Who, what, why? Assessing staffing needs

Evaluating your current staff and staffing needs is likely something that you do on an ongoing basis, but it’s a particularly useful exercise to go through when a team member leaves the company. Too often, managers have the knee jerk reaction of simply finding a one to one replacement, thus foregoing the opportunity to make the team better and stronger, to foster professional growth, and to make impactful changes to both processes and the makeup of their team.

Here are some ideas on how you can assess your needs and identify opportunities.

Doing enough of, not enough of, too much of

I recommend starting a spreadsheet with three simple columns:

  • doing enough of
  • not enough of
  • too much of.

Start with yourself, as this can be an eye-opening exercise. Categorize everything you do on regular basis into these three columns. You can even add another dimension and rate the level of each entry. For instance, you may have “Respond to RFPs” in the “doing too much of” column, and now you can assign a value from 1 to 10 to capture just how much “too much” time you’ve been allocating to RFPs. You can even take it step further and color-code each entry to create a visual of how much you enjoy (or don’t enjoy) this task or how well you think you’re doing the task.

It can be as simple as the example below:


Take a few hard looks at what you’ve captured. Now look at the “not enough of” column and ask yourself why you feel that each of those items are being neglected and what needs to happen for you to be able to move those tasks into the “enough of” column. Next, move on to the “too much of” column. For each item, ask yourself “Am I the best person to do this? What type of person is best suited for this? Do we currently have someone on our team who could make this part of their role? If we created a new position that included this particular responsibility, what else would their job entail?” Once you’ve gone through this exercise for yourself, ask your managers to do the same and discuss the results in your check-ins. Have each team member complete the exercise themselves for one of their one one ones with their managers. Be clear about the purpose of this initiative. It’s to make the company stronger and to harness each person’s strengths and interests, but it is not a guarantee that everybody only gets to work on the things that they enjoy the most.

High-level department snapshot

While the previous approach can be pretty elaborate, creating a high-level department snapshot is a quick way to get your staffing assessment started. For each department, create bullet points for the following categories:

  • Pain points and challenges
  • Strengths and opportunities
  • Changes to consider

It’s important to tackle the last bullet point only after you’ve given serious thought to the first two items. And once you get to “changes”, be sure to think about processes, policies, and initiatives as well. Sometimes, adding a new employee is not the answer. For instance, implementing a new app to facilitate collaboration, finally deciding to say no to certain projects, offering training to one or more individuals, or even simple things such as new seating arrangement can make a significant impact and solve some of your challenges. Obviously, when you do see the need for a new position, evaluate if it would make sense to fill it internally or if you need to bring in someone from the outside. I love to find opportunities for existing team members to stretch themselves and grow professionally.

Individual strengths, interests, passions, goals, and weaknesses

As a manager and coach, it is your duty to observe your team members and to continuously identify their unique superpowers, their passions and interests, goals, and their weaknesses, and to collaborate with each person to optimize their performance and maximize their happiness. In order to keep your assessments top of mind and current, and to have a log that allows you to go back in time and see a person’s progression, it can be helpful to keep a history of your entries rather than overwriting them each time. What you’re looking to find here is alignment between the team member’s goals and the company’s. How can you best leverage someone’s strengths? If a particular weakness is an obstacle towards achieving alignment, is there something you can do to in terms of coaching and providing resources in order to alleviate the weakness, or would it make more sense to shift certain responsibilities to someone else? Be sure to ask your team members to provide a self-assessment as well – it’s another great way to structure on of your check-ins.

Don’t be afraid of a switcheroo

As I mentioned before, sometimes just throwing a new hire into the mix is not the best option. Always focus on an internal assessment first. Look for opportunities to harness your team members’ strengths and empower them to rise to the occasion. Don’t be afraid to switch things up. In fact, you may even be able to pull a switcheroo and have two or more team members trade positions. For instance, in one of my previous companies, I switched our Support Manager and our Network Administrator, as their personalities were much better suited for each other’s roles. It doesn’t always have to be a one on one switch, either. Sometimes, you can revamp several positions. Be committed to providing adequate training and to be forgiving when things don’t go as smoothly as expected at first. If you have the right people on board, they’ll learn. Always remember that you can teach people how to do something but you can’t teach them how to be.

What about you? What are your tips for assessing staffing needs?

4 thoughts on “Who, what, why? Assessing staffing needs

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