Staffing: Do We Have The Right Number of Employees?

Sections of this topic

    Our organization continues to downsize. We are getting a lot of “flack” from our managers saying there are not enough qualified employees to do the work in their department and everyone is overwhelmed and grumbling. Are they right or are they lobbying to prevent additional layoffs?

    Here are some examples of why they may, indeed be right. See if they apply to you.

    1. Staff cuts go too far.
    In the spirit of fairness, companies implement an across-the-board layoff. Each department is required to reduce its staff by so many people. In conducting an employee survey of “the survivors” of an agency, we found that the workload problems were particularly severe in the smaller departments.

    2. Unexpected workload change.
    An office manager of a busy, large medical practice was told one day that 1) the practice would be adding a new physician and 2) one of their larger HMOs was changing procedures and the office would now be required to complete additional paperwork. She had to ramp up fast but there was a hiring freeze.

    3. Required skills change.
    A financial service organization had many dedicated, long-tenure employees. To improve efficiency, the company had been gradually updating its internal systems. Many functions previously performed by hand by the “long-timers” are now fully automated. Our audit found that, as a result, the technical staff feels overworked and the long-timers feel under-utilized. What they needed were fewer of the “do-it-by-hands “and more computer-savvy workers.

    What You Can Do:

    • Conduct periodic staffing audits. Staffing levels evolve over time but don’t necessarily match the needs of a changing business. A systematic audit of the volume of work to be performed and the needed skills can identify the mismatches. With this information, you can now be more effective in staffing.
    • Retrain staff. Once an audit identifies shortages, retraining existing staff can often fill the gap. It may be cheaper in the end to develop your good employees than hiring new folks who may or may not turn out well. Also, you will send a message to them that they are valued. This is important, especially in times of organizational change. when good people may start to look elsewhere.
    • Ask employees. Employees are often the best source of information about the needs of the department or team because they are on the front line dealing with customers or production every single day. They may have greater insight into operations issues and solutions.

    Management Success Tip:

    One of the most pressing problems companies face is staffing – having the right people,s, in the right place doing the right things to grow the business or maintain its market position. Make sure your employee bullpen is filled with the right kinds and the right number of employees for today and tomorrow. Also see Managing is Hard Work, Make Good Decisions, and Staff Feeling Overwhelmed.

    Do you want to develop your Management Smarts?