My Headcount Is Frozen and I Have Work That Needs to Be Done – Now What?

The stock market is on the rise and business is picking up again. While we’re still living in “uncertain” and “unprecedented” times, there’s work that needs to be done. 

But your headcount is frozen. Now what?

Companies continue to operate conservatively by limiting headcount and lowering overhead, but this ongoing freeze isn’t reflective of the work that needs to be done — it’s a reflection of the uncertainty of the future. Even so, your team can’t continue to shoulder the load. 

If you’re stuck with more work than people, here’s why onboarding a consultant can be a great solution. 

The Demand for Consultants Is Increasing

Hiring a contractor provides some relief for your team but doesn’t require you to get permission for an increased headcount. We’re seeing this hiring strategy work for businesses across the board, from venture-backed companies to publicly traded companies. They need people who can help fill the gaps, but they don’t have full-time positions to offer.

Companies who weren’t open to remote hires previously now see the potential benefits and are learning how to make it work.

Because it works so well, the demand for interim hires in finance and accounting continues to increase, this is true for senior accountants and analysts, and also for Controller and Finance Manager roles. For these positions, our clients are looking for someone with experience, but not so much experience they’ve forgotten how to work in the weeds. These companies also don’t have time to handhold new hires, so they need candidates who work well independently. 

This makes hiring contractors the perfect solution.

The Benefits of Hiring Consultants During a Hiring Freeze

We’ve had success in recent months helping our clients hire on an interim basis — locally and out of state. Because everyone is working remotely, we’ve been able to open the candidate pool, making consultants who aren’t located near the office a viable hiring option. In the Bay Area, where the cost of living and cost of labor is expensive, our clients like that they can hire someone from a different location and save on the rate they would have paid for someone locally. 

This works particularly well when hiring for specialty positions. The candidate pool in the Bay Area can be limited for niche skill sets such as SEC reporting or technical accounting. As clients become open to recruiting out-of-area candidates to work remotely, we can fill these consulting roles quickly. Consultants are typically flexible to adjust their work hours to Pacific Time, which makes talking with colleagues in the Bay Area easy as well. 

Can I Onboard a Consultant Remotely?

While hiring managers might think that it’s more difficult to onboard a consultant remotely, it actually may be easier. Consultants are used to getting up to speed quickly and ramping up without much direction. 

Consultants have honed their ability to work independently — they’re not used to depending on a manager for constant direction, but rather working in autonomous roles where they’re hired for their subject matter expertise. They come in with their skill set and knowledge and pop in for Zoom meetings, but they don’t need to be in person to work effectively.

Companies who weren’t open to remote hires previously now see the potential benefits and are learning how to make it work. In some situations, companies are ultimately converting interim consultants to full-time employees who continue to work remotely. 

“As a manager, if you realize you’re constantly putting out fires and everyone is maxed out on their hours, it’s time to pause.

The longer our work-from-home situation continues, the more people realize that remote work can work. Right now, we’re getting positive feedback that people are learning how to be really productive at home — and if they onboard someone who will also be working from home, most likely that person can be really productive too. 

Is Hiring a Consultant Really Necessary?

When you’re trying to be conservative with operating expenses, is hiring an interim person necessary? If your team is feeling the pressure, working long hours, and struggling to meet demands, yes. Otherwise, the increased amount of work combined with a decrease in job satisfaction can cripple your company and employees. 

Decreased Job Satisfaction

For many people, work hours keep increasing, partially because of the COVID-19 situation and their struggle to maintain good boundaries between work and home. Consequently, they’re spending more hours working because they get sucked into the job and don’t have a clear separation. At the end of the day, many feel less accomplished and less satisfied.

Increased Workload

Additionally, some companies are still growing. They’re doing system implementations, trying to reduce their close time, and scale the company — all with limited resources. Ultimately, everyone on the team ends up working more hours, leaving many people feeling burned out, which makes turnover likely. 

Meanwhile, the market remains busy — there are still companies, especially in the Biotech and SaaS industries, that are hiring permanent headcount. You don’t want to end up losing the good people on your team to other companies. Then, you not only need one consultant, you need multiple new hires. 

More Work = Less Time For People

Our current situation has caused many companies to spend more time on business and less time connecting to their employees. Leaders are working so hard trying to make the business float, they’re missing observable changes in employees’ mental health

As a manager, if you realize you’re constantly putting out fires and everyone is maxed out on their hours, it’s time to pause. Would hiring a consultant as an additional resource increase job satisfaction and decrease stress for you and your team? In an age when people are especially stressed and pressed for time, this may be just the solution you need. 

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