Quality over Quantity

We have all been there or at least read about it.  Firms stating they are going to hire this many thousands of employees over the next few years.  Firms predicting an uptick in the market and hiring in advance to be able to meet demands with a mature workforce.  The fallout of the mass hiring is usually those employees sit stagnant for quite a few months until they are properly trained or certain workstreams sell.  Being in consulting I have seen this firsthand.  My firm staffed-up considerably in my area of focus with some of the new employees not place on engagements for up to eight months.  While they are participating in internal activities they are not billing hours to the client, thus are a negative investment for the firm.

Thus the concept of leadership’s involvement in recruiting, productivity, and retention.  Bringing in top talent, putting that talent to use, and keeping that talent in house for years to come should be the goals of management.  However, it seems like no matter how well run an organization is, these issues are all still prevalent.  Great leaders should focus on utlizing the current talent they have in house rather than hiring from the outside.  There are numerous pros to this line of thinking including the expense of bringing in new talent, the expense of losing current talent, and keeping employees engaged.

Do you have experience where staff was utilized rather than hiring additional employees?  Have you seen instances where employees where cross-trained over different disciplines in order to increase productivity?


30 thoughts on “Quality over Quantity

  1. Time and time again I have seen this same mistake in other organizations, I feel it might have something to do with the how large the organization might be. In smaller businesses where they may be understaffed in certain division I have noticed that cross-training is highly valued in saving money and getting the work done. While productivity may not be as high as getting two more workers to do that same job the experience level of that one worker can keep a steady flow .

  2. This post is relevant because managers can make or break a company. a good manager can organize the team and create a way for everyone to communicate effectively. A good manager can also bring in talented employees who will be a strong asset to the company.

  3. I strongly agree with your post! I have worked in one of the top public accounting firms and see this on a daily basis. The company will hire anywhere from 4 to 10 people during the accounting busy season, and then offer full time positions to about half off them. The major difference between my first hand experience and the issues you are referring to in your post would be how much do you “utilize the staff” before realizing additional help is needed. In the case of public accounting, the most common theme scene throughout is young professionals being over worked and leaving the firms after 4-5 years. Sometimes additional employees can be a good thing.

  4. I really enjoyed this article and your analysis, especially the following: “Great leaders should focus on utilizing the current talent they have in house rather than hiring from the outside.” I believe the hallmark of any great leader is the ability to use the resources at his/her disposal to their greatest advantage. In the context of an organization, this would mean knowing your staff – having an understanding of their strengths/weaknesses and knowing how to hone and utilize those strengths. In addition, I believe having a leader with this skill may have saved a lot of companies from collapsing under the pressure of the economic downturn.

  5. I completely agree with your assessment. Many employers also hire from outside sources instead of promoting individuals from within their organization. Time is wasted in the on boarding and training process. This could be avoided with promoting from within. This individual is already acclimated with the systems in place and is completely in tune with the workplace culture making the transition seamless.

  6. Having one worker that is crossed trained is much better than having more workers for specific jobs because like the article said, workers can be sitting stagnant. I personally am self employed and I do not like to pay people while they are doing nothing. It is important to keep a quality worker who knows all business aspects to save money. Utilizing staff that already works for a firm is a much better route than hiring additional workers because training costs too much. Additional knowledge in different business aspects can create a quality worker who understands all departments.

  7. Its absolutely true that companies no matter the size deal with the issue of not only training and preparing new employment in order to be valuable to the company, but also to ensure that current employee’s are not simply able to do the one task the were employed to do but more. It is important that existing employee’s should be cross trained in other fields. Something i have experienced working in a restaurant for the last few years is that new employees enter and leave all year around. As a result, current employee’s are constantly training new people only for those new employee’s to leave after a few months. After about a year of this happening, management began cross training existing employees in other jobs in the restaurant instead of hiring a new employee every month. As a result, I went from running food to tables and hosting, to also being able to work all the stations in the kitchen, as well as bar tending and serving. This proved to be a benefit to the store because the training process was easier for us current employee’s because we already had general feel for the jobs making them easier to learn. An example of this cross training being helpful to the company was during last years Super Bowl game. We had been taking to-go orders for food for about a month in advance. There were easily hundreds of orders placed that day for large amounts of wings, burgers, etc. As expected, the kitchen began to fall behind, however since there were hosts who could not only get customers orders paid for, we could also go in the kitchen and help the kitchen staff make the food. If we had not been cross trained to help, i do’t think the day would have turned out the way it did, people would have been waiting much longer for their food to be prepared, which would lead to complaints and loss of sales.

  8. I have seen first hand the effects of quality over quantity. Having just left my past job where they were always hiring and bringing people in, they were definitely not out looking for the best employee. The company would hire anyone and then think a 2 week training period would be sufficient. In most cases these employees would not be ready and would make huge mistakes that would jeopardize our bottom line.

