Sometimes it’s crystal clear that it’s time to hire, like when you need to replace a systems analyst who filled a critical role on your team, when your company is opening a second location and needs an office manager, or when you feel like you’re doing the work of three people — and you are.

But what about those times when it's less evident that you need to add more employees?

In those situations, managers can feel like there's no right answer. If you hire someone when it's not necessary, you could end up dealing with an employee who doesn’t have enough to do — or worse, having to lay off the person when you can't justify maintaining the position. But if you wait too long to add staff, you risk workplace burnout and might miss out on growth opportunities.

It can be a difficult decision for managers to make, but we're here to help. Here are some common scenarios that can assist you in determining whether you’re adequately staffed or it’s time to hire:

Growth vs. survival

When your company has the right number of employees, you can think about the future of the business and the initiatives that will take you there. When you're understaffed, though, those things take a backseat, and you postpone new initiatives even when you have the budget for them. Think about whether these scenarios ring true:

  • Your employees are focused on their work, and you’re focused on yours. You’re able to devote time to big-picture management issues. — You’re adequately staffed.
  • Big-picture issues? You can't recall the last time you were able to be proactive. Your team is so busy you've had to cover the gaps. To help the team manage, you frequently tackle subordinate-level duties in addition to your supervisory responsibilities. — It’s time to hire.
  • Your company has just landed a major new customer for your products. Everyone celebrates the great news and what it means for the organization. — Adequately staffed
  • A major new customer? Not only do you feel deflated, but so do the people on your team. How in the world is everyone going to take on more work supporting that customer? You wonder why anyone pursued additional business in the first place, given the impact on employees. — Time to hire

Success vs. struggle

Sometimes you can tell whether it's time to start the recruiting process just by observing the people who work for you. Consider these scenarios:

  • Your star employees are at their best. They’re wowing everyone they encounter with their excellent service and contributions. — Adequately staffed
  • Your team drops the ball and makes errors where they never did before. Employees are missing deadlines, and you’re hearing comments like, “How are we going to do all this?” Overall, performance has declined, and the quality of work has slipped. Service levels have worsened, and customers and clients have noticed. — Time to hire
  • Your staff works hard and puts in the extra effort with occasional overtime when necessary. — Adequately staffed
  • It’s no longer rare to receive emails from your employees time-stamped well after hours or on the weekend. Overtime is now standard, and you and your employees are taking unprecedented volumes of work home. — Time to hire
  • People are for the most part healthy and present at work every day. — Adequately staffed
  • Employees are repeatedly calling in sick or showing up sick. These are indicators that people may be feeling the physical effects of stress or lack the same motivation they once had in their roles. Punctuality also is an issue, with staff members coming in late more than they ever did in the past. — Time to hire

A defined position

It's important to make sure you have the workload and the means to support a new employee before you start recruitment. Here are two more scenarios to ponder:

  • Everyone in your office has defined duties that make sense for his or her position, and no one has to take on an unreasonable amount of extra work for a long period of time. — Adequately staffed
  • Your employees have set responsibilities but also keep picking up new duties whenever things come up, and there's no rhyme or reason to it — people simply get new assignments based on whether they're busy or not. Put all of those extra tasks together, and you'd have enough work for another full-time employee. — Time to hire
  • Your firm is healthy and making money, and you're able to pay your employees at market rate, or above. But your profits aren't so high that you feel comfortable taking on another employee's salary and benefits. — Adequately staffed
  • Your profits are good, and it looks like revenue will continue to rise well into the future. You know it's time to reinvest in your company, and hiring new staff will help you keep growing your business. — Time to hire

Determine your needs and timeline

Even if you identify with the time-to-hire examples, you shouldn't necessarily rush to add more employees. Instead, thoughtfully consider where you need help most, and for how long.

If you and your staff feel overwhelmed because of a big project with a definite end date, it may make more sense to bring in temporary professionals just to support that project. On the other hand, when there's a defined set of duties that need to be fulfilled for the long term, it's probably best to bring in full-time help.

Knowing how to hire an employee with good planning will ensure you’re not just adequately staffed now, but also in the months and years ahead.

More resources when it’s time to hire

  1. Hiring the right people: The key to avoiding the many high costs of a bad hire is to have a solid hiring process — and to avoid shortcuts. Finding good people for your company requires spot-on job descriptions, expansive reach, vigorous evaluation, effective phone screening, top-notch interviews and reference checks.
  2. Using Robert Half Salary Guides: How much should you expect to pay administrative, accounting and finance, creative and marketing, technology and IT, and legal professionals? Find salary data for hundreds of positions at small, midsize and large companies.
  3. Working with a staffing agency: An expert recruiter can help identify your staffing needs, launch a search for skilled candidates, evaluate applicants, and reduce the time and stress caused by many other aspects of hiring a new employee. Learn about the benefits of working with a staffing agency like Robert Half when hiring.