Staffing Essentials

101 Ideas for Getting the Employees You Want

1. Anticipate staffing needs.

2. Target messages to a specific type of candidate.

3. Understand the needs of targeted candidates, and appeal to their needs.

4. Investigate the possibility of employing older workers.

5. Workers with disabilities may be a target market segment that will help meet your staffing needs.

6. Analyze the ways that moonlighters might meet staffing needs for nights and weekends.

7. Look at career shifters as a group to enter your industry.

8. “Back-to-work-moms” are looking for employment opportunities that offer training as well as flexibility.

9. Target disadvantaged youth as a market segment to meet recruiting needs.

10. Exiting military are looking for career opportunities in the civilian world.

11. Prison release programs have job candidates that are looking for a second chance.

12. Work with government funded employment and training programs that will assist you in the recruitment process.

13. Look carefully at internal issues before employing non-traditional workers; see if diversity training is appropriate for supervisors and managers of these new workers.

14. Put yourself in the candidate’s place—where would they hear about you?

15. Investigate high school and post-secondary vocational education programs—DECA, VICA, FHA, FFA, etc. (and if you don’t know what these acronyms stand for—call a local high school to find out!)

16. Participate in Junior Achievement and other youth business education programs—it helps establish your company and the career choice in that student’s mind.

17. Discover if your city has a business-education partnership for youth.

18. Consider your image as an employer, and develop strategies to enhance that image as an Employer of ChoiceSM.

19. Advertise in alternate sections of the newspaper.

20. Use different newspapers to advertise your recruitment message—don’t overlook the local and community papers.

21. Place testimonial advertisements.

22. Investigate the use of the papers sold in convenience stores such as the Thrifty Nickel or the Bargain Mart.

23. Use compelling graphics and ad copy.

24. Stress your benefits—sell the opportunity!

25. Use recruiting advertising agencies for more effective advertising.

26. Limit the number of recruiting messages used in one medium—you don’t want to appear desperate (even though you may be!).

27. Use the media to promote the benefits of working at your organization.

28. Offer coupons in your newspaper ads for candidates to complete and mail in.

29. Staff your telephones on Sunday, so that candidates can call in for information.

30. Use an 800 number, so that out-of-town candidates can more easily contact you.

31. Institute a recruitment hot line, so that interested individuals can call to get information on the kinds of positions that are open.

32. Use the Internet to publicize your organization and specific job vacancies.

33. Try a product advertising agency for a fresh approach.

34. Tap into your company’s resources and work with your marketing/advertising departments for recruitment ideas.

35. Investigate the use of cable television.

36. Use radio with print advertising for best results.

37. Look into prime time television to deliver your messages.

38. Hold an open house to attract career shifters or to fill multiple positions.

39. Try a call-in open house by asking candidates to call a number for more information.

40. Join with other employers and participate in career fairs and job fairs.

41. Set up your own career fair with your local mall.

42. Buy a recruiting booth when participating in career fairs.

43. Develop recruitment videos to play at career fairs and open houses.

44. Create recruitment literature for use in all recruiting activities.

45. Plan give-aways for candidates who identify your organization (include contact information).

46. Offer free career planning workshops to the public—and at the end, sell them on careers with your organization.

47. Use posters and signs with tear-off application forms in grocery stores, banks, community centers, laundromats, and churches.

48. Try telemarketing—reaching your prospective candidate by phone.

49. Use traditional employment agencies to find candidates.

50. Investigate the use of agencies that conduct research for you.

51. Work with agencies to conduct telemarketing campaigns.

52. Use vendors to establish a computerized database resume retrieval system.

53. Investigate the use of temp workers with temporary placement agencies.

54. Use leased employees.

55. Try part-time employees and job sharing as flexible means to attract a wider range of candidates.

56. Investigate the use of telecommuting to attract more job candidates.

57. Offer flextime as a staffing alternative.

58. Don’t give up—persistence pays!

59. Direct mail can be an excellent way to target the candidates you need.

60. Mail audio tapes or CD’s instead of letters to targeted candidates.

61. Door hangers are another method to use when you want to attract candidates from a specific geographic area.

62. Use point of sale recruiting messages.

63. Enhance your employee referral program by reminding employees of bonuses and benefits through payroll stuffers, posters, and announcements at staff meetings.

64. Revamp your employee referral program, and use it only during peak need periods.

65. Recruit in locations where you have a competitive advantage.

66. Use a mobile recruiting van.

67. Advertise on mass transit.

68. Lease a van to transport employees.

69. Work with realtors on career assistance for relocating spouses.

70. Connect with Welcome Wagon in your community to provide career assistance for relocating spouses.

71. Offer employee housing when you are in a remote location, or when housing costs are not affordable by job candidates.

72. Develop methods to effectively handle “walk-in” candidates.

73. Create a data bank for unsolicited resumes.

74. Advertise in trade journals and professional publications.

75. Work with professional organizations and their placement services.

76. Network with other professionals to find top applicants.

77. Check on business closings for laid-off employees and team up with outplacement firms.

78. Use airplane banners to send messages at the beach or at sports events.

79. Use highway billboards to display recruitment messages.

80. Highlight your message on electronic billboards at sporting events.

81. Display your message on kiosks located in malls and airports.

82. Try cinema billboards to send your message.

83. Use magazine advertising to build image.

84. Recruit your customers by placing recruitment messages into customer billings.

85. Involve your customers in recruitment by implementing a customer referral program.

86. Get your recruiting messages to the churches in your area.

87. Collaborate with other businesses in your area for locating potential employees.

88. Contact other divisions of your organization for locating potential job candidates.

89. Send recruiting messages on videotape or DVD to prospective candidates.

90. Look at recruitment as an on-going effort not just a response to a job vacancy.

91. Build college recruiting by concentrating efforts on a fewer number of schools.

92. Build relationships with colleges through internship programs, scholarships, and donations.

93. Get involved with local high schools to build your image.

94. Use an outside management consultant to assist you in developing creative, non-traditional strategies.

95. Push top management for recruiting dollars.

96. Don’t rely on any one method for recruiting.

97. Be creative—take risks!

98. Dare to be different from your competitors.

99. Attend seminars and conferences on recruitment.

100. Involve the entire management team in the recruitment process.

101. Look to employee retention as the long term recruitment solution.

Flexibility Made Easy With Strategic Staffing

Nearly every organization today is challenged to do more with less. To succeed in such an environment, flexibility is key – especially in your staffing strategy. Flexible staffing is critical for operational efficiency and adaptability. When used effectively it can help you to manage your workload, meet strategic objectives, and fill in gaps in your workforce.

