Headcount is a tricky issue in a lot of organizations. Here’s why (usually). Because many companies are quarter-to-quarter, what typically matters is urgent need. That drives hiring. A specific team loses a specific person, or a specific team feels overwhelmed — so they need to get someone in the door to help. Some of this leads to amazing hires, and that’s good. But, unfortunately some of it leads to myopia. You bring in someone for 2-3 weeks of tons of work, and then at Month 6, they have very little to do — because you didn’t do “foresight” or “forecasting” on the hire; you just filled an immediate need. As a result of this ecosystem, there’s some belief that headcount is actually hurting business innovation, and thought leaders like Josh Bersin (of Deloitte) have argued for a “team of teams” mentality. In “team of teams,” full-time hires would be more rare. You’d almost hire off a platform. “I need a designer.” You’d find the right designer — Upwork, Fiverr, etc. — and work with that person for 5-6 weeks, then they’d be gone. It benefits the company in some ways, too; they don’t have to pay their percentage of benefits, and they get the work done. The Gig Economy and freelancing is growing by the day, so we’re slowly moving towards this idea of “everyone as an independent contractor.” That might make some of the traditional challenges with hiring better.
For now, though, CCOs need to build their team. On virtually every episode of my podcast so far, a well-respected CEO has underscored time and again how important team-building is. HR needs to be involved, of course, but headcount and how you approach it cannot simply be the domain of HR. You are the one who knows your team. You know what your team needs. The strategy comes through you. As a result, building and getting the right people is crucial. Without the right people, or with constant turnover, it’s very hard to hit your goals month-in and month-out.
In sum, you need headcount. But you need to earn the right to headcount.
How does one earn the right to headcount?
Headcount is powered by results and the ability to communicate and engage leaders in seeing the value of the work. If your entire leadership team takes part in the initial building out of the five customer experience competencies, they will begin to appreciate the scale and scope of the work. This build-out will provide clarity in appreciating and committing to permanent headcount and resources to keep growing around the competencies.
The absolute key to headcount decisions is keeping the leaders active. They need to understand the work, and they need to see how they are benefiting from the five competencies. If you’re constantly showcasing this, you will get the headcount you need.
How much headcount do I need?
This varies by size of organization and scope of work. A startup may need 2-5 people in customer experience initially. An enterprise company may need 40. It varies by company, and that’s some of the consulting work I do — helping companies figure out what their staffing needs should look like.
In general, though, this is a good way to consider it:
- When you are committing and driving the five competencies initially, typically you need 1-2 headcount (for a smaller company)
- Reliability improvement (“unite and build” stages) are usually 1-3 headcount
- Embedding experience reliability is often 2-8 headcount
If you have questions, don’t hesitate to contact me. Headcount is tricky for many of us.
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