Your Headcount Wishlist

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When the day comes, who are you going to hire?

We’re not always going to be cutting back.  Sure, it seems like it now, but at some point, the economy in general or your company specifically is going to grow.  And at long last, you’ll get to play hiring manager again!  But, what req do you ask for first?

I want a benefits specialist.  There are a lot of enrollment things that end up on several different desks right now, and Accounting handles Worker’s Comp.  I’d like to tie it all together into one person and just not have to worry about why the FSA administrator didn’t reimburse that claim.

But do I need one?  Nah.  The system isn’t broken right now, and even if we acquired another 200 employees tomorrow, my current patchwork has some capacity.  Plus, that extra fringed $50K I’d spend on someone in benefits will probably not pay off in me or my team being $50K more valuable.  A benefits person would really be for my own convenience.

No, the top of my headcount wish-list is a training manager, for reasons that I won’t bore you with here.  Suffice it to say, I think this person’s marginal value would pay for itself, with the right buy-in from the client groups.

Entrepreneurs, and hopefully your operations people, understand this calculation without thinking about it.  Put yourself outside of HR for a moment.  For a date night, do you hire one babysitter, or two?  One, of course – why would you pay double?  At some point, your “company” might need two (you have an entire Von Trapp family, or will be out of town for a few days), but there’s no point in wasting money until you have the need.

Not every HR hire is going to have an ROI that can be calculated easily.  That’s OK.  However, this is another one of those areas where you get to control the organization’s perception of HR through what you do.  I’ve been in HR shops that are downright crowded with headcount run amok – senior organizational development specialists, and associate compensation analysts, and the like.  When an engineer walks into one of these HR shops, the first reaction is “Wow, this is a lot of overhead!”, followed quickly by, “Is there anyone here who can actually help me?”

Instead of adding that work-life balance consultant that all the cool HR departments have, pick up a generalist for your sales team.  They end up being the bulk of your ER complaints, they have complicated compensation systems that no one really understands, and frankly you want the sales people out of your office.  Hire a generalist with some sales in their background, get her a desk over in sales, and let her go a bit native.  Now, HR has done something for the organization with its new found headcount, rather than doing something for HR.

Give this some thought now, while the headcount answer is still no.  Eventually, the answer will change to “maybe”.  At that point, you’ll do better making a case for added organizational value than asking for a pony.

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Steve Gifford
Steve Gifford, MBA, SPHR, is the Director of Human Resources for OEM America, a PEO of more than a hundred companies and more than two thousand employees. His company gives small businesses the buying power and HR expertise of a big company, but without the bureaucracy! In the past, he’s been the HR guy for marketing, manufacturing, retail, and government organizations. His first HR job was in the US Army during his second tour in Iraq, where every employee in his client group carried an automatic weapon. It helps him keep the problems of employees who show up to work late in perspective.

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