Navigating the World of Workforce Solutions. Understanding Staff Augmentation, Staffing, and Subcontracting

Sunscrapers Team

21 June 2023, 7 min read

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What's inside

  1. What is staff augmentation?
  2. What is staffing?
  3. What is subcontracting?
  4. Summing up
  5. Read more

As the job market evolves, businesses are constantly looking for ways to find the right talent to fulfill their needs. Many companies are turning to alternative hiring models that offer greater flexibility, scalability, and cost-effectiveness to overcome this challenge. Among the most popular options are staff augmentation, staffing, and subcontracting.

Although these terms are often used interchangeably, they have distinct differences that businesses should be aware of. This article will explore and compare these hiring models, highlighting their respective advantages, disadvantages, and key considerations. By doing so, we hope to provide you with the necessary information to decide when selecting the staffing solution that best suits your organization’s needs.

What is staff augmentation?

Staff augmentation is a model in which an organization enlarges its existing team with external resources, typically contract workers or consultants, to support its projects or business operations.

In this model, a hired staff works alongside other employees, and a hiring company retains control over the project or work assignment. Staff augmentation is often used if an organization wants to quickly scale its workforce, access specialized expertise or skills, and reduce labor costs by avoiding the expenses associated with hiring full-time employees. The model provides flexibility regarding the duration of engagement, and the number of external resources they require, making it a popular choice for project-based work or short-term needs.

Pros of staff augmentation

  1. Increased Flexibility

It provides greater flexibility to scale a company’s workforce up or down according to actual business needs. This model allows organizations to quickly and easily add resources to their team for specific projects or initiatives without committing to long-term employment contracts.

  1. Access to Specialized Skills

It enables organizations to access specialized skills or expertise that may not be available in-house. External resources, such as consultants or contract workers, bring a wealth of knowledge and experience that can be leveraged to improve project outcomes and enhance overall productivity.

  1. Cost-Effectiveness

It can be cost-effective as it allows you to avoid the overhead costs associated with hiring full-time employees. External resources are typically paid hourly or for projects, which can be more affordable than the ongoing costs of hiring and maintaining a permanent staff.

  1. Faster Time to Market

Staff augmentation enables bringing in external resources quickly, which can help accelerate project timelines and get products or services to market faster.

  1. Reduced Risk

Staff augmentation reduces the risk of failures or delays by hiring resources with specialized skills and experience to handle specific projects or initiatives.

Cons of staff augmentation

  1. Integration Challenges

External resources may struggle to integrate with a company's existing culture, processes, and systems, leading to communication issues, conflicts, or delays.

  1. Quality Control

Staff augmentation can result in inconsistent quality levels if external resources don’t meet the same standards as the organization's permanent staff, leading to problems with project outcomes or product quality.

  1. Management Overhead

Managing a team of external resources can be challenging and time-consuming, requiring additional management overhead to ensure that the new staff is meeting a company's requirements and delivering high-quality work.

  1. Intellectual Property Issues

Staff augmentation can present intellectual property concerns, particularly when external resources can access sensitive company data or trade secrets.

  1. Cost Overruns

Staff augmentation can be more expensive than expected if external staff requires more time or resources than initially estimated. This can lead to cost overruns and budgetary issues.

What is staffing?

Staffing is identifying, recruiting, and hiring employees to fill open positions within a company. The process involves developing job descriptions, posting job vacancies, screening resumes, conducting interviews, and making job offers.

It is typically done to hire full-time or part-time employees who will work directly for the organization and become part of its permanent workforce. Staffing is an essential function of human resource management as it ensures that a business has the right talent with the necessary skills and expertise to meet its objectives. A successful staffing strategy enables building a solid team of employees, increasing productivity, and achieving business goals.

Pros of staffing

  1. Stability

Staffing enables building a permanent workforce that provides stability and consistency. This can be particularly beneficial for companies that have ongoing needs for specific skills or expertise.

  1. Integration with the company’s culture

Organizations are able to build a team of employees who are aligned with its values, mission, and culture, which can lead to better collaboration, communication, and teamwork.

  1. Long-Term Investment

It’s a long-term investment in human capital, which can yield significant returns in terms of productivity, innovation, and overall business success.

  1. Better Control

Staffing provides companies with greater control over their workforce, enabling them to manage their employees' performance, career growth, and development.

  1. Lower Risk

Staffing can reduce risk by providing a more stable, consistent workforce, which can lead to better quality work, improved project outcomes, and reduced turnover.

  1. Employee Benefits

This model provides employees with benefits such as healthcare, retirement plans, and paid time off, which can lead to higher job satisfaction and lower turnover rates.

Cons of staffing

  1. ​​Limited Flexibility

Staffing can be less flexible than other hiring models as companies need to be committed to long-term employment contracts with their permanent staff. It can make it challenging to adjust the workforce according to changing business needs.

  1. Higher Costs

Staffing can be more expensive as organizations are responsible for providing their employees with benefits and other employment-related expenses.

  1. Longer Hiring Process

This model typically involves a longer hiring process as a company needs to find the right person to fill their permanent positions. It can involve delays in filling open positions and lost productivity.

  1. Limited Access to Specialized Skills

Staffing may limit organizations' access to specialized skills or expertise for specific projects or initiatives.

  1. Managerial Overhead

Such a hiring model requires additional managerial overhead to manage employee performance, career growth, and development. This can be time-consuming and costly for organizations, particularly if they have a large permanent workforce.

What is subcontracting?

Subcontracting is a business arrangement in which a company hires an external third-party vendor or subcontractor to perform certain tasks or provide specific services.

In such a relationship, a subcontractor works independently and delivers the services or products outlined in the contract. A company typically hires them to fulfill part of a larger project or provide specialized skills or resources that are unavailable in-house. The company that employs such a person retains overall control and responsibility for the project, but the subcontractor is responsible for meeting the deliverables outlined in the contract.

This model is often used to access specialized expertise, increase capacity, or reduce costs by outsourcing non-core activities to external vendors.

Pros of subcontracting

Actually, subcontracting has advantages similar to staff augmentation. Some include access to specialized expertise, lower costs, greater flexibility, reduced risk, faster time to market, and reduced management overhead.

Cons of subcontracting

The disadvantages of subcontracting are also aligned with the ones mentioned above while describing staff augmentation: quality control, integration and communication challenges, intellectual property issues, and cost overruns. Besides, subcontracting can create a dependence on subcontractors for specialized expertise or services, leaving organizations vulnerable to disruptions if the subcontractor is unavailable or unwilling to work with the organization.

Summing up

Now, you know the main hiring models and their pros and cons. Remember that the right option for a particular organization depends on your business needs, goals, and constraints.

The key to success is to establish clear expectations and communication channels and continuously evaluate and adjust the model as needed to meet changing business requirements.

At Sunscrapers, we specialize in creating Dedicated Development Teams. We've helped many businesses achieve their goals with our teams, and we can do the same for you.

If you're interested in learning more about how we could work together - contact us!

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Sunscrapers Team

Sunscrapers empowers visionary leaders to ride the wave of the digital transformation with solutions that generate tangible business results. Thanks to agile and lean startup methods, we deliver high-quality software at top speed and efficiency.


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