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<i>Dear Workforce</i> How Do We Determine Our Staff Level?

January 18, 2011
Dear Numbers Game:
The essential question you have to answer is this: How many people are needed to get the job done efficiently and effectively? To determine the optimal ratio, you need to consider a number of items.
Gain insight on workflow. By mapping out the workflow in operations, leaders can compare it to the workflow being considered in the support function. Themes and trends will emerge that parallel work in operations with corresponding support work in administration, safety and wellness, among other areas.
Determine core competencies. Once the workflow is understood, then the specific competencies for support can be analyzed in relationship to tasks in operations. Traditionally, this phase would include detailing a job description, but much more is involved. A job description provides only a starting point. Along with competencies, you need to identify a strategy for bringing them to life, including the role of supervision and training.
Survey your operations staff. Ask questions of your current operations and support staff. As an expanding company, you already have teams to assist in problem solving. Engage them and give them a sense of involvement, buy-in and ownership.
Internal and external benchmarking. What is your company's experience with similar operations or competitors in the industry? You can learn critical lessons by understanding what works and what doesn't. Sometimes, it is simply a matter of uncovering more stones to get to the real answer.
Conduct a "what if?" analysis. This allows leaders to test-drive various scenarios without actually deploying resources. This helps you determine a staffing ratio that makes sense.
Engage mission, vision, values and culture. Examine the mission, vision, values and culture. If your staffing ratios line up with critical organizational needs elements, then success is likely. If not, don't be surprised if it fails.
Analyze and compare ratios. Based on the data generated above, determine which ratio makes the most sense. For example: by plotting the total number of operations' employees with total hours worked vs. projected support staff and hours worked, the ratio will come into sharper focus. This does not need to be complicated: You could use a basic spreadsheet to test various assumptions.
SOURCE: Dana E. Jarvis, adjunct professor of leadership and management, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh
LEARN MORE: Please review a series of tools, including worksheets, for workforce planning.
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The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.
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