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4 Crucial Steps to Approach Client Overstaffing

Tough Talks Tuesday: 4 Crucial Steps to Approach Client Overstaffing

Tough talks is a new series that covers the harder conversations we all need to have during the hiring process. 

It feels great to find your groove filling clients’ open roles. However, the less obvious — and less fun — responsibility you have as a staffing professional is recognizing and being forthcoming when you discover clients are overstaffing. 

This conversation has the potential to be uncomfortable for many reasons. You could be building your relationship with a new client, and challenging their internal staffing process can be offputting. Or arguably worse, you may have to admit they reached this extreme overstaffing situation under your guidance. 

Depending on each clients’ unique circumstances, the news could mean they need to either reassign workers or lay them off. If the issue is isolated to seasonal hiring periods, you’ll still have your work cut out for you, but you can at least focus on more strategic staffing plans to get their hiring back on track. 

While it’s challenging to raise tough topics, like overstaffing conflicts with clients, clear and honest communication solidifies trust and improves your overall working relationship. 

Here are a few tips to consider when approaching clients about overstaffing: 

Come prepared with hard facts

You would never recommend clients increase their staff without hard facts supporting the benefits to their bottom line. The same should be true when you inform them of the issues you uncover in their staffing strategy. 

Come prepared for your meeting with a full analysis of patterns in their hiring metrics that point toward overstaffing, such as low retention and employee satisfaction. Outline when you noticed the trends began, why these metrics prove they’re overstaffed, and your recommendations for resolving the issue. 

Open the discussion with clients to determine how much time is realistic to decrease staffing to an appropriate number of employees to meet their goals. You shouldn’t attempt to force difficult choices, like drastically liquidating their workforce or risking understaffing during a busy period.  

Discuss the ROI of resolving the issue

Your clients rely on you to provide facts that help them make informed hiring decisions. In this case, numbers speak louder than words. You should keep the tone positive without making light of the situation.

For example, discussing the return on investment (ROI) they will see once the issue is resolved helps them look beyond the immediate conflict. Instead, they can focus their energy and attention on improved turnover rates, increased employee engagement, and higher productivity.

Help them see the benefits of redirecting their staffing strategy by painting a realistic picture for meeting their current goals while securing the future success of their staff and company.

Focus on “next steps” as a team

One of your goals is, undoubtedly, to become a trusted staffing solution and advisor for your clients. Filling their staffing needs is not a rote task for you, so turning to you for top talent should not function or feel like an automated candidate drive-thru.

Make it clear their issue of overstaffing is a problem you can tackle together. Detail the next steps for you and the client to handle as a team. Use your staffing experience to help them understand where it’s possible to reassign employees or point them toward resources to work through stagnant scheduling conflicts. 

If they have to reduce hours, let employees go, or choose not to rehire temporary employees, guide them through offering recommendations or even referrals to other clients. This process ensures no bridges are burned, and their employer reputation stays positive while keeping your talent pool filled for their future hiring needs.

Layout a plan to prevent overstaffing

Resolving the current issue of overstaffing is not the end of this road. You and your client must also take proactive steps to prevent future instances. Look back to your report revealing when important hiring metrics dropped and pin-point what contributed to the decline. Discuss with clients circumstances surrounding that hiring period such as:

  • Did overstaffing begin during an unusually busy season, and hiring did not cut back when business returned to normal? 
  • Were any number of temporary hires offered part- or full-time roles following the end of the season? When/how frequently did this occur?
  • How did the talent market impact the number of new hires brought on to fill open roles, whether during a period of growth or seasonal hiring?

Look at ways you and your client can improve how you track this data as well as improve communication to prevent overstaffing in the future. Use this information to identify metrics and new industry insights you should continue to observe to ensure more consistent and efficient staffing outcomes. 


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Josh Tolan

Josh Tolan is the Founder and CEO of Spark Hire, a video interviewing platform used by 5,000+ customers in over 100 countries.