What is Staff Augmentation?

What is Staff Augmentation?

What is Staff Augmentation?

In 2022, many scaling tech companies find themselves at a crossroads. Steady growth requires an influx of new and increasingly robust projects, but it can be hard to keep up with demands at current staffing levels. And recruiting then retaining staff present their own unique challenges.

Enter staff augmentation: an efficient, flexible solution to nearly all staffing pain points.

This guide will cover everything you need to know about staff augmentation: 

  • Staff augmentation’s meanings, benefits, and common use cases
  • How to manage staff augmentation—how it works in practice
  • How it stacks up to comparable solutions 
  • Pros and cons of staff augmentation to inform your next move

Staff Augmentation Definition and Use Case

What does staff augmentation mean? It’s a strategy for filling personnel or skill gaps on a temporary or as-needed basis. It integrates outside workers as contractors or temporary employees for a defined period of time, typically revolving around a specific project need.

The workers may be sourced from existing networks, but they are most often recruited through consultant firms.

A typical use case for staff augmentation is when a company identifies a pressing, short-term need for highly skilled work for a special project. There may not be sufficient time to recruit, train, and onboard new staff, and outsourcing the project relinquishes your control over it.

With staff augmentation, the personnel acquired function alongside internal employees as a part of the team. Your business retains control over project direction and workflow.

Spotlight: What is IT Staff Augmentation?

This approach to staffing is most common in the IT and tech fields, where the prevalence of remote work facilitates staff augmentation across state and international borders. In many cases, “staff augmentation” is synonymous and interchangeable with “IT staff augmentation.”

According to a 2019 study, the tech field has faced major staffing issues since at least 2016:

  • There is a large quantity of skilled applicants, but finding true quality is difficult. In 2018, for example, there were approximately double the amount of tech applicants per hire, on average, than there were applicants per hire in any other job field studied.

  • Very many tech positions go unfilled, relative to other industries. In the period studied, only 60% of tech positions were hired for, whereas all other fields generated 120% hires.

  • It takes a long time to onboard new tech hires successfully. The study saw an increase in onboarding time from 66 days in 2016 to 80 days in 2019—a growth that may continue.

IT staff augmentation has become critical to surviving and thriving in this environment.

For many companies, these difficulties were only exacerbated by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. For others, however, the “new normal” of remote and flexible staffing opened up new opportunities. Realizing them has been due, in large part, to effective staff augmentation.

Other Use Cases for Staff Augmentation

Staff augmentation is exactly what it sounds like—an enhancement of your existing staff. Rather than building on the core, permanent members, it pulls outside workers partially into the fold.

In many cases, this augmentation is needed to handle an indirect or secondary responsibility that your core team is struggling to manage on its own. For example, a project may grow in scale without much warning, leading to a preponderance of relatively rote or maintenance-style to-dos and workflows.

Does it make sense to have core staff devote their energies to these low-stakes endeavors? Or would it be better to focus your team’s best skills on the most important developments? For tech companies eyeing sustainable growth, the latter is almost always the better option.

Staff augmentation is often used to approximate automation, freeing up your own best and brightest minds to focus on projects and parts of projects that produce the most value for you.

How Does Staff Augmentation Work?

It’s best to think of staff augmentation as a process functioning alongside other management and resource allocation systems. It works as an extension of closely related suites, such as recruiting staff and outsourcing goods or services. It’s less a replacement than a plugin.

Staff augmentation works by positioning the best-suited external talent in ad-hoc internal roles or those from which they interface with your internal team and resources. How you source, vet, manage, and leverage that talent will depend heavily on: 

  • The channels you’re tapping into
  • The kinds of talent you seek
  • Your organization’s needs and means

However, there are some general pillars to the process that shine through, whether you use dedicated staff augmentation companies, staffing firms, networks, or other talent sources.

