workers_add.jpegEvery leader who asks for headcount needs to be able to make a sound business case that ties the new headcount to executing the corporate or divisional strategy. Start by making sure you know who is making the headcount decision, and make your business case with that person in mind. Since a group of executives above your manager is likely making the call,you have to make the headcount make sense to your manager so she can make it make sense up the food chain.

That’s why it doesn’t help to get emotional when asking for headcount. It doesn’t help to say your people are tired or that they are too busy or frustrated. None of these “softer” reasons help much because by the time they get translated to the exec team who’s actually making the decision, they lose all weight. 

Better to make your business case with data. Speak in terms of managing talent risk – showing data that proves you have insufficient people lined up to execute the business strategy. And, that you know this because you can also prove that all of your current resources are fully and efficiently deployed.

You can drive the talent risk management conversations starting with risk assessment followed by prioritization and ultimately mitigation. Adding talent is only one of many risk mitigation strategies so be sure you’ve explored all the options before asking for the one that is likely the most expensive – more people.

Here are some ways you can structure your case using the Knowledge Silo Matrix: 

  1. List the silos of knowledge and expertise required to maintain current systems as well as any new ones that may be needed to meet the new strategy.
  2. Show where your people are currently deployed.
  3. Explore and explain all options for cross training, leveling workloads, reducing complexity, and clarifying roles so you can prove you’re using your current headcount to its highest advantage.
  4. Show how you’re borrowing resources from outside your existing team to manage spikes in demand.
  5. Show how you stopped doing work in some silos to further clean house and ensure no time is wasted.
  6. Calculate the “Cost of a Mistake” and/or “Cost of Missed Opportunity” for insufficient staffing in any given silo.
  7. Identify opportunities to outsource or insource work, ensuring that the right mix of employees and contractors is always in play.

With that analysis done, you can then show where you would deploy new headcount, not by talking about adding, for an example, a “software engineer” but instead, by talking about adding capacity in a silo or series of silos. You can say things like:

  1. “We have a new silo and lack expertise in that area. Hiring one critical expert and then using that expert to cross train existing employees using knowledge transfer is going to expedite how quickly and effectively we can execute your strategy.”
  2. “We can train up the headcount in these three silos and cut our response time by 10%.”
  3. “We can reduce reliance on a single point of failure in this silo so that expert can do something more important.”
  4. “We can reduce rework in three silos by hiring an expert from outside and having them stand up a new standard. This will save us costly cycle time.”
  5. “We can prepare for increased demand just-in-time (rather than too late or too early) because we know exactly which silos will be affected and have a plan to prepare for growth.”
  6. “We can replace an expensive contractor in a high risk, high priority silo with an employee and save money doing it.” 

A disciplined, data driven approach to “managing up” will not always net additional help but when an executive has a choice between adding headcount to the leader with a plan or someone else, the outcome is fairly predictable.