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I have identified that we are under-resourced in our team based on the volume of workload and methods of dealing with this high volume - lots of task switching to keep multiple projects going at the same time.

When I have previously stated this to senior management and HR I have been asked to justify recruitment of new permanent people to the team. I have never found this an easy task.

What aspects do I need to focus on to build a rock-solid business case to hire more people?

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4 Answers 4

What aspects do I need to focus on to build a rock-solid business case to hire more people?

You'll want to show how you are under-resourced not just now, but for the foreseeable future.

You want to show the volume of work for the next several years, and compare that to the capacity in your current team.

If you have critical projects coming up, explain how they will be negtively impacted if you don't have enough help.

As much as possible, you'll want to point to specific projects/tasks that have not been completed due to lack of manpower. And you'll want to do the same for upcoming projects which you don't have the capacity to service.

If you are filling the need with temporary workers now, you'll want to highlight that expense and show how it will go away if you increase your permanent headcount.

As @Bmo correctly points out, you can touch on the issues this lack of help is causing with your existing team. Excess juggling can cause them to lose productivity. It can cause morale to plummet. If this gets severe, you may lose critical team members.

While addressing all of these will make you case stronger, companies are still reluctant to add to the permanent headcount, so it could still be a tough sell. If you are juggling now to stay on top of demand, you may need to be prepared to juggle faster for a while (at least that's the situation I'm in at the moment).

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Nice answer, I just wanted to add one thing Though it's hard to quantify, employee morale. Making your current employees work multiple projects on overtime (time away from families, hobbies) can put a drain on productivity and creativity. –  Bmo Jul 21 at 12:30

How do we do it?

What aspects do I need to focus on to build a rock-solid business case to hire more people?

One thing which would help is having some system to at the very least guesstimate your department workload. Saying "we are overworked" is not meaningful.

Saying something like:

  • Our team receives 20 weekly requests
    • Each request averages 10 hours work
    • Our average time from request to completion is 3 months
    • Each request adds $X to the company on average
  • Our team has 3 members
    • This allows us 120 hours/week
    • We can only process 12 requests a week at maximum efficiency. This sort of crude estimation is only good if you have no meaningful metrics. In reality, your team is not going to be able to function at 100% efficiency and your time tracking/estimation needs to include this inefficiency. If you have more meaningful information or historical data from your projects (even anecdotal frustration from your team's customers) this can help get a better feel.
  • We expect this workload to increase/stay the same/etc indefinitely

Why do it this way?

This information lets management determine:

  • Are the projects important enough to justify additional headcount?
  • Does there need to be a better prioritizing system?
    • Perhaps your department needs to turn down requests.
    • Implement a prioritization system where non-urgent requests are ignored unless all urgent ones are accomplished
  • Is your average request time appropriate? Can workflow improvements help reduce the workload?
  • Is another team overstaffed and those resources available for a reorg?

Data is everything in this. Saying "we're overworked" is meaningless. Presenting the above information is much much much more meaningful to management.

Historical information is even better to have.

When is best?

Keep in mind too that if you add headcount at a critical point in a project, you might actually make the project take longer. If your team is overwhelmed indefinitely this doesn't really matter (you will have to take the hit sometime). However if you are hoping to launch a project in a few months, adding lots of interview, HR, and onboarding time to an already overworked team is not necessarily the best idea.

However only delay this work if there is a reprise in sight.

What if no one cares?

You might run into situations where no one cares. Or basically says "whatever, the department works, no problems yet." Or your manager not wanting to take action for a variety of reasons.

Then you need to determine if a stressful job is worth it to you. If managers feel no "pain" they will not add headcount. You need to basically determine if this environment is one you are willing to work in - if not, act accordingly.

Closing thoughts

Keep in mind too the process for adding headcount can be a long process even when your boss, your bosses boss, and perhaps even more levels higher agree.

Overall company performance, budgeting, forecasting, etc all factor into whether this is possible.

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If you need new people the first thing you need to do is to stop working overtime (if your team is). Miss those deadlines instead. Now you have something to prove you need the people. You can never justify new people based on workload if the work is getting done. This was a hard lesson for me to learn becasue I want to try my best to get everything done.

Another thing to do is to tell them that you cannot do a new task when it comes up. If they insist, give them a list of everything else your team is doing and ask them which one needs to be turned off to make room for this one. Make sure that they know the deadline on the turned off project will be moved and the hours to complete it will go up (It alawys takes longer to get back to speed when you haven't been working on something for awhile). Give them a specific new deadline and new hour estimate. Make sure the people who are the business owners for the project turned off are aware of the impact to their schedule.

Saying no is hard, but it is the best way I have found to make them see that you don't have the capacity for more work.

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Saying no is hard, but it is the best way I have found to make them see that you don't have the capacity for more work. <-- and if you aren't a manager, and your manager insists on your team working longer hours rather than voicing concern upward, this often will result in a really really frustrating work environment. –  enderland Jul 21 at 15:00
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@enderland, totally agree. And rejustifying a position when someone leaves because the workload is too much is pretty frustrating too. –  HLGEM Jul 21 at 15:34
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You've expanded on what @enderland said about making the management feel the pain by giving a concrete example of how to do that: "Stop working overtime". When they feel the pain too, you indeed get more help. :) –  jmort253 Jul 31 at 1:21

It's really very simple. You have to explain what extra stuff you could do if you had more people, and how that would benefit the business more than the cost of the extra people you hire. Giving specific examples of extra things you could do is best, along with how that would increase sales/improve customer satisfaction/achieve the strategic aims of the company.

Alternatively you can do the same in reverse - show how a lack of people is preventing you from doing those things: i.e. not putting in needed features, not fixing bugs, not addressing customer needs. In the latter case prepare to be asked if you could get productivity improvements with the people you have.

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