The Staff Augmentation Process, Explained

This is the general process to follow for successful staff augmentation, irrespective of context:

  • Step 1: Identify needs – These are the baseline prerequisites for a staff augmentation context. Your organization will have one or more projects it needs to complete, and you need to identify what specific skills and resources they require. Then, you need to plot these against your current and projected resources to determine medium-term needs.

  •  Note: Sensitivities should factor in heavily here; intellectual property, security and compliance details, and other particularities may require internal eyes only.

  • Step 2: Find strong candidates – Once you’ve charted out the skills you need to account for, you’ll begin searching for plugins. The key here is to start with a focused target, then widen it only if necessary. Necessity may make the opposite approach seem more appropriate, but this is a misconception. Hastily expanding your staff causes many of the most common staff augmentation challenges.

  • Step 3: Onboard and manage talent – Finally, once you’ve identified the best solutions for your pain points, you’ll need to agree to terms that work for all parties. But that isn’t the final step—what comes after is a cyclical process of managing augmented staff alongside your own core team. Oversight, training, and assessment are all best practices.

There are other wrinkles and complications your company should consider along the way, such as when or how you plan to terminate your engagement with augmented staff. A more fully fleshed-out strategy prior to augmentation leads to simpler decisions during and afterward.

Staff Augmentation vs. Other Solutions

For companies seeking solutions to their staffing pain points, one puzzling area may be working through what is considered staff augmentation and what falls into other categories. Making the best choice depends on understanding key similarities and differences between your options.

Some of the most common solutions that run parallel to (or together with) augmentation are:

  • Staff recruitment – This is the most traditional solution, but far from the easiest. The processes of finding, hiring, and retaining full-time staff can cost up to 23% of the hired employee’s salary, in part because effective onboarding can take months, at least.

  • Outsourced projects – The process of outsourcing finished goods or services, acquired from contractors in a vendor-like relationship, may appear easier, faster, or cheaper than augmentation; however, there’s no control over workflows or outcomes.

  • Managed services – A plugin similar to augmentation, an individual or team is contracted to oversee the management of a given task or set of tasks. They may utilize their own personnel, or work alongside yours, but you relinquish control over them.

  • Fractional executives – A highly specialized form of managed services, this approach involves outsourcing the upper-most responsibilities of your tech leadership—the CTO, CISO, or other roles—to an individual or team of experts that work on an as-needed basis.

To get the most out of all these services, individually or alongside a staff augmentation project, we highly recommend a comprehensive consultation. External experts will bring fresh eyes to your staffing woes, making clear, unbiased observations about what combination suits you best.

Making Your Decision: Staff Augmentation Pros and Cons

Ultimately, the effectiveness of solving staffing pain points with augmentation will depend on your current team’s relative strengths and weaknesses, given your company’s position. And beyond factors that are specific to your team, the biggest over-arching cons of staff augmentation for you to consider are that:

  • It can be a poor fit for some longer-term projects or those that involve sensitivities
  • It could complicate communication to and between staff, internal and augmented

These potential weaknesses, however, are most often outweighed by the biggest pros:

  • It functions as an immediate and as-needed plugin for a wide variety of skills
  • It offers greater oversight and control over external resources than outsourcing
  • It saves time and money spent recruiting, onboarding, and retaining core staff
  • It can facilitate sustainable long-term staffing through augmentation-to-hire
  • For example, staff may be augmented leading up to a buyout, then hired

Above all, the best way to ensure your decision is sound—whether it’s staff augmentation or some other solution—is to inform it with relevant data and progressive analysis thereof.

Staff Augmentation for Sustainable Growth

ScaleTech Consulting offers scalable, tailored staff augmentation services leveraging an expert network both within and adjacent to the IT industry. We value sustainable growth from the top-down, identifying ideal solutions to your problems rather than the lowest common denominators. Above all, we strive to find the best fit for your organization’s culture.

We also offer Fractional CTO and Recruitment suites, and our experts can work alongside your team to identify the best combination of tools and solutions to meet your specific needs.

That all begins with a Technology Consultation.

Get in touch today to learn how we can help!


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