Can't find anyone for that role you've advertised? Try this instead

 |  27 February 2022

pensive businesswoman standing with coffee cup

I want to introduce you to a new way of thinking about the workforce. Generally, we think about our workforce as a structure. The word puts a concept of immobility in mind. Structures are hard, static and immovable. When we think of our workforce like this we impede change and growth. Let's discuss how we can create a more flexible workforce, using a more flexible thinking style.


I want you to stop thinking about your workforce as a structure, and think of your current workforce as a pie. It seems silly I know but just come with me for a moment. I promise I’m still talking about workforce planning.


Currently, your workforce pie is cut into various slices. Finance, projects, customer services, etc. Then those slices are sliced again, Finance Manager, Accountant, Accounts Clerk, etc. Then we take the small slices and we write the detail down in a document we may call ‘position description’ or a ‘job and person spec’ or ‘performance plan’. Those documents are written on paper, not chiselled in concrete. They can be changed. You can slice the pie differently so it works better for the business right now. Ah…gasp…horror… change positions? We can’t make change…the unions…oh dear god the unions…


Now I can’t speak for all the unions, but the many that I’ve dealt with are generally not stoppers of change. They just don’t like unplanned, reactive and harsh change that has a truly negative impact on the wellbeing of their members. 

Just like a pie, you can’t take ingredients out without remaking the whole pie. If you need to remove whole positions or people from your workforce you need to put in the time and effort to do that appropriately. That’s called ‘managing change’ but that’s not what this article is about. That’s a whole other article… 

This is about a flexible workforce. 


How can we change the pie without removing the key ingredients? By building flexibility into our workforce model. Thinking about positions differently. Communicating job roles differently.  Recruiting differently.  

Let's say we're having trouble recruiting a specialist engineering manager. We've designed the role, but can't find the 'right person for the job. If you have searched and are at a loss, it's time for flexibility and creativity. Let's change the job role.   

Perhaps you interviewed an engineer that has the technical skill you need but lacks management experience. You also interviewed someone that appears to have good people skills but is a generalist, not a specialist. Also, you know that there is a lot of administration work or junior activities in the job role, "because everyone does their own admin".   

Here are some suggestions to fix the 'I can't find anyone for the role': 


  1. 1. Change the position to suit one of the applicants above - determine what is the most important part of the role, is it the technical speciality or the people skills most at need in your team right now? 
  3. 2. Split the position into two and offer both people a role - you don't know who is open to a part-time position until you ask them. Also, creating part-time positions open the role up to more diversity as many people are not in a position to apply for a part-time role.
  5. 3. Split the position into a senior role and a junior role - take some of the technical aspects and administrative aspects of the role out and offer to a junior/graduate. Then hire the one with the people skills and ask them to mentor the graduate.
  7. 4. Rethink the split of work across the team - is there parts of the role that can be delegated to another in the team? Can a member of the team be promoted into a 'people leadership' role, while you hire the specialist skills?
  9. 5. Don't hire a new role at all and redistribute the duties across the team - you can split the duties, particularly the senior duties across the team and hire a junior or administration officer to take on the administrative duties of the team to redistribute the work.
  11. 6. Hire both people - this is an impact on the overall budget so you may need to call in your Finance Manager to get creative. I managed to find a full position and a half by working with my Finance Manager and taking bits of positions across the organisation that hadn't been filled. 

When you are creative, you can solve your workforce problems.  


Think about the position you're recruiting as 100%. Generally, even the top performers are only performing at 90% valuable capacity. The other 10% is made up of the ‘stuff we have to do’ that adds limited value. Eg: the meeting we attend and sit there for an hour thinking “why am I here?”, or the forms we need to fill out to justify our credit card spending.


To get creative with roles you need to empty a bit of the 100% elsewhere so the person has the capacity to take on the new duty.  This may mean finding someone who’s only at 60% performance or capability…


To fix the problem of recruitment and workforce, you need to get creative. You can't get caught up in the 'can't dos' because you will always have a workforce problem if you do.  

We used to have managers managing and administration doing admin. Now we have admin managing and managers doing admin. Has this been a good change? I leave that for you to decide.  But the point is, we decided to cut the pie differently then, so why not now? 

The point of this discussion is not to start changing people’s jobs all ‘willy-nilly’ but instead to encourage human resources, managers and organisations to start thinking differently about how they have traditionally structured their business. 

It appears that people forget …they created the structure…position…job role…rule etc therefore they can change it. 


Your workforce needs to be able to respond to change…whatever that change is for your business and however swiftly that change happens.  Glaciers change, they just take a while and the change is not as obvious as the latest and greatest IT Gadget…but it's still change and it's still important for growth.  

Anything can change, it just takes a bit of effort...and a good workforce plan. 


Want another workforce planning tip… ensure your culture is drawing people to your business… and check to see it's not scaring people away. 


If you want to know more about how to increase your culture at work, follow our upcoming 'Workplace Culture Evolution' series which will give you tips and hints on creating the kind of culture that you need to deliver the results that you want.  

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