Managing Your Workload

administrative and low priority tasks

Boost the productivity of your core staff by allowing temporary employees to handle the administrative and low priority activities. A good temporary may even be more efficient at such tasks, allowing your staff to concentrate on more critical issues.

unexpected increase in work load

Today, many organizations are running lean only to be caught short-handed with an unexpected peak. Hiring for what could be a brief spike is risky, but so is losing sales due to decreased capacity. Don’t let your efforts for efficiency hinder your opportunity for more business. Use temporary help to meet the rise in demand without committing to more permanent hires. Then take the time to make an educated decision for the long term.

seasonal cycles

Preparing for anticipated peaks can be just as difficult. Whether seasons, holidays, or other factors affect your business, adapt to demand fluctuations by bringing in extra help only when you need it.

Meeting Strategic Objectives

new ideas

Before you staff up to implement a new concept, try testing your idea with temporary employees. The temporaries may be directly involved in the test, or they can be used to fill in for your permanent staff members who are working on your new concept.

the unknown

Every strategic plan is subject to some uncertainty. If the road ahead is unclear, consider using temporary staff to keep your workforce flexible. Bring in the labor and expertise when your business needs it and avoid the expense and problems caused by overstaffing.

expertise on short term basis

The contingent workforce has grown to include engineers, IT specialists, and other professionals. They can be used to teach new skills to your organization without the cost of a permanent hire. Bringing in someone with specific experience can save you time and money by shortening the learning curve for a new process.

special projects

Concerned about a project bringing down productivity? Bring in temporary employees to help directly or to provide support to the people working on the project. Keep daily operations running smoothly and get the project done on schedule.

Fill in Gaps in Your Workforce

short-term need

Relieve the stress of employee absences by bringing in temporary support in cases of illness, vacation, maternity leave, or other leaves of absence. Don’t forget to prepare for the holidays. Plan for overlapping vacations and the increase in personal and sick days due to holiday stress!

immediate need

Take the pressure off your hiring process by bringing in a temporary to fill in immediately. At the very least, it will allow you the time to find the right replacement. And if you’re satisfied with the individual, your search may be over before it even starts!

Flexible staffing can actually bring stability to your workforce by easing the stress of peak demands, while allowing you to operate lean. The right staffing strategy can be your way of doing more with less.

Staffing for PROFIT

Think about it-staffing expenses are probably the biggest line item on your P&L. The more actively you manage that expense, the more profitable you can become.

But, managing staffing is not just about cutting costs. It’s about effectively matching your staffing resources to the challenges and opportunities your business faces. Here are a few ideas to get you started on the path to staffing for profit…


1. Eliminate process bottlenecks. Most often, the biggest barrier to growth is a shortage of qualified people. To reduce process bottlenecks, you can:

  • Hire additional staff in areas that are creating the bottlenecks.
  • Train your staff to improve their productivity.
  • Outsource specific process steps to firms that would be more productive in those activities.
  • Bring in temporaries to supplement your current staff.
  • Bring in administrative support to free your staff to focus on more critical activities.

2. Capitalize on new opportunities. Have you ever had to table a great idea simply because you didn’t have the resources to work on it? For those times, consider supplementing your team with temporary and contract employees. From support staff to senior executives, highly qualified temporary employees can be brought in to either manage the execution of new ideas and/or support your internal team while they work on the new opportunities.

3. Shorten learning curves and reduce time to market for new products. Whether you’re looking to implement a new technology or expand into a new market, nothing beats learning from someone with experience. While you can hire expensive consultants, a more cost-effective solution is to bring in temporary employees who already have the experience you seek.

4. Turn temporaries into revenue generators. There are many ways to use temporary employees to enhance your business development activities. For example:

  • Telemarketers for data collection, market research and appointment setting.
  • Graphic artists for development of marketing materials.
  • Marketing professionals to create new promotional campaigns.
  • Additional clerical, professional or industrial staff to take advantage of unexpected surges in business activity which your direct staff could not manage on their own.

5. Keep employees working at peak efficiency. When you find your key people getting bogged down with “C” and “D” level tasks, consider bringing in clerical or other support personnel to help them stay focused on their most important duties.

6. Avoid gaps in your work force. Supplemental employees can fill in for illness, vacation, maternity or other leaves of absence that can impede your productive capacity.


1. Reduce overtime expenses. Use temporary employees in place of paying overtime to reduce labor expenses by as much as 25%.

2. Lower unemployment and workers’ compensation expenses. To avoid exposure for comp and unemployment claims, hire short-term and project staff through a temporary staffing service or Professional Employer Organization.

3. Limit benefits expenses. Benefits typically add 30 to 35 percent on top of payroll costs-and for some companies they can total more than fifty percent! To limit benefits expenses, maintain a smaller core staff and add short-term capacity to your team with payrolled and temporary employees. Most temporary employees receive only limited benefits, which are paid by the staffing service.

4. Eliminate over-staffing. If your workloads vary in seasons or other cycles, consider scaling down your direct staff to meet demand at the low end of your business cycle. Then bring in supplemental staff during your busier times. This approach to staffing will reduce or eliminate the need to lay-off employees during slow periods, and it will decrease your unemployment claims.

5. Outsource time-consuming or mundane tasks. Consider outsourcing non-critical departments or functions that are areas of little or no competitive advantage. The outsourcing service should be able to reduce your total expenses and improve performance while freeing your company to focus on its core competencies.

6. Reduce turnover and hiring expenses. Turnover can devastate an organization-from the direct costs of replacing employees to the soft (but significant) expenses associated with project delays, quality issues, customer service problems and reduced workplace morale. When it comes to managing turnover, there are several steps you can take in your staffing approach:

  • Employ behavioral-based hiring techniques to assure the best hiring fit.
  • Use external recruiters to improve your access to talent in the job market.
  • Bring in support staff during crunch times to avoid “burnout.”
  • Outsource the hiring process to firms that specialize in the types of people you need to hire.
  • Take advantage of temp-to-hire services and direct hire guarantees offered by staffing vendors.


