How and When to Use Resource and Staff Augmentation
In the wake of pandemic-related staff shortages, many companies turned to resource and staff augmentation to get the help they need. Staff augmentation can be a good strategy for giving your team a much-needed boost when hiring full time employees isn’t an option, for one reason or another.
In this post, we’ll explain what staff augmentation is, who uses it, pros and cons, and more. Resource and staff augmentation isn’t the right approach for everyone, but hopefully after reading this article, you’ll be better informed to decide if it’s right for you.
What is resource and staff augmentation?
Resource and staff augmentation is a staffing approach that involves hiring temporary workers to provide extra lift or fill skills gaps in your team. Workers hired in this capacity are usually 1099 contractors who a company engages for short or long term projects. Some companies also hire them for a set duration of time or indefinitely for a certain number of hours every week.
This type of hiring had been growing in popularity in recent years, and the COVID-19 pandemic threw that trend into high gear. Faced with staffing shortages and budget cuts, many companies—especially tech companies—found it made more sense to engage temporary talent for certain projects and highly specialized skill sets than to hire new full-time employees. Thus, staff augmentation entered the mainstream, giving employers more flexibility and agility in regards to hiring.
Who uses staff augmentation?
Tech companies are perhaps best-known for using staff augmentation, but they aren’t the only ones who can benefit from this strategy. Most modern companies have IT or development teams, and even smaller teams engage hourly or project-based talent to help with certain initiatives. Let’s consider three different examples.
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1. Supplementing your team’s current skill set
One situation where staff augmentation really shines is when you lack a specific skill set on your team that you need for a project. Since this is a one-time affair, it wouldn’t make sense to hire someone with that missing skill set full time.
In the real world
You’re the CIO at a software company of about 200 people that makes a SaaS product, and the CEO has tasked you with reducing cloud spend. Your team is made up of a small group of talented developers, but while all of them are good at what they do, none of them are AWS cost optimization experts.
Since you’re still a relatively small company, most of the changes you need to make only need to happen once, at least for a while. You decide to engage a cost optimization consultant for 100 hours of work at $120 an hour to make recommendations on how to adjust your cloud usage and infrastructure to get the most out of your cloud spend.
Once the contract is up, your team can execute on the consultant’s recommendations. You’re free to re-engage the consultant hourly as needed, and you save a considerable amount of money by hiring them on a short term hourly basis instead of hiring a full-time employee for a salaried role.
2. Boosting your team’s capacity for a large project
In some cases, your team members don’t lack the skills needed to deliver a project on time—you just need more people. Depending on the nature of the project, hiring more full-time employees could see you overstaffed at the end of the project. Opt instead for staff augmentation.
In the real world
You’re a software development manager at a marketing agency. Your company wants to create a proprietary API for clients to securely retrieve the leads you generate for them and automatically import them to their CRM.
Your team will be doing a lot of the heavy lifting to make that a reality, but you need more developers to get it done on time. The API will require some ongoing maintenance after the initial release, but it shouldn’t be anything your current team can’t manage on their own. To get more hands on deck, you hire five additional developers on a three-month contract with the option to renew if you need them longer.
3. Temporarily staffing critical roles while recruiting for full-time
In some situations, you might need to temporarily backfill a vacant position while internal recruiters work to hire a full-time candidate. This typically happens when someone in a mission-critical role leaves the company and you aren’t able to backfill their position in a reasonable timeframe.
In the real world
You’re the CTO of a software company, and your director of engineering just left the company to pursue another opportunity. Even with generous notice, internal recruiters are struggling to fill the position.
Your development team consists of talented engineers, but none of them quite qualify for the job. This might not be that big of a deal under normal circumstances, but with several looming deadlines on big projects, you really need someone who’s ready to hit the ground running.
Until internal recruiters can hire a new full-time employee, you decide to engage a temporary director of engineering to augment your current staff. Thankfully, you manage to find someone local who can be onsite for a few days every week—just enough time to keep things running until a new director of engineering steps in.
Pros and cons of staff augmentation
Staff augmentation can be a huge help, but it’s not a panacea for all recruiting and staffing woes. Here are some pros and cons to consider before augmenting your staff.
|Yes||Low commitment for variable or uncertain workloads||No||Augmented staff lacks institutional knowledge and full context|
|Yes||Lower cost of engagement compared to full-time direct hire||No||Can be harder to engage for positions with onsite work requirements|
|Yes||Greater agility through engaging on-demand, flexible staff||No||Can create an insider vs. outsider mentality between augmented and full time staff|
|Yes||Gives you more granular control over hours of work done||No||Some reliance on third-party vendors to source talent|
|Yes||Quick time to value|
|Yes||Reduced time to hire|
Common misconceptions about staff augmentation
While staff augmentation is becoming increasingly popular, some common misconceptions persist about what it is and how it works. Let’s debunk a few of these:
- Utilizing staff augmentation means compromising on quality. Augmented staff sometimes get a bad rap as being hobbyists, but this is an overblown fear. Partner with a good third party resource and you should have no problem sourcing highly qualified talent for temporary engagements.
- Staff augmentation only works when remote work is an option. Staff augmentation tends to skew remote, but options for onsite and local augmented talent exist as well. Be upfront about your needs, and advertise openings where local talent is looking.
- You will spend hours sifting through resumes and portfolios. This can happen if you opt to handle staff augmentation internally. Partnering with a trusted third-party resource eliminates this concern.
- You will encounter time zone and language barriers. Augmented staff are not confined to faraway places—plenty of people work as augmented talent domestically and in nearshore locations. The biggest time difference you’re likely to encounter is the four-hour gap between Buenos Aires and Seattle. Be prepared to hear the occasional “y’all” as well.
- You’ll waste valuable time getting augmented staff up to speed on your processes. Unless you’re looking to temporarily backfill a more senior position, most augmented staff are ready to deliver immediate value. One benefit of working for multiple different organizations as augmented staff is exposure to a variety of systems and business processes. Chances are, your technology and processes won’t seem as foreign as you think.
The right partner makes all the difference
From helping give you the final push on a big project to temporarily backfilling vacant positions, staff augmentation can be a useful addition to your hiring strategy. Make sure to evaluate your needs, budget, and existing staffing levels before adopting staff augmentation.
If you think this might be a good solution for you, partnering with the right third party resource is key. Good staff augmentation partners cut hours out of the sourcing and vetting process, and the best ones will also provide guidance in choosing the right roles to hire for.
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