In the Wall Street Journal’s Saturday ‘Review’ section, the dean of the Columbia Business School examines public policy and unemployment in the U.S.  Finally I have found someone who agrees with me that people are out of work because they don’t have the right skills.  That’s really what is meant by a ‘structural labor shift’.

But as a controller, how do you justify adding another person to your team (not replacing someone).   If you’re a small shop, a department of one or two, then that decision may be much more straightforward.  But adding to an accounting/finance department of eight or ten calls for a very in depth analysis of what everyone is doing and if they are operating at 100% or more.  Could you squeeze out one more hour daily of productivity per person in a ten person department?  If so, you have figuratively added another employee to your group.  Where do you start in conducting your own investigation.  Usually requests for more personnel come from your own staff.  Here’s my list:



  • How much texting do you see going on
  • Taking personal phone calls
  • Visiting between employees  for purposes other than ‘teamwork’ (gossiping)
  • Tardiness or leaving early
  • Salaried exempt personnel putting in less than 40 hours per week
  • Excessive absences
  • Periods of ‘downtime’ due to lack of work for the employee


  • Do I call too many meetings?
  • Are my meetings too long and rambling?
  • Do I call too few meetings and therefore my employees are unmotivated?
  • Do I make sure my staff is challenged?
  • Am I too accessible?
  • Am I not accessible enough?
  • Am I causing low morale?
  • Do I advocate for the best resources available for my staff?


  • Is everyone on my staff competent for their given responsibilities?
  • Are any of my direct reports contributing to low morale?
  • Do all staff members have an interest in receiving training related to their skill sets?
  • How old are the p.c.’s and printers that staff are using?
  • Are the working conditions favorable to productivity?
  • Has a key staff member left the company in the recent past?

I want to strongly emphasize that just because  there’s a large acquisition ahead or more work coming your department’s way, the first response should not be to hire additional permanent full time employees.  If a company continues its growth obviously there can come a time when there is no other option but to expand the labor force.  However, it should be considered carefully in your department as Controller or CFO.

Growth is a wonderful thing.  But growth with no added incremental overhead (fixed or variable) can be an elusive goal…. one that may be achievable if there is still best practices and better personnel management yet to be achieved.

Finally, if a staff member(s) comes to you about needing more people in the department, tell them to submit a proposal to you which can be worked on jointly.  Make sure they outline the reasons WHY the current staff is unable to handle the workload and the reasons WHY another person should be hired.


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