Growing vs Hiring

How many times have you seen this job listing?

Hiring: Expert in Floobabig Version 56.3b. Must have 5+ years of experience. Must be able to hit the ground running.

I’ve talked with hiring managers in scenarios like this, and their answer usually is some variation of, “I need someone to be doing the Floobabig Version 56.3b work right now, I have customers right now. I don’t have time to train someone!”

Well, then next thing you know, 6-9 months have gone by and they haven’t found the right person with that right experience to “hit the ground running”. (Or they are not willing to pay enough, but that’s another story.) And I always think the same thing, “You know, by now you could have trained someone in Floobabig Version 56.3b and be delivering.”

So when you are in this situation, you need someone to start delivering right now, what are you to do? There are a couple of options to consider.

Recruit and Hire

This tends to be the preferred approach, but so much of this depends on a lot of factors. Just off the top of my head, I can think of these:

  • What does the job market look like right now? Usually, specialized technical roles are in demand across the board, so it is REALLY hard to find that perfect unicorn.
  • Are you willing to pay truly competitive market rates, to get that person? I’ve never seen a company that didn’t claim to “offer competitive salaries”, but you have to be truly honest with yourself on whether the pay you are offering is enough.
  • How long will it take to find that unicorn? Even if they exist, and are job hunting, and are willing to work for you for the salary you are offering, how do you find them? Just posting a job listing on your company’s careers page is probably not going to be seen by them. You need a good recruiting team or recruiting partners to address this challenge.

I’m sure there are more factors, but as you can see this is not easy. There are many issues to address for this strategy to work. It can certainly be done, however, just understand that you need to be willing to flex on these factors (offering above-market salary, for example) in order to be successful.

Training and Build

Another option is, of course, to either find an existing person in your organization or hire someone with the proven ability to learn and grow and be willing to invest the time and training to get them where you need to be.

Usually, the counter-argument to this approach is not being able to afford to spend the time and money on the training. But I often wonder if the back-of-the-napkin calculations were made to justify this counter-argument. How expensive is the training? What’s the existing salary of the person you want to train compared to having to pay above-market rates to find that expert quickly? What is the opportunity cost of the lost revenue while fruitlessly searching for an impossible scenario? If the numbers make sense, then sure follow the data, but I have done some whiteboard math before and shown that if we had just sent someone to training then we would have been better off financially than continuing to try and hire the “perfect person” and continue to lose that revenue.

In my opinion, this is truly the best option, but it requires you to be aware of your pipeline and your strategic vision, and make sure you are investing the time for people to be gaining those skill sets that are going to be needed.

Consultants and Subcontractors

There is a third option, which is finding a consulting firm or subcontractor that has the right expertise and bringing them in right away. This is typically a very expensive option, especially as those technical skills become more and more difficult to find. But if you absolutely need someone right away, and the financials are worth it, then this frequently is your best option.

If you look back, these different options all fit the classic “Fast, Cheap, Good, pick two” dilemma. The more money you are willing to spend, the faster you can get the person with the right skillset. Alternatively, if you are willing to invest the time, you can grow your expertise internally at a lesser cost. Make sure that when you are faced with this scenario to take the time to do the math and see which option truly makes the most sense.

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