To increase profits, you have just three choices: increase revenues, decrease expenses, or do both. That’s it. The trick is to get your strategies-and your people-aligned on this formula:

Revenue – Expenses = Profit

To improve your bottom line, take a strategic approach to staffing-matching your staffing plans to your business plans. By simply anticipating your future staffing needs, and then evaluating the most cost-effective ways to get work done, you can dramatically enhance revenues and reduce costs!

The Importance of Succession Planning

Succession planning is an essential part of doing business, no matter how certain your future appears. It’s easy to put off planning when everything seems to be going so well, right? Wrong. Now is the time to begin succession planning. Here are some reasons why it can’t — and shouldn’t — wait:

  • You can’t plan for disaster. No matter how good you and your staff are at revenue projections or economic predictions, no one can truly plan for disaster. Whether it’s an unforeseen illness, a natural disaster, or a CEO’s decision to suddenly retire, the reasons for having a succession plan in place before it is needed are endless. So while you can’t plan for disaster, you can put into place a series of contingencies that will help your company stay afloat if, in fact, catastrophe occurs.
  • Succession planning benefits the business now. Just as business practices have evolved over the years, succession planning has also grown and changed. It’s no longer a plan that can only be accessed when leadership is going to change; a succession plan can be used before its “real” intent is necessary. It can be used to build strong leadership, help a business survive the daily changes in the marketplace, and force executives to review and examine the company’s current goals.
  • Succession planning gives your colleagues a voice. If you’re running a family business, the process of succession planning will give family members an opportunity to express their needs and concerns. Giving them that voice will also help create a sense of responsibility throughout the organization, which is critical for successful succession planning. Resist the temptation to solely carry the entire weight of creating and then sustaining a plan.
  • A succession plan can help sustain income and support expenses. Talking about money should be a priority. People generally don’t want to work for free and things don’t pay for themselves. A succession plan can provide answers as to what you — and your staff — will need for future income, as well as what kinds of expenses you may incur once you step out of the main leadership role. Ask yourself questions about your annual income and other benefits including health and dental insurance for you and your dependents, life insurance premiums paid for by the company, your car, professional memberships, and other business-related expenses.
  • Succession planning gives you a big picture. Some companies mistakenly focus solely on replacing high-level executives. A good succession plan can go further, however, and force you to examine all levels of employees. The people who do the day-to-day work are the ones keeping the business going. Neglecting to add them to the succession planning mix could have dire consequences. As you develop your plan, incorporate all layers of management and their direct reports.
  • Succession planning strengthens departmental relationships. When regular communication occurs between departments you are more likely to experience synergy, which breeds a culture of strength. Make sure that you link your succession planning activities with human resources. After all, HR is about people. By including HR in succession planning, you can incorporate elements like the employee-evaluation process, which can help when deciding whether to fill vacancies with internal candidates.
  • Succession planning keeps the mood buoyant. Change — a major component of a succession plan — is exciting and can bring a company unforeseen rewards. Still, change can be a source of tremendous stress, especially when people’s livelihoods are at stake. As you put your succession plan together, consider its positive effects on the business. Planning for the future is exciting and, if done correctly, can inspire your workers to stay involved and maintain company loyalty. It’s true that a plan is often put into place to avert catastrophe, but it’s also a company’s way of embracing the future — a business strategy that is essential for survival.

Controlling Costs with Staffing

Looking to improve operating margins in your business? Then take a look at your staffing strategy.

From the assembly line to the executive office, effective staffing is essential to maximizing profitability.

Below are 10 practical strategies for using staffing to reduce overhead, manage operating costs, and improve organizational performance.

1. Convert Fixed Cost to Variable

If your company is like most, labor is the biggest line item on your P&L. To minimize that expense, implement a planned staffing model. Reduce core staff to levels necessary to maintain normal operations. Then partner with qualified temporary staffing vendors to supplement your staff with trained temporary personnel to meet peak production demands as needed. This strategy is particularly effective for industrial labor, as well as for technical and professional projects.

2. Eliminate Overtime

Overtime is an extremely expensive way to get work done. Using temporary employees in place of overtime can reduce labor costs by 20% or more.

3. Limit Benefits Expense

On average, benefits cost 20% – 25% in excess of payroll expenses. Where appropriate, use temporary and payrolled employees (employees who are paid through a staffing firm or professional employment service) to eliminate benefits expense. This option is most often used for interns, project professionals, and other short-term employees. Using temporary and payrolled employees in place of independent contractors will also reduce your employment risks.

4. Reduce Training Costs, Scrap & Rework

Training is expensive–and not just the hard dollar cost of the training program. There are also the soft costs of lower productivity and poorer quality that result from employing novice staff. Cut training costs and improve quality and productivity by employing skilled temporary employees. By working closely with your staffing partner, you can gain access to candidates who are well-trained and have experience in the skills you need. To enhance productivity further, partner with your staffing firm to create an initial orientation and training program for new hires.

5. Shift Administrative Burden

When you use temporary staff instead of direct hires, all costs associated with processing and administering payroll and benefits are transferred from your company to the staffing firm.

6. Prevent Unemployment Claims

Unlike short-term direct employees, temporary personnel work for your staffing partner–not you. Consequently, their unemployment claims don’t affect your rating or your bottom line.

7. Reduce the Risk of Hiring Mistakes

A bad hire can cost you between two and seven times the employee’s annual salary. Staffing firms follow rigorous screening procedures for both temporary personnel and direct hires, which increases your chances of getting the right person. They will most often provide candidates who not only possess the skills and experience you require, but who also have the personality traits needed to thrive in your work environment. To further reduce your hiring risk, you can also take advantage of your partner’s temp-to-hire services and direct placement guarantees.

8. Take Advantage of a Staffing Firm’s HR Capabilities

If hiring duties are sidetracking your key employees, use your staffing partner to handle screening, testing, interviewing, and reference checking. Their expertise can free your personnel to concentrate on critical activities, and can reduce your time to hire.

