can positively impact the morale and stability of a team
  • A focus on generating higher quality leads can positively impact big company goals such as increasing sales revenue

Step 6: Know when and where to discuss this topic with decision-makers

When and where you should bring up adding more headcount to your team is crucial and wildly depends on your company and situation. So, follow these tips:

  • Pay attention to timing. It’s best to plead your case when your company has the money and when you can identify where to save alternative dollars and spend; or when your team recently had huge accomplishments
  • Ask yourself if it’s best to broach this topic during budget planning, the beginning or the end of the fiscal year; be smart about it and base it on your own company structure
  • Always schedule an in-person, one-on-one meeting with the decision makers; avoid getting ignored or shot down by email, phone
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