As the economic turmoil looks set to roll into another year, businesses of all shapes and sizes are feeling the pressure to do more with less. When looking to see how operations can be streamlined and budgets tightened, losing people is seen as the logical solution for many.
But before taking this step, it’s worth asking a few questions about how well the workforce is being utilised and how many people the business really needs to operate efficiently and profitably.
Understaffing has an impact on service delivery, productivity, sales and ultimately the bottom line; on the other hand, overstaffing is wasteful and expensive.
So how do you get the balance right?
1. Talk to other teams
Effective staff planning can’t be done by one department in isolation. To understand current and future business demands, you will need to consider a cross-function team to include HR, Sales, Operations and Finance.
2. Keep your staff informed
Remember nothing is more de-motivating than too much or too little work to do. Communicate to everybody why getting the balance right is important to the business. It will improve employee engagement.
3. Focus your business
No matter which industry you work in, understanding your business driver/s is key to getting staffing levels correct. Every business is different, and taking the time to understand where your company’s focus should be will benefit your employees and strengthen your bottom line.
4. Spread the word
Make sure your employees are on the same page. Keeping staff aligned with the corporate strategy is essential to ensure that employees are not just working hard, they are all working towards the same goals.
5. Measure the workload
Get an accurate picture of how long tasks take to perform. Understand how long it takes to load a truck, clean a hotel room, deal with a customer or assemble a boiler – without this knowledge, you’ll never be able to accurately align staff with demand.
6. Talk to your staff
Take time to review and capture their skills, availability, preferences and certifications. Then create profiles using this information. You’ll need these profiles to deploy the appropriate staff to meet the needs of your business.
7. Consider a workforce management system to optimise staff schedules
It will take more than pen and paper or a complex spreadsheet. With so many variables affecting staffing, only a sophisticated workforce management system will allow you to accommodate all the constraints and variables; legislation, time-worked, breaks, employee preferences, skills and certifications, balanced with the demand from the business.
8. Invest in the right technology
Mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets mean staff can quickly update their availability. Allow staff to request holiday, swap shifts, and update availability and preferences.
9. Execute flawlessly
It doesn’t stop once you’ve created the perfect schedule. It will become out of date as soon as someone calls in sick or a car breaks down. Reacting quickly will make all the difference.
10. Reflect and refine
Once you’ve worked out a good method of matching staff to demand, you will see a significant reduction in overall staff costs and an improvement in customer service, productivity and employee morale. But don’t stop there. Take time to maintain employees’ skills and certifications and use the process to highlight opportunities for staff development and training. Continuous improvement is the name of the game.