How to Manage the Uncertainty of Hiring

Three questions can help you balance some of the risks involved with expanding your team

Let’s be frank: if your organization is going through massive change or scaling rapidly, it’s not enough to get people to stay. You also have to convince people to join. Even in the best circumstances, bringing on new team members can feel like a risky proposition: are they the right person for the role? Will they add to the culture? Are they aligned with where the organization is heading, and willing to take on the challenges to get there?

With all these unknowns, it’s no surprise that leaders try to find the “perfect” fit. Yet every day you delay hiring adds more work to your existing team, and increases their risk of burnout—not to mention, the likelihood of them leaving as well. With hiring now taking 40+ days to fill certain roles, these key questions can help you balance some of the risks involved with expanding your team:

  • What about this role is “safe-to-fail” versus “fail-safe”? What elements of the role require mastery from the very beginning? These are “fail-safe” criteria—essential skills that can’t be delegated or outsourced—but should be kept to a minimum to increase your odds of finding a candidate. Other elements can be thought of as “safe-to-fail”—if a candidate has limited experience in this area, or if mistakes will cause minimal harm, you have more flexibility. You may decide to invest in training, for instance, or move those tasks to another role. We’ve identified some common considerations below to help you think through what’s safe-to-fail versus fail-safe:
  • What’s the backup plan? It’s often difficult to know exactly how long it will take to fill a role, especially for ones that have more “fail-safe” requirements. We recommend conducting a pre-mortem exercise to understand how you can plan for different potential scenarios. For instance, if the search goes on longer than anticipated, could you temporarily pull in support from another team or bring in a contractor? Do you or another leader need to take on certain decision-making responsibilities, and if so, are there other decisions you can delegate?
  • What support do existing employees need? When you’re under pressure to expand, it’s all too easy to get caught up in hiring, but don’t leave your existing employees stranded. Be transparent about the process and timing, even if you don’t know exactly when new members will join. In the meantime, recognize their efforts and make sure they feel supported through check-ins and stay interviews. And to alleviate potential burnout, review projects and plans to determine what tasks, if any, can be deprioritized until the team’s capacity stabilizes. 
Published March 27, 2022

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