Stories about giant companies with deep pockets make for fun reading. But the truth is that not every firm can afford to provide employees with profit sharing options or on-site child care.
Most employers live in a different reality: one where every dollar counts and the name of the game is making the biggest impact possible with the most economical use of resources.
Being lean isn’t just a virtue—it’s central to success. This applies to head count, too.
But there can come a point when you can get a bit too lean. Sure, investing in extra staff is expensive, but sometimes not investing in new staff can be even more costly because doing too much with too little can damage your business.
Here are five signs to help you identify when it’s time to invest in people.
1. Beware the signs of burnout
Working hard is great. But be careful that you’re not pushing people past their limits.
If team members keep telling you that it’s difficult (or impossible) to get all their work done, that’s a warning sign of too many responsibilities and not enough people to complete them.
Pay attention to nonverbal cues, too.
Have you noticed an increase in the number of projects that aren’t getting finished? Are many of them taking too long to execute? Is it tough for your team to set—and stick to—goals? Do ordinarily cheerful people seem stressed and irritable?
All these could be signs of burnout. If it’s not dealt with, your employees might leave, increasing the pressure on those who remain and making your staffing situation even more problematic.
2. In a management vacuum, no one can hear you scream
Do you feel like you’re constantly fielding questions and approving requests on matters both big and small? You know you’ve hired good people, so why do they keep asking you about every little thing?
Well, they probably need more oversight, training and support than you alone have time to provide. And if you can’t do it all, then it could be time to hire.
A strategic management hire can make a team function better. By putting someone in place to keep an eye on processes and handle all those day-to-day questions and decisions, your team will be freed up to contribute more.
They’re not the only ones who will benefit. Filling the vacuum will mean less stress for you and more time to focus on the crucial strategic tasks related to running your business. You’ll free yourself up to concentrate on the big picture.
3. Saving money is costing you money
Sometimes waiting too long to hire (or not hiring at all) can wind up costing you money.
Let’s say you’re seeing an increase in overtime pay, or you have scheduling gaps and rely on the same few people to fill shifts—those are signs of an under-resourced team.
Overtime can get costly, and it’s definitely not a long-term solution. In fact, it can increase the risk of burnout among overextended employees, who might seek a better work-life balance elsewhere.
Losing an employee doesn’t just mean that you’re losing the investment you put into helping them develop skills and experience. The time taken to find a replacement will also cost you money. Meanwhile, you’re spending all your energy refilling a role you already had in place, instead of finding the additional help you really need.
And if you’re turning down contracts because you don’t have the people to do the work— it’s going to be tough to grow your business. In situations like this, hiring someone can empower you to capitalise on opportunities and drive new revenue.
4. Customer service is slipping
The signs that it’s time to hire may not just be coming from your existing team. Do you see an increase in customer complaints about responsiveness and transaction quality? Are orders going unfulfilled or going out late?
Customers might be frustrated that no one is picking up the phone when they call, or clients may be starting to notice that more and more deadlines haven’t been met.
If this persists, then it’s a sign that you should hire people before the situation deteriorates and customers start to get really unhappy.
Adding new team members can help make sure that client emails don’t fall through the cracks and that customers receive timely responses. The result? Fewer complaints and more business.
5. High-value employees are doing low-value work
You wouldn’t waste money, so why waste talent? If you hired your employees for their unique skills and expertise but they’re spending too much time on admin and entry level work, then it’s time to consider bringing on someone to support them.
Let skilled employees do the work you’re paying them to do. There are lots of other people out there who are at the start of their careers and hungry to get a jump start. In the process, they can take some of the load from others’ shoulders and help contribute to your company’s growth.
In addition, they represent an investment in your company’s future. By bringing in entry level workers, you may uncover new talent that will benefit your business further down the line.
Sure, every business owner needs to be careful. But taking too long to hire or not hiring at all can be a mistake. Growing your team can help you grow your business, and when done strategically, investing in new hires can not only save your company money—but it will help you make more, too!
Aaron Schwartz is Senior Manager, Employer Insights at Indeed.