How much staff do you need?

What is the appropriate level of staff that a company needs?

Triggered by an article in the Volkskrant this weekend, which researched government organizations and found differences varying from 15% to 48%.

When you work at a very small company (< 10 employees) you typically can afford one at maximum, and you end up doing a lot of the supporting work (HR, finance, facilities management) yourself instead of hiring someone to do it. Bigger organizations (> 1000 employees) that send out billable professionals work with a ratio of one supportive staff per billable professional.

So there is an increase of less that 10% up to 50% supportive staff as a company grows.

My company is somewhere in the middle in terms of employees and percentage of staff. We are growing at a strong rate, so staff is also growing. We seem to be obeying the market here, as we grow we seem to need  progressively more staff.

So far I have found two reasons for this phenomenon. One: once a company gets larger you need more staff to make sure everybody works in the same manner. Word of mouth and social control become lesser forces. Two: as staff volume grows they get more mass to professionalize supportive functions (such as HR, Finance), for which they need… more staff. Or are one and two the same?

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