9. Cut Costs by Hiring

Capacity constraints are a significant source of cost. Constraints may affect the throughput of a plant or the productivity of an executive. To eliminate the bottlenecks, consider adding temporary or full-time staff. Bringing in administrative support frees key personnel to focus on core job duties (not only do you get a more productive employee, but the administrative work gets done for significantly less cost). Add labor to relieve process constraints and improve productivity. Use technical and professional temps to keep projects on track. By adding the right people, work will get done more efficiently, with less administrative headache, and for less cost.

10. Avert Costs Associated with Burnout

Many companies may take the concept of “lean thinking” too far. They push direct staff to produce more with fewer resources. And as the stress increases, so do problems with quality, productivity, absenteeism, and turnover. Take the pressure off by using temporary employees. The additional personnel will help your staff avoid burnout, reduce the cost of defects, avoid productivity losses, and limit turnover expense.

Workforce Planning: The Strategy Behind Strategic Staffing

A company’s annual budgeting process generally requires managers to project personnel requirements for the upcoming fiscal period. Unfortunately, this task offers little value beyond influencing the short-term allocation of corporate funds. Besides narrowly focusing on a single year, needs are typically assessed in relation to the status quo.

Yet the harsh reality is that the business world is changing at a dizzying pace, and what makes sense today may not a year from now. Technology, in particular, is constantly redefining the nature of work.

And despite the prevalence of the phrase “strategic staffing,” most recruitment activities can be described as tactical at best. In fact, more often than not, they are reactive: An employee quits, and Human Resources—through no fault of its own—scrambles to fill the vacated position.

While this may seem unavoidable, almost any recruiter or HR generalist will argue that there is a more effective way to staff a company. But even the most ambitious HR team can be only as proactive as the organizational context allows. As is the case with many HR projects, the “full support” of corporate leaders is not enough; a successful workforce planning initiative often requires sweeping changes to company-wide processes and procedures, and demands the commitment and cooperation of all levels of management.

What is workforce planning and why should we bother?

Workforce planning is a systematic approach to anticipating staffing needs and determining what actions should be taken—starting now—to meet those needs.

This multi-step process involves:

  • Gaining a thorough understanding of your current workforce;
  • Envisioning the operating environment that will most likely exist in the future;
  • Identifying the competencies that will move the firm forward to overcome challenges, seize opportunities, and thrive in what will undoubtedly be a new world of work; and
  • Developing strategies and implementing tactics for building this workforce.

Workforce planning puts you “one step ahead,” resulting in informed staffing decisions that benefit the company in both the short- and long-term. Its many advantages, however, are not limited to recruitment and selection; it also provides a framework for other HR policies and programs such as training, compensation, and diversity management. More importantly, it helps you recognize the most effective and efficient use of your organization’s human capital in creating a workforce that is—and will continue to be—flexible and responsive in these fast-changing times.

Okay, we’re convinced! How do we get started?

While variations may exist from one organization to the next, workforce planning generally follows this four-step model:

Step 1: Supply Analysis

The first—and most straightforward—step in workforce planning is to identify the composition (demographics) and capabilities (competencies) of your current workforce. It also involves examining attrition statistics, including resignations, retirements, internal transfers and promotions, and involuntary terminations. Technology—HRIS applications and “skills inventories” in particular—can be an enormously helpful data-gathering tool. Armed with this information, you can develop a profile of your current staff as it will exist in the future in the absence of management action. In other words, this is what your workforce will “look like” if all recruitment, training, and other HR programs are suspended.

Step 2: Demand Analysis

The purpose of demand analysis is to forecast the competencies that will be required by your future workforce for your organization to be successful. In order to do this, you must first try to predict how the nature of the work will change. Both internal and external influences must be considered. These include business mission, strategies, and goals as well as legislation, economic conditions, technological advances, and market competition. “Scenario planning” is an effective way to systematically evaluate the interplay of multiple variables.

Step 3: Gap Analysis

As the name implies, gap analysis is the comparison of the supply and demand data collected during Steps 1 and 2. The result is the determination of skill surpluses and deficiencies. While identifying competencies that are lacking is an obvious goal of this activity, it is equally important to understand which are in excess. After all, employees with skills that will be needed to a lesser extent—if at all—in several years are of limited long-term value to your organization. No matter how well they perform now, they may eventually become obsolete without corporate intervention. Gap analysis helps you pinpoint who is at risk and proactively deal with each situation as appropriate.

Step 4: Solution Analysis

Solution analysis is the development of strategies for closing the gaps identified in Step 3. Specifically, it is the identification of ways to build skills that are in short supply and reduce those that are overly-abundant in relation to your organization’s projected needs. A variety of targeted recruitment, development, and retention activities can be employed to achieve these ends.

Your solution analysis should be squarely focused on optimizing your current and future workforce. It is important, therefore, that you consider alternatives to traditional “permanent” employees. “Blended staffing” is becoming an increasingly popular business strategy that enables firms to expand and contract their workforce as needed. It involves maintaining a core group of employees possessing skills aligned with the organization’s area of specialization, and assigning work that is non-critical to the business to contingent staff. This purposeful mix of fixed and variable workers allows firms to better manage and reduce costs by paying for labor only when they need it. More importantly, it facilitates corporate agility.

Diversity is another important consideration. To quote a previous article on the benefits of a diverse workforce, “Employees experience personal growth as they learn from one another’s insights and perspectives, and the organization’s ability to innovate, solve problems, and meet the needs of an increasingly diverse customer base is greatly enhanced.” To remain competitive—in the consumer marketplace as well as the labor market—your solution analysis must specifically address the challenge of attracting and retaining a talent pool that is highly-qualified and diverse.

Is that all there is to it?

Your efforts will be in vain if the four steps described above occur in a vacuum. Workforce planning is an ongoing process that influences—and is influenced by—all aspects of an organization. These inter-relationships must be identified, managed, and leveraged for best results. Below are some critical success factors to guide your activities.