  9. There are a few articles on The New York Times about this situation that explains how large companies run into hiring/employee related issues and who should be responsible for mishaps. I feel that here the company lacks quality management, meaning, they haven’t attained exceptional value that is consistent with the company mission. If the employees cannot give the output that the company mission is trying to show then that mishap is the company’s fault not the employees who were either not properly trained or just simply disinterested. Overall, the company strategy in this area should take a second look and try to improve instead of just hire.

  10. If companies contemplate on their hiring decisoins, i believe all growing companies may find themselves invovled in making the same mistake. In the race to achieve higher productivity, firms tend to spend more on hiring new workers which ofcourse also hires the strings attached with new workers (training). I completely agree with the authors idea that we can tap more potential from existing workers rather than hiring new employees.

  11. Having just started my internship at an accounting firm, they told me they needed me for the busy season. So far that busy season has yet to start so I spent the first five hours of the day pestering various managers looking for work. I understand they will need me when the busy season comes, I just wish they had planned more for some engagements that I could work on and get trained on.

  12. I really liked reading this article. I have seen this type of actions take place at one of my past jobs. The company claimed that we were under staff and needed more people to get the necessary tasks completed, however; after they hired the new employees, they did not even take the time to fully train them. You could see this by the work that they were producing and carelessness they were demonstrating. I think that it is crucial that firms to make sure that all their employees have the proper training and tools.

  13. In my experience, cross training employees is very effective. Even though hiring new employees can benefit the company, it takes time for new employees to get train and get up to speed on things. It takes time and everyone knows time is money. There was this one night that I had a trainee that I was in charged of. My manager told me that the trainee was an extra set of hands that will help me finish our tasks faster. However, the trainee did not contribute very much causing me to do more work then needed.

    But hiring new employees can bring in a fresh ideas and energy into the working environment. It just takes time. So, it all about timing.

  14. In my current work place they are also going with this quantity over quality outlook on the job. I believe this is an extremely negative thing for a workplace because the people who are mass hired have potential to be great employees but are never trained properly. I think that work places should focus on hiring quality employees and not bulk hiring because this could be very damaging to the company and the employees who were hired.

  15. I believe that while cross training employees is a smart “business decision” tt may not be a very smart “people decision.” I believe this because I have been working for a company for about two years that cross trains with the goal of making the company more efficient and effective but rather overworks and expects way too much of its employees causing employee morale to plummet. While I understand the value of making employees more well rounded and increasing productivity, I believe that there is a fine line between well rounded employees and exploited employees who are wearing multiple hats in the company because corporate doesn’t want to spend the extra money to hire new people.

  16. This is definitely a valid issue in the growing and maintaining of businesses. Focusing on the management of current employees rather than hiring externally can highly benefit the performance and productivity of a business. An important aspect of this idea is to provide feedback, training, and promotions to current employees to keep them motivated, and therefore improving the company. I can relate to this because I just started working at a bank, and most of my co-workers have been there for years and know the ins and outs of the system. They also are very close to the regular customers and communicate with them very comfortably, even about non work related issues. Having close and long relationships with them has made the customers very happy and keeps them coming back. Obviously some business are short handed in staff, but it is essential to focus on maintaing the top employees who have plenty of experience and knowledge about the system. This can potentially reduce costs and increase production.

  17. I find this post relevant because employees play the critical roles in organizations. It’s important to realize that organizations are employees, and customer service and quality rely on these skilled motivated people. Employees should be seen as assets, not expenses. Assets are something you invest in. One reality is that everyday workers, those who interact with customers, know the customers the best. Some organizations act as if they can treat employees badly (especially during tough economic times) and expect these same employees to treat customers with great service. However organizations need to invest in employees to see the results the company assets can produce.

  18. This is a very interesting article because I can relate to it. The company I was working at for 6 years and recently got laid off in April had the same problems, and that is why me and many other employees got laid off. It was a small company but the owner of the company did not know when to stop hiring people he would hire anyone he saw and said they needed a job. Almost all the new employees he hired did not have any experience with any type of work this was their first office work and he hired them as management. But me and many others who had been working there for 6 years had the experience and the knowledge of what to do for company got laid off. The people who were hired didn’t get any training. The owner would ask them to write a letter for someone and they wouldn’t even know how to use the computer and he would call me or someone to teach them how to use a computer and spell things for them. So I believe taking employees within the company who already have the knowledge would be better or if you want to hire from outside make sure that they are provided with enough training and are qualified for the position they are getting hired for. When I got laid off I knew the company would soon close down because the management had no training. The vice-president even was replaced by a new employee.
    About a week ago I heard the company shut down because there were so many mistakes and problems. The new people who were hired had no clue what they were doing and all the paychecks were not done right and everyone would not get paid. I didn’t even get paid for the last month I worked there. So I believe that training is very important part of hiring employees.

  19. “Great leaders should focus on utilizing the current talent they have in house rather than hiring from the outside.” This was the statement that stood out the most to me in this post. By utilizing current employees you build loyalty within the company. This allows employees to have a personal investment within the organization and makes them a crucial part of progression. Also by taking advantage of current talent an organization saves a lot of time and money in training outside hires.

