5 tips on scaling employee strength in volatile businesses

Volatility is a major challenge that many businesses face. If you're you one of them, this post is for you.

Mukul Chaware
Mukul Chaware

What are volatile businesses?

Businesses that earn their majority of living during a particular period of time either during the day or particular days of a month or particular months in a year.

Examples of volatile businesses:

  1. Wedding planners (or any business' related to weddings): Since weddings occur during the holiday season (or in eastern cultures, during the wedding season), it is a fairly volatile business. Wedding-related businesses only survive during this season and are usually out of work otherwise.
  2. Fast-food chains: Fast-food restaurants across the globe see a spike in different times of the day such as lunchtimes or in the evenings and even during certain times of the week such as weekends - when the business is more likely to see higher footfall.
  3. Businesses that rely on festivals like Christmas, Thanksgiving, or New years such as Christmas decoration sellers, fireworks, or Christmas tree shops.
  4. Travel-related businesses: As most people tend to travel during the designated school and work holidays, the travel business usually sees a spike during the same time.

It is quite evident that volatile businesses undergo a lot of changes in a short span of time and face challenges on a continuous basis. Some of the major challenges include unstable revenue, employee requirements, etc. Let's take a look at how can we face the challenge of retaining and scaling employees in a volatile business:

How can one scale employees in volatile businesses?

Employees in a volatile business may prove difficult to manage due to the very nature of the business. A business might usually require more people when they experience a spike and might not require as many when there is a dip. Therefore, a volatile business needs to manage its employee strength by managing according to the company's needs. As most small businesses know, it is difficult to retain the same number of people across all times as when the business is booming adding an unnecessary strain on the wallet. Therefore, a volatile business needs to be creative while choosing its staff and retaining them.

  1. Hire interns: Interns in most cases are students or freshers who wish to change their field and are available for work during the holiday period from their universities or schools or their regular day jobs. Since, interns are usually only available for short spans of time - such as holidays, any business in requirement of employees at that time can take advantage of the increase in supply in employment. It is common to understand that interns are usually inexperienced and untrained. However, it is imperative to understand that interns might be used for jobs that do not require experience or specific training. For eg. Instead of retaining a receptionist or an assistant who fixes meetings, interns can be hired for the job. Interns are usually very keen on understanding and are quick on their feet since a young employee starting work is known to be more enthusiastic than the others. Also, they are light on the wallet and can be hired almost immediately with less effort.
  2. Freelancers: Freelancers are usually self-employed people who work and earn on a project-to-project basis. Working with freelancers allows companies to hire and let go of the workforce based on the amount of work being handled. Freelancers tend to have their own workspace and resources to work from - for example a graphic designing freelancer would have the right licenses, software, and computer needed to deliver the project. It bodes well for organizations to depend on freelancers as they save up on all these overheads. What's more, companies can hire freelancers from a plethora of websites and platforms on the internet which offers all the information regarding the freelancer beforehand including customer testimonials, ratings, prices, timelines, etc. Since a freelancer is expected to be paid in full only after the project is finished, they are also a safe bet to engage in.
  3. Part-time jobs: This employment type is beneficial for the category of businesses that experiences volatility within the day. For eg: fast-food restaurants, as explained earlier, may experience a spike in business in the evenings than any other time of the day. Some other examples could be salons or therapy clinics where clients tend to choose preferred slots when they can get away from work such as mornings, lunchtimes, or later in the evening. A restaurant or a salon may engage part-time employees who can choose preferred shifts to maintain employee strength as per the company's requirements. This also helps companies manage salaries as the work hours are flexible and contained.
  4. Temp agency: Temp agencies help in hiring temporary workers for your business. These agencies help you look for the perfect employee that can fill in for a position for a short span of time. While a temp agency is better preferred by companies who require help for filling in for employees otherwise retained by the company, the offerings work great for volatile businesses as well. Temporary staff comes with its own pros and cons. Even though a business might be able to hire a temp, it might be difficult to re-hire them for the same work when the business sees a boost again. It is necessary that the temp employees that fill in for the times when the business experiences a high maintain the service delivery standards and hence, the company can ensure they attract the right talent - albeit for a short span of time- by offering frills and extras such as lunch, transport, coupons, tax concessions, etc.
  5. Automation: Another option that volatile businesses can invest in is software. While some software, such as automated scheduling software or IVR's help service companies eliminate the need for employees at certain points in the system, others help improve productivity without increasing the employee strength. Software as a service, commonly known as SaaS are offerings that allow companies to utilize their product as per their requirement. These software products are priced based on subscription and can be scaled as per the business requirement. Take Appointo, the appointment scheduling application for example. The software allows companies to add, remove, or modify the number of team members for whom the scheduling can be set up. A salon business could modify the subscription as per the employee strength for that time.


Other than the above-mentioned, a business needs to understand the procedure for scaling employees. It is advisable to start the hiring procedure in the off-season rather than when the business sees a spike. Companies need to invest in the training and onboarding processes in order to rapidly scale and onboard employees in times of need. An untrained employee can prove to be worse than no employee. Lastly, businesses must ensure that scaling employees does not affect the company's value and behavior towards the employees. As much as the company needs to ensure survival, it also needs to be mindful of its responsibility to society and its employees.

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