  • Draw a direct link between the workforce plan and your company’s strategic mission. Unless you are able to clearly communicate a causal relationship—preferably in terms of a quantifiable return-on-investment—you will be unlikely to gain top management support and the necessary corporate resources.
  • While the “blessing” of your organization’s management team is essential, it alone will do little to inspire the cooperation of others. An executive-level “champion,” on the other hand, will typically generate the buy-in that you need.
  • Involve a variety of key stakeholders in the workforce planning process. At minimum, HR, Strategic Planning, Finance, IT, line management, and any unions should be represented. This ensures that multiple perspectives are considered and gives the plan legitimacy.
  • Be sure to integrate the workforce plan with other HR programs—such as organizational development, succession planning, and career pathing—that are also designed to prepare the company and its individual staff members to thrive now and in the future.
  • Determine the scope of the project up front. Will you run a “pilot” in one or more specified departments, or will you immediately launch the program company-wide? Will you target a few key occupations or your entire staff? (In general, starting small allows you to continually improve the process by building “lessons learned” into each subsequent phase of the rollout.)
  • Assign a dedicated staff member to manage the process. For large-scale projects, additional resources may be necessary.
  • Avoid being overly prescriptive in your workforce plan. Rather, develop a simple model and tools that managers can adapt to their particular needs, and provide training and ongoing support on their use.
  • Communicate the initiative to all levels of the organization, highlighting the benefits it will bring to employees as well as the organization as a whole.
  • Hold managers accountable for adhering to—and achieving desired results from—the workforce plan.
  • Most importantly, do not view workplace planning as a one-time endeavor. Rather, it should be a continuous loop that includes ongoing evaluation of both the inputs and outputs of the process. Specifically:
  • Have the internal and/or external environments changed? If the assumptions underlying your solution analysis are no longer valid, it will probably be necessary to adjust your competency profiles and intervention strategies accordingly.
  • Does the workforce plan serve the organization’s needs? If the desired business outcomes were not achieved, you must examine and reconstruct your methodology and implementation procedures as appropriate.

Is there anything else that we should know?

While future business demands cannot be predicted with absolute certainty, we must do our best to anticipate and prepare for likely possibilities. A workforce plan that is carefully designed and executed transforms the staffing function from a “vacancy-filling” role to one that continually ensures alignment between an organization’s human capital and its strategic goals. This not only improves employee utilization, but also the company’s overall effectiveness and competitive positioning.

Even if your forecasted competency requirements prove inaccurate, a comprehensive workforce planning process has built-in triggers to get you back on track. Additionally, the very exercise will have enhanced your firm’s ability to respond swiftly and intelligently to changing conditions.
Today’s fast-paced business world shows no signs of slowing down. Can your organization afford not to keep up?

On Time, On Budget: Secrets to Effective Project Staffing

The Challenge

From IT to engineering, technology departments have been severely cut during recent months. And just as we’ve become “lean and mean”, the economy seems to be rebounding. Within months, we’re likely to see a deluge of new projects and new demands for technical talent.

The pressure is going to be intense. Not only will there be strong demand for talent, but management’s going to want to see quick results. Budgets will be restricted, schedules will be tight, and our project management skills will be put to the test. Want to come out a winner? Then start planning now for an effective strategy to deal with what will become your number one challenge: finding technical talent.

While no “one-size-fits-all” solution exists, the are a variety of staffing strategies that can be effectively used in different situations. What follows is an overview of several of the most commonly used and effective techniques for project staffing.

The Solutions

1. Redeploy current talent

The first, and most obvious, solution to getting project work done is to assign the work to your current staff. This strategy works great, as long as you have people with the time and expertise available. Too often, project managers enlist the support of employees who are either already bogged down or who lack the skills necessary to succeed. The result: needless project delays and cost overruns.

A redeployment strategy makes sense when the resources you need are being underutilized. Technical professionals love challenges, and if new projects will provide them, terrific. But don’t trust your results to people who lack the skills or experience to ensure success.

2. Develop Talent

You may not have a talent shortage problem, just a skill shortage. Project staffing challenges can often be overcome by training the people you already have. Businesses have recognized several critical factors with regard to training:

  • It’s easier (and less risky) to manage a known commodity than a new hire.
  • It’s less expensive to teach someone something new than to hire the expertise.
  • Professional development opportunity is a great recruiting and employee retention tool.
  • Training, and providing new challenges and opportunities, improves productivity and morale.

Like redeployment, training is an ideal solution when your assets are being underused. If your people have the mental capacity to take on new challenges and the time available to learn new skills, get them trained now.

3. Acquire Talent

Frequently, the most effective solution to project staffing challenges is to hire. But, nothing is ever as easy as it seems. When it comes to hiring, you have a number of alternatives:

  • Direct Hire. Make a full-time addition to your team.
  • Contract. Bring in technical temporaries for the duration of the project.
  • Freelance. Locate independent contractors and moonlighters to supplement current staff.

Which is most appropriate for your project? That depends. Is your need for the project only or are you creating a permanent position in the organization? Do you have a full-time or a part-time need? Where can you find people with the expertise you need? (You may have to search all three markets.) Do you have the recruiting capability to locate top technical talent or do you need the help of a professional technical recruiter? How long do you have to get the position filled? Can you afford the co-employment risks associated with using independent contractors?

There are many tough questions to be answered to develop the best solution. Typically, managers will initially be inclined to make a direct hire, but often that is the most costly solution. Direct hire is ideal when you need a permanent staff addition and you can afford a lengthy search. Direct hires are hard work, distracting to your project, and costly–and that’s assuming you get it right the first time! For project work, contract staffing and other alternative hiring arrangements often prove to be the more cost-effective solution.

For more information on contract staffing, please see the Contract Q & A.

4. Use Consultants

Sometimes you need more than talent. Consultants and consulting firms can offer you people with state-of-the-art skills and access to significant resources. They can bring to your organization practical experience to help shorten your learning curve, speed the development cycle, and maximize your probability of success.

Of course, all this value comes with a price and that price is likely to be the highest among all the project staffing alternatives. For mission critical applications, and highly specialized expertise, consultants can make an ideal supplement to your team–especially if people with equivalent skill and expertise cannot be found through any of the talent acquisition channels.

5. Outsource

Tom Sawyer was a master of outsourcing. When he didn’t want to do the work, he got others to do it for him. While Tom Sawyer’s methods may not work for your business, outsourcing may prove to be a perfect solution to your project staffing challenges. If you can’t find people to do the work, can you find a company to do it?

