Lesson 8: Scaling Your Workforce

What You’ll Learn: Rebuilding and reopening offer an excellent opportunity to reset your staffing needs, including assessing need, identifying gaps and finding candidates that can help you grow while maintaining maximum flexibility.

Scaling Your Workforce (continued)

Strategic Scaling

As you think about your organization and staffing, resist the temptation to bite off more than you chew. No one knows exactly what’s going to happen going forward. We’ve never been in a place like this before, and there’s no data to make any accurate predictions. Flexibility and agility will be the key going forward, especially as you try to control costs while revenue catches up.

There are ways to do this if you are willing to experiment.

Automation. What activities can you automate in your business? For example, if you once had a full-time bookkeeper, you can use a service like GoDaddy Bookkeeping that allows you to connect all your bank accounts, credit cards, invoicing and payments into one package. You can create profit and loss reports, track income and expenses, and when it’s tax time, you push a couple of buttons, and it generates the forms the IRS requires for filing. The goal of automation isn’t to get rid of employees, as many think, but to allow business owners to redeploy human resources to other activities, such as new product development or expanded services.

Swiss Army Knifers. As mentioned above, finding employees with multiple skill sets is an absolute gold mine for a business trying to rebuild without adding overhead. A marketing person that can write, manage your website and do photography is just one example. With business models in flux for the next few years, these workers will become a valued part of your organization as you shift to new opportunities and pilot new ideas. Where specialists were the high-paid employees of the past, these Swiss Army Knife workers are truly worth their weight in gold since they can do several jobs within a single function.

Gig Workers. Thanks to the Internet, it’s easy to find top talent on a per-project basis. You may need a website updated or redesigned, want a new video for a product, need a programmer or project manager – any number of tasks. These don’t require a full-time worker, at least not upfront. Sites like Guru.com and Upwork.com allow you to hire people from all over the world – really talented specialists who can handle any project you have in mind. You can describe what you need and contractors will give you a proposal and cost. Funds are held in escrow so you can have complete confidence in the financial portion of the transaction, and before you hire anyone, you can review the past feedback clients gave them.

If you are going to be using independent contractors, make sure you’re aware of the IRS rules to ensure that the contractor is indeed independent and not an employee. The simplest test is whether the individual receives a steady paycheck from you or is paid per project by several clients. Independent contractors typically use their own resources and materials to perform their work, control their hours, have other clients and work remotely in their own office.

One of the great things about using contracted talent is that you can gauge the long-term need for that type of role or level of support. If you find that you’re hiring someone time and time again for the same activities, it may be time to bring someone on full time.

Remote work. Don’t underestimate the strategic value of finding ways for employees to continue to work remotely, either part- or full-time. Factor in the costs of office space, communal spaces like breakrooms, janitorial services and maintenance. If your office is in a part of the state that experiences snowstorms, icy roads or other inclement weather, remote working can allow you to continue your operations uninterrupted. It can also help you recruit new talent since remote working is fast becoming a new employee benefit.

Finding Those Gems

As you work through your hiring plan, think about your approach. Where are the best candidates located? Recruiting isn’t as easy as it was in the old days. No one combs through the Want Ads anymore and Craigslist, well, let’s just say that it’s not the best place to find top-tier talent.

Your social media channels are a great place to start since the people most interested in your business are already there, including customers who may have a friend or relative looking for a position. LinkedIn is another good place to go if you have an established network of peers who can share leads or names. So is Indeed.com.

Finding the right candidate is going to take time, more time than it used to. Competition is fierce as business begins to return to normal and workers are still considering their options. There will be more jobs than candidates for a while, and you need to understand that it may take weeks, or even months, to find the right person. And that assumes the childcare and aftercare situation gets squared away for young families.

To be successful, you will need to develop a recruitment strategy that you can use for all the openings you have going forward. If you’re not in hiring mode yet, prime your network by letting your team and networks know that you’ll be looking. Think long and hard about the human resources you will need near and long term, and don’t wait until the last minute to start the recruitment and hiring process.

Businesses no longer have the luxury of accepting resumes for weeks and schedule interviews a month or two later. When you are recruiting, you will need to prioritize reviewing and interviewing candidates with an eye on making an offer immediately for the right person. If you hesitate, they may find another job before you can loop around again to make them an offer. A candidate who finally hears from you three months later isn’t going to be a good fit. They already don’t trust that you’ll value their contribution to your operations.

As you recover and rebuild, evaluate your human resources needs from the bottom up. As you build a business over time, it’s easy to add positions that fill specific assignments. Over time, these positions may not be essential or even a good fit anymore. However, there is a tendency to keep the incumbent in the position because they’ve been loyal, been there a long time, or because coworkers like them.

If you had to close or significantly curtail your workforce, you have the chance to reimagine it. You can do this by 1) reassessing your recruitment and staffing goals, 2) inventorying your existing talent pool to see who fits your needs, 3) identifying top-tier team members who should be reskilled for new roles, and 4) creating a hiring plan that focuses on generalists rather than specialists.

Let’s use retail as an example. Pre-pandemic, there may have been lots of foot traffic, which required high volumes of floor staff. In the face of public health orders, customers found they liked shopping online and picking up orders curbside, so much so that your warehouse and fulfillment team were overwhelmed and understaffed at times. This is an opportunity to revisit your business model and readjust staffing to reflect changing customer needs and demands.

The same can be true for any business. There is a tendency to simply rehire old positions and never revise job descriptions. But do you really need these roles going forward? And if so, can they be rewritten to give you more flexibility in hiring and scheduling? Are there specific functions that can be handled by a contractor, gig worker or freelancer? Do full-time positions really need to be full-time, especially as you restart operations?

It’s also an excellent time to revisit your compensation structure. Is your compensation in line with the market? How do you stack up with your competitors? Note that we’re not talking about the guy down the street who also has a Mexican restaurant when referring to competitors. We’re talking about the general market. Everyone is looking for the best and brightest to join their operations, and candidates aren’t always looking for top dollar. Things like flexible schedules, remote work, alternate work schedules (4/10s) will be part of the recruitment and retention process.