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How to Plan a Staffing Strategy

The traditional business hiring notion of finding the best people to fill job openings has been replaced by a much more dynamic concept. It’s generally referred to as strategic staffing, which means putting together a combination of workers — both internal and external — that is strategically designed to meet the needs of your business and the realities of the labor market.

Rather than a knee-jerk reaction to fill a particular position, strategic staffing is a big-picture approach. It involves reviewing all jobs within an organization to determine how best to organize your people and resources to meet your needs in any business environment.

How to bring existing staff to their potential

Strategic staffing is not just about hiring more employees. It involves making the best staffing choices available to address the core business needs you and other managers have identified.

For some needs, you may not have to hire at all. If budgets are tight and resources are limited, your job is to help company managers strategically — and honestly — evaluate projects and focus their teams’ efforts on only those that grow revenues, increase efficiency, reduce expenses, or meet other company priorities.

If a line manager you support is thinking of filling an existing position, encourage him to consider how his group’s most critical needs may have changed since the last time the job was open instead of immediately searching for a candidate to fill the vacant position. Is a full-time individual still required in this role? And should a potential replacement have the same skills and experience as her predecessor?

In some cases, employees may have full work schedules, but their expertise is not devoted to the right projects. Ask the hiring manager to analyze his work group’s daily activities to better understand how current resources are allocated.

Help him identify the frequency and timing of workload peaks and valleys and look for predictable patterns. Discuss any shifts in company priorities and what eventual effect these are likely to have on the work group in question. This discussion allows you to spot any shortfalls in human resources for upcoming initiatives.

Needs identified as crucial may be handled in other ways. Suggest the idea of creating project teams to focus on critical, but temporary, activities to the manager of a group who feels that there is a case for new staff. These groups could then be quickly disbanded or reassembled, depending on changing needs.

Another option for managers is to look at current positions and consider combining the responsibilities of two less critical positions into one to free up a staff member who can help out elsewhere.

Encourage line managers to look at their group’s projects and attempt to match staff members with assignments best suited to their talents, even if some tasks fall outside their traditional job duties. Better utilizing the skills and experience of each person can help teams operate more efficiently.

Also, discuss with line managers whether it makes sense to offer targeted training. Organizing a training session to help a team better utilize a common software program, for example, could be a cost-effective way to increase the group’s efficiency.

Suggest to company managers that workload gaps they encounter may be a good opportunity to identify employee skills and competencies, as well as future leaders. Ask them: Can some employees take on more responsibility? As new projects arise, why not ask for volunteers to oversee these initiatives? Managers could then evaluate their performance and advancement potential.

How to know when to begin staffing strategically

Strategic staffing requires that you don’t wait until the need actually arises to refill a position suddenly vacated, respond to peak demand, or fill in for employees who are vacationing or on extended leave (by which time you’re already in an emergency). Instead, work with your company’s managers to help them forecast their needs well in advance. Help them budget for those staffing shortfalls.

To sum it up, strategic staffing is an ongoing process.

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