While the hourly rate may be more, outsourcing expenses are fully controllable. And quite often, the total cost will be less, since the outsourcing company can offer greater economy of scale or operating efficiency. By outsourcing to the right partner, you will be able to not only resolve your staffing dilemma, but also improve your profitability.

Do You Need Workforce Planning?

Workforce planning was one of the hottest areas within HR during the 1980s. Now it’s back on top of the hot HR issues list. Why is workforce planning a burning HR issue again? There are four basic driving factors:

A shortage of talent.

No one wants to go through the next rapid growth cycle without having the capability to recruit and retain the top talent they need (as happened to many businesses in the late 90s).

Forecasting the downturn.

Few people forecasted the current downturn. No one wants to be surprised again by that dramatic of a downturn.

Avoiding Layoffs.

When the downturn came, organizations found themselves overstaffed with full-time employees and with no well thought-out plan to painlessly cut excess staff.

Exploding out of the box.

Everyone knows an upturn is coming, and the best companies want to anticipate it and be prepared to “explode out of the box” when it does come.

Workforce planning lets organizations manage talent shortages and surpluses. Understanding business cycles and tending to “talent pipelines” and current talent inventories increases your ability to act, instead of just react.

While the benefits seem obvious, workforce planning is a complex process. The remainder of this article will introduce you to the concepts of the process and help you answer the critical question: do you need workforce planning?

Being prepared is better than being surprised

Workforce planning is a systematic, fully integrated organizational process that involves proactively planning ahead to avoid talent surpluses or shortages. It is based on the premise that a company can be staffed more efficiently if it forecasts its talent needs as well as the actual supply of talent that is or will be available.

If a company is more efficient, it can avoid the need for layoffs or “panic hiring.” By planning ahead, HR can provide managers with the right number of people with the right skills, in the right place, and at the right time. Workforce planning might be more accurately called talent planning because it integrates the forecasting elements of each of the HR functions that relate to talent—recruiting, retention, redeployment, and leadership/employee development.

Key areas of workforce planning

Workforce planning activities can be categorized into three basic areas of focus:

I. The Talent Forecast

Talent forecasting is a process for predicting upcoming changes in the demand for and the supply of talent. Forecasts are generally broken down into four areas:

  • Estimated increases or decreases in company growth, output, and revenue.
  • Estimates of the corresponding change in talent needs that comes from that growth. Estimates can include the number and type of employees as well as where and when they will be needed.
  • Projections of future vacancies.
  • Estimates of the internal and external availability of the talent needed to meet forecasts.

The predictions that result from the forecast have two basic purposes:

  • To educate or provide a heads-up to managers and HR about what they should expect on the talent front.
  • To provide specific information on the supply of and demand for talent across industries. In this way, specific action plans can be developed in the next part of the talent-planning process (talent action plans) to provide the company with an advantage over its competitors. Action plans are generally developed in each of the different forecasted areas, including recruitment, retention, redeployment, contingent workforce, leadership development, and succession planning.

II. Talent Action Plans

Talent action plans outline the specific actions managers will have to take to attract, retain, redeploy, and develop the talent a company needs. The action plans designate responsibility and outline the specific steps that should be taken in order to fill the talent pipeline and maintain the talent inventory at the levels required for the firm’s projected growth rate.

Each action plan has a set of goals, an individual who is responsible for making sure the plan objectives are met, a budget, a timetable, and a measurable result. Action plans can be broken down into three general activities:

  • Sourcing and recruiting an adequate supply of leaders and key talent. Maintaining an external recruiting capability to identify and court a supply of future leaders (and top talent in key positions) ensures that the company’s growth and profitability are not restricted by an inability to find and hire the right employees.
  • Internal development and supply of qualified leaders and key talent. Identifying and grooming internal talent, and providing learning opportunities to increase the internal supply of future leaders (and top talent in key positions) ensures that the company’s growth and profitability are not restricted by a lack of leadership talent.
  • Forecasting the gap between talent needs and availability. Providing talent, diversity, and leadership supply and needs forecasts to management to be sure they are aware of, and are considering solutions for, the gap between the company’s overall talent needs and the identifiable supply of talent.

III. The Integration Plan

Action plans must be fully implemented if a company is going to meet its forecasted talent needs. Unfortunately, most talent plans fail or drop off when they come to the implementation phase. For action plans to be effective, workforce planning and the process of being “future-focused” must be fully integrated into every aspect of workforce management.

In addition to being seamlessly integrated into every aspect of HR, workforce planning must become a way of thinking for managers as well. The integration plan has many aspects, including communication, a business case, and the identification of potential supporters and resisters. Metrics and rewards are also used to encourage action and overcome resistance.

Major components of workforce planning

There is no standard format or formula for a workforce plan. Some workforce plans contain many components, while others contain just a succession plan for senior managers. There is no one-size-fits-all model. While there are some basic components that all plans should include, there are some supplementary components that can and will work better for some companies than others. The following is a list of the most common components of a workforce plan:

  • Forecasting and assessment. Estimates, for example, of the internal/external supply and demand; labor costs; company growth rates; and company revenue.
  • Succession planning. Designating, for example, the progression plan for key positions.
  • Leadership development. Designating high-potential employees; coaching; mentoring; rotating people into different projects.
  • Recruiting. Estimating needs for head count, positions, location, timing, and more.
  • Retention. Forecasting turnover rates; identifying who is at risk and how to keep them.
  • Redeployment. Deciding who is eligible for redeployment, and from where to where.
  • Contingent workforce. Designating the percentage of employees who will be contingent, and in what positions.
  • Potential retirements. Figuring out who is eligible, when they are eligible, who will replace them, and what alternative work arrangements are available that could prevent a retirement problem.
  • Performance management. Instituting “forced ranking” or identifying who should be “managed out.”
  • Career path. Career counseling for employees to help them move up.
  • Backfills. Designating key-position backups.
  • Internal placement. Developing job-posting systems for internal employees to get a leg up on new openings.
  • Environmental forecast. Forecasts of industry and environmental trends, as well as a competitor assessment.
  • Identifying job and competency needs. Doing a skills-and-interest inventory.
  • Metrics. Identifying metrics to determine the effectiveness of workforce planning.

Do you need workforce planning?

The primary reason for doing workforce planning is economics. If done well, workforce planning will increase productivity, cut labor costs, and dramatically cut time-to-market because you’ll have the right number of people with the right skills, in the right places, at the right time.

So, do you need workforce planning? A better question might be can you compete without it? Workforce planning works because it forces everyone to begin looking toward the future, while preventing surprises. It requires managers to plan ahead and to consider all eventualities. Effective workforce planning is an integrated talent-management system that has been underused and under-appreciated.

The impact of good workforce planning

Good workforce planning has multiple impacts on a business. Some of the most significant include:

  • Eliminating surprises. Proactive talent planning limits the stressful “trauma” that typically comes from changes in the business cycle and gives you time to prepare so that production or services don’t miss a beat.
  • Smoothing out business cycles. By developing processes that ramp up and down your talent inventory, you can:
  • 1. Ensure that the company can meet production goals by employing the right number of people.

    2. Increase product development speed because the company has the brightest people with the right skills to take products through to their launch—on time.

    3. Ramp up rapidly on new projects.

  • Identifying problems early. If you have a smoke-detector system in place to notify managers before a talent fire gets out of hand, it will be much easier to minimize the potential damage.
  • Preventing problems. Having to fix problems is expensive and painful. Workforce planning provides preventative solutions that:
  • Lower turnover rates: Employees are continually groomed for new opportunities.

    Lower labor cost: Rapidly reduce labor costs without the need for large-scale layoffs of permanent employees.

    Reduced layoffs: Actively managing head count ensures that the company won’t have a “surplus” of talent.

  • Taking advantage of opportunities. When you’re constantly fighting fires, you generally miss even seeing the opportunities, and there is seldom enough energy left to respond to them. Efficient workforce management will free up the organization to take advantage of positive opportunities.

10 Ideas for Better Staffing Results

If you’d like to hear more praise and excitement about the temporaries your company uses, consider these 10 ideas for achieving GREAT staffing results!

Staffing Tip #1

Temps Need Job Descriptions Too!

Job descriptions should be well-defined, prioritized, current and submitted in writing to your staffing firm. They should include your expectations in terms of candidate abilities and experience along with specific performance goals and standards.

Staffing Tip #2

More Lead Time Equals Better Candidates

Give as much lead time as possible when placing orders with your staffing provider. This will optimize your chances of finding an ideal candidate for the assignment and may give you more than one suitable candidate to choose from. And when lead time isn’t an option, let your staffing vendor know which skills and traits are most critical for the assignment.

Staffing Tip #3

Be Mindful of Cut-rate Deals

People are your organization’s most important asset. And that should include temporary employees. Treat temporary staffing as an investment, not an expense. Cheaper is not better. The last thing you want is the cut-rate service that typically accompanies cut-rate pricing. Go with a staffing firm that takes the time to fill your needs correctly.

Staffing Tip #4

Train Your Service Rep

Educate your staffing service representatives on your organization’s mission statement, goals, culture, history and current performance. Tell them what types of work styles or personalities will fit best in your organization. Familiarizing your representatives with your company’s needs and preferences helps the staffing firm to become a more knowledgeable extension of your human resources department.

Staffing Tip #5

Take Full Advantage of Your Staffing Vendor’s Resources

Invest a little time to learn about your staffing vendor’s full range of capabilities, so you can take maximum advantage of their resources. A good vendor can not only provide qualified candidates, staffing flexibility and cost savings, but can also offer a great deal of staffing expertise and employee relations support. To get a complete picture, request a tour of their facility or a capabilities demonstration.

Staffing Tip #6

Set Clear Expectations

Establish mutually agreed upon expectations for interaction with your staffing supplier at the beginning of your relationship. This can include development of an order-placing procedure, appropriate quality control checks and feedback methods. Setting expectations can ensure clear communication and expedient service.

Staffing Tip #7

Benchmark Performance

Find out what type of tests candidates are required to take at your staffing firm. When candidates are referred to you, ask what their test scores are. Establish preferred scoring levels for placements within your company (you might even ask to have one of your internal employees tested to give you a benchmark for performance). In addition, encourage your temporary employees to take advantage of training available at the staffing firm.

Staffing Tip #8

Provide Feedback

Maintain an ongoing dialogue and honest relationship with your staffing contacts. Keep them abreast of changes in your company. Give them useful feedback on their service and the performance of employees placed. Meet regularly to obtain their input on what you can do to enhance interaction with them and ultimately improve quality service and placements.

Staffing Tip #9

Create a Partner in Your Success

Consider involving a staffing firm in your company’s business planning. For example, you might include your staffing representatives in an annual meeting to plan staffing strategies. They can offer insight regarding the possible uses of strategic staffing to meet your needs for workload variations, new hires, and managing attrition. They can also offer valuable market data to help with employee retention.

Staffing Tip #10

Reward Results

High quality staffing firms focus on more than filling orders. They want to help you save time, save money, and make it easier to find the qualified people you need to get work done. While all staffing firms are not created equally, the good ones can be worth their weight in gold. When you find a vendor who does a great job, look for opportunities to enhance the relationship. Invite them in. Challenge them to help you solve problems. And see what you can do to reward their good results. Not only will you make your top vendor happy, you’ll increase their commitme

Alternatives To Hiring More People: Tips For Managers

In times of tight budgets and low growth, managers need to think twice before hiring more staff. Hiring people is expensive, time consuming, and even a bit risky if you later find out that you don’t really need more employees. Smart managers consider the alternatives that are available to increase productivity long before they start new hiring permanent employees. Here are some alternative steps to consider before you add more headcount.

Increase the Number of Hours Worked

  • Offer overtime work to existing workers to increase production output.
  • Ask exempt workers to work more hours (for a short duration) during this “tight period.”
  • Ask workers to work on holidays or on weekends (at increased pay) to increase total output.
  • Reduce PTO like sick and vacation days to increase the number of hours worked.