  20. This is a great write up. It states facts that are very true in todays job market. I have experience in consulting because i worked for a consulting firm for a year that I did not attend school. In this company the turnover was pretty high for lower employees (phone calls, telemarketing). But the big dogs in the company had put in anywhere from 10+ years in and the company was only 17 years old. It’s very true that you need to utilize your talent that you have in house because the people you bring in from the outside may not understand how the company works internally. The problem with hiring consistently from the outside is the cost of training. When you have a high turnover with lower employees you need to figure out what training costs per employee and then calculate your turnover to see if your losing on these outside investments. You would hope that these trainees work their way up the totem pole into management and become a better employee because of their experience and insight they experienced on a lower level.

  21. I think using current employees as a future asset is a great way for reducing cost of hires and increases motivation. From personal experience I know if the companies started promoting from within it would be less turnover and motivation for employees to work towards something. Many employees find if they can’t exceed they will stop trying and managers will loose a lot of great talent. Outside hires are great sometimes but internal hires are cost effective and a great motivator.

  22. I think a lot of companies hire new employees to cut down on the amount they would have to pay them. Giving someone a raise compared to hiring someone new with a starting salary make a huge difference when it comes to the cost of the company. I work in the food industry and it is very easy to find someone with no experience and train them. Then again having someone with great amount of experience and a great attribute to the company if more beneficial in my opinion.

  23. At the company I intern at, our operations manager recently quit to go to a competitor company. Therefore, we have the position open. However, there is the possibility that our division may not even need this position anymore by spreading the duties throughout the division onto other employees or we may need to hire someone new. There is also the possibility that one of our sales executives could take over the position and shift in a lateral move to become the operations manager as she has dealt with some of those responsibilities. If we can make this shift, we can fully optimize our employees and their abilities.

  24. I agree with your post as well. Using employees to their full potential and cross training employees rather than having too many employees and them being stagnant. This produces a challenging work environment for the employee and pushes the employee to work smarter at his/her job. You run the risk of getting to the “overworked” point with employees but that is worth the risk because a challenge work environment is key for productive employees. If you are stuck at a job that is to easy and routine, which can with to many employees, than workers will become bored and unfocused on their work.

  25. This post is very interesting and very relevant to my current work experience. I work at a law firm that specializes in bad debt collection and real estate. While my primary job responsibilities allow me to focus with the debt collections it is very apparent that the bulk of the business flow stems from the debt collections department. The role of a debt collector is a position that requires a lot of training in the sense that each collector has to be trained not only to be compliant with state and federal debt collection law but also be trained in the use of the software system and database of the many accounts worked as inventory as well as have great communication skills. The law firm has actually built a team of highly experienced collectors and utilizes their skills very effectively rather than hiring new employees. I have actually also played a very versatile role with the company because I have been cross-trained over different disciplines that include bookkeeping, clerical and administrative services, and quality assurance. These skills allow me to be a sort of liasson between different positions and allows me to assist with training because I know the software that is used at the law firm as it is applied to the different departments within the collections department.

  26. I worked at a smaller company, Take2media, as a marketing intern. With just 5 people working in the Chicago office and about the same number in the New York office, this company has cross trained their employees. With a smaller team, I think companies save a lot of money and resources and can put these resources to use for other projects. I think its better to hire internally rather than hire from outside, in this economy it is definitely wiser to hire internally and save as much money as a company can.

  27. Working at US Cellular Field for the last 6 years I have seen my boss keep relatively the same staff that he has had since working for the park. I feel as though he knows he has a reliable team that knows what they’re expected to do. An understanding with the pay and a confidence in his workers, my boss is able to run his stands smoothly. Not saying that this is necessarily a great approach in every company; it seems to work for my boss.

  28. Yes, I believe that a firm should focus on giving their current employees the opportunity to either advance withing the company or take on assignements rather than hiring new employees. The company can help their employees take advantage of these opportunities by offering the proper training to build off of their already existing knowledge. Instead of hiring new employees when the work load increases, the companies would be better off by allowing their current employees to take on the added responsibilities. In doing so, the company becomes more productive and better able to handle sudden increases in the work load.

  29. So am I correct in assuming where you take issue is over-hiring to the point where individual employees (or the employees who have been with the company longer) don’t get priority over the company as a whole? Given the current economic situation in this country which is only slowly improving, would it not be beneficial to the company or even the nation as a whole to invest in this human capital very strongly? Particularly because the economy will eventually improve (we hope), these people could be moving onto better positions, in which case it would not be very effective talent management to let them go elsewhere. While it does make more sense to wait until the market demand dictates you need more people, wouldn’t over-hiring be a good way to preempt a market you see as being due to expand? If you are correct and the market does expand, you already have the human capital hired and trained to be able to meet that demand before competitors.

  30. Quality is an important issue for most of companies , and continuse staff training and building there knowledge capicity of org vision and mision . We are in knowledge age ,I think employees can produce more if they are happy .

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