The Mighty Blog

When to hire- the hardest decision a leader has to make

Gary Romano
Posted by Gary Romano on May 25, 2018 2:00:59 PM

Growing an organization is a challenge that every leader has to address sooner or later.

Finding and securing the right talent in response to growth is among some of the most difficult, yet critical decision making a leader faces. These decisions can cause stress and even cost your organization significant amount of money if they aren’t made well.

Take one of our clients Anna, for example. Anna is the Executive Director of an education nonprofit and her lean team has done some amazing work. Anna chose that her team stay small to keep costs low. She now has lots of new projects and needs more help right way. She reacted quickly and hired contractors and employees to fill the gap.

Within 6 months Anna had new problems. She had: 1) created two positions that weren’t really needed long-term, 2) engaged contractors for outsourced work that really should be done in house, and 3) hired people whose skills and qualifications weren’t what she thought they were. All of these new issues mean that Anna and her team are now distracted by aligning resources rather than focused on their growing portfolio of projects.

Given the importance of making good hires, be sure to give the process the time and attention it needs. Investing extra time upfront will save you money and strengthen your organization in the long run.

Check out our free e-book Lean Recruitment for help with making a good hire from start to finish.67428600_Kindle Ready Front Cover JPEG_7113118

How Will I Know When to Hire?

As a business owner and consultant, I’ve learned - there’s no cut-and-dry way to decide when you’re ready to add people. It is much more of an art and roll of the dice than it is a science.

Here are three steps any leader can take to dramatically reduce the risks of making a hiring decision:

1. Pause Before Action

First and foremost, take a breath, that is, take a moment and stop before making a hiring decision- don’t react. Even if you get a new grant and ahead of time budgeted all the resources you need to add, take a little time to confirm your path forward before you pursue it.

When you’re looking at tsunami of new work or a position that’s come open because somebody left, taking a moment is difficult to do. However, this is a crucial decision for your enterprise and you should take time when making it.

2. Analyze your Needs

Next, analyze your needs. You can do this through simple exercise on a white board, using sticky notes, electronically, or even on just a piece of paper. Alone, or with your team, articulate all the tasks that you need to address, the large and the small, get it all out there.

Arrange these tasks along two dimensions. Split the tasks by how long they are needed for (are they ongoing or time-limited?). For example, you may have an ongoing need for someone to answer the phones but only need someone to program an app for two months. Next, arrange the tasks by skill level. The skill level will depend a great deal on your business, but, an easy framework is by entry-, mid-, and senior level.bigstock--166801304

3. Right-Size Solutions

You have your needs set out, you now have to find the right-size solutions. Typically, owners rush to find which tasks should be assigned to new full-time employees. Resist the temptation and flip it on end – start by chipping away at the tasks through automation and outsourcing to reduce the on-going cost to your enterprise.

Low-Hanging Fruit

How do you achieve this? Take a look at all those tasks you created and categorized.

Start by identifying any tasks that someone else on your team or an existing contractor can easily take on. Many times, when you see all the tasks up on a wall, you get some perspective and realize this or that could be added since it is for a short time or very easy. Also consider how procedures, checklists, or other similar tools could dramatically decrease the burden of tasks.

Next, look for the things you can automate. Usually, these are on-going tasks needing an entry– or moderate-level of skill. Take the time to search for digital solutions. New technologies are emerging daily- you’ll be amazed how much is out there for small businesses. Here are some examples:

  • X.AI, a simple, cost-effective robot that schedules appointments by just CCing them on an email.
  • Fin not only schedules, but also does light research, books flights, and addresses many other administrative tasks.
  • Drift and other chatbots can collect prospective donor information 24/7 and put it right into your CRM.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Contractors and Employees

Now find which of your task are time-limited or require specialized skills. This could cover a whole gamut of work from temporary administrative staff to a highly specialized scientist or engineer. Regardless of the skill level, these tasks are prime fodder for contractors, allowing you to just buy the “piece” of the pie you need to serve your customers and avoid an ongoing cost.

The remaining tasks are those most suitable for employees. Now, you can begin to think about whether positions are full or part-time and how many of each. One more rule of thumb–I always recommend starting with the lowest skill level first. Typically, these are the least expensive and therefore generate less strain on cash-flow.

Once you’re ready to begin the search for the right talent, use the tips and tools in our book Lean Recruitment to help you search and hire effectively.

Time Well Spent

The process to figure out when to hire takes time and may cause you some near-term stress as you try to balance everything you’re already doing and additional steps for ensuring you get help. But I can tell you for my own experience and those of the organizations I work with, getting the right help is crucial to your continued growth and will help prevent many more future headaches.

If you want to learn more about how to determine if you should hire and the resources you need, download our free e-book The Who and when of Adding Resources, which includes step-by-step exercises to help you right-size your hire.

If you feel you're ready to go, you may be interested in a free copy of Lean Recruitment, our system for recruiting that is already used by hundreds of nonprofits on three contenents. 

If you have questions, click here to talk to me directly.

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Topics: nonprofit, recruiting, talent

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