Increase Worker Productivity

  • Re-train your employees in order to increase their skills and effectiveness.
  • Re-train your managers in productivity tools and approaches.
  • Explain the situation and ask workers to do “more with less.”
  • Solicit and reward suggestions from employees, suppliers and customers that increase productivity.
  • Increase the use of “distributed metrics” to help employees see their high and low productivity areas.
  • Re-design key jobs to eliminate low value work and duplication.
  • Increase production targets and use “stretch” goals.
  • Implement quality or cost control programs to increase efficiency.
  • Offer productivity incentives to your team.
  • Offer individual productivity incentives.
  • Shift pay to a “piecework” basis.
  • Offer incentives for bottom performers to leave (or fire them), and then hire average or top performers to replace them.
  • Do an assessment of each management process and minimize/stop doing low-value steps.
  • Reduce team size or change team composition to increase effectiveness.
  • Increase safety and stress reduction programs in order to reduce “downtime.”
  • Develop more effective scheduling programs to insure that shifts are not under- or overstaffed.
  • Forecast future headcount needs so that you are not overstaffed.

Change the Tools

  • Buy new technology and use its increased capabilities to reduce the need for people.
  • Update or buy better equipment to increase productivity without increasing your need for more people.
  • Use the web to allow your employees, suppliers and customers to do more of their work in a self-service mode.

Use People Who Don’t Add to Headcount and Can More Easily Be “Let Go”

  • Outsource key production, MIS, or product components to vendors.
  • Outsource transactional or low-value “overhead” functions to vendors.
  • Build strategic partnerships with other firms and let them do a portion of the people intensive work.
  • Hire consultants or contractors for short-term needs.
  • Hire temporary or seasonal help for short-term work.
  • Hire part timers who are willing to work only during your peak periods of need.
  • Hire interns or college co-ops that are cheap and easy to let go, but do not add to headcount.
  • Re-deploy workers internally from “slow” divisions or jobs (recruiters for example) to those areas where the help is needed.


  • Add website ordering or increase PR and advertising to increase sales without needing to hire more sales people.
  • Lower the pay of new hires and or lower the hiring qualifications, then increase the number you hire in proportion to the savings.
  • Reduce costly overtime hours and hire more staff to do the same work cheaper during regular hours.
  • Hire people in low cost labor areas (countries and geographic regions) who can do the same volume of work that is now done in a high labor cost area.
  • Reduce quality/reject standards to increase short-term productivity.
  • Cut the number of meetings and do more remotely. Reduce hour-long meetings to 50 minutes.
  • Reduce overhead function headcount to match reduced “headcount ratio” targets.
  • Re-design jobs so that some workers can be shifted to exempt status (saving overtime costs).
  • Force people to take unused vacation to cut costs (due to accounting rules).
  • Benchmark other “low headcount ratio” firms to see what tools and strategies others have used successfully.

6 Ways to Have a Great Relationship with Your Staffing Service

1) Advance notice.

Have an upcoming project or other big staffing need? Try to notify us as far in advance as possible. The more time we have to recruit, the better candidates you’ll get. And when you have a last-minute need, we understand. Just help us to prioritize your hiring requirements, so we can refer the best fit candidates.

2) Ask for updates.

Be sure to let us know when you’d like to see progress reports on how your orders are being filled. If we ever run into a situation where we can’t find the right person, we’ll let you know in plenty of time to contact another firm.

3) Provide great job descriptions.

The toughest positions we are asked to fill are those where the requirements are not well-defined. The more you know about the skills, experience and personality traits of the job candidates you seek, the more accurately we’ll be able to fill your requirements.

4) Give lots of feedback.

A great staffing relationship is built on open communication. Let us know what you like, or don’t like, about our service. Challenge us to find ways to improve. And ask us for suggestions that might help you improve your hiring process. We work with hundreds of employers, and we can use our experience to make your hiring a lot easier.

5) Benchmark pay rates.

You’ll get better job candidates and fill your openings faster when you offer competitive wages. At the same time, you don’t want to overpay for talent. We can help you determine the correct pay rates based on what others are paying for similar positions.

6) Be a great employer.

Try to create a welcoming atmosphere for the temporary workers on assignment with you. Give them a strong, positive introduction to your company and their co-workers. Clearly define your performance expectations. And work with us to provide honest and direct feedback. The more positive your work environment, the more people will want to work for you!

Recruiting Strategies that Target Hidden Employees

It’s time to rethink your hiring strategies. Why?

In a survey conducted by LinkedIn and in late 2010, they discovered:

  • 22 percent of the full-time workforce was not interested in a new job
  • 44 percent were open to considering something if contacted by a recruiter
  • 16 percent were discreetly looking, only by networking with former associates
  • Only 18 percent were actively looking.

Most companies, even those using social media and Web 2.0 techniques, are only reaching that 18 percent of active job seekers. Even if you ignore the 22 percent who plan to keep their jobs, this leaves 60 percent of the workforce untapped.

So how can you go after that 60?

Here are five great strategies to help you recruit more effectively in 2012 and determine your direction in the upcoming quest for the best talent.

  • Have a “big brass brand.” That is, attract so many good people, it won’t matter if you make a hiring mistake. Think Google, back in the days when they were “The Place To Be.” And to reach those people who are just waiting to be contacted? Your staffing agency can more easily penetrate that 44 percent.
  • Be first. There are always countless good sourcing ideas being developed, and early adopters have an edge. But each new technology has a limited life span and becomes less effective as everyone starts using it. It’s hard to be first all the time for everything–this is where a leading-edge staffing firm can help.
  • Be the best. Whatever you do, be better than the competition. As long as you are, you’ll stay ahead of the pack, even using older approaches. For example, compelling ads on job boards are effective if everyone else’s are boring. Don’t have time? Allow your staffing partner to take this job off your hands.
  • Hire the best recruiters you can, with great training and great processes. This way, each recruiter has the same approach and a common set of best practices. Again, a staffing company with a measurable, proven approach to recruiting can take on this function for you.
  • Use compelling, targeted advertising. Whether you’re focusing on active or passive candidates, the ability to stand out with creative messages (postings, emails, tweets) is crucial to attracting the best talent. Your hope is to go viral, meaning your jobs get forwarded to friends and connections.

The bottom line

As the battle for hiring supremacy accelerates, a shift in recruiting strategy is essential. Part of this means realigning resources toward approaching passive candidates and part of this requires great recruiters using sophisticated techniques and fully engaged management. If you don’t have the time or resources to put these techniques into place, consider putting the expertise of your staffing agency to work for you.