A MODEL FOR EFFECTIVE STAFFING?
The comments which follow are intended to provide an overview of a staffing model for practical action by organizations. In "staffing" we address the use of all full-time team-members, whether employees, contractual or outsourced. No attempt is made to explore the techniques associated with the interventions outlined (e.g.: determining organization-structure, providing self-help opportunities, etc.) although the effective facilitation of these is obviously key to the success. Our purpose is rather to address this as a system-issue at the focal point where the needs of the organization meet the needs and capabilities of the individual.
The key to successful staffing is to ensure that these two elements (the personal and the corporate) are orchestrated to be as convergent as possible, thus creating an optimal use of organizational resources.
Staffing and other organizational systems
Staffing is obviously closely associated with organization structure and climate, as well as people-systems like career development, succession planning, self-help and coaching, training, compensation and other functions. These provide the convergent influences that lead to the retention of people by their employer-organization: a schematic model of these interactions is shown on the chart "The Dynamics of Successful Staffing" and suggests a sequential flow which includes the following.
Most organizations will find that some of the information they need has to be collected for the first time. For example, it may be that relatively little is known systematically about the aspirations of many of its people: in such a cases help can be given to people to look at their own history, ambitions and potential and to develop a personal development plan.
Based on this data and its analysis, the organization develops its plans, and articulates its strategic goals, measurable objectives, key-initiatives and change-plans.
The model is a dynamic perpetual-motion system, always moving to respond to organizational need, always with its components in a state of flux. No easy orchestra to conduct.
Each organization has to determine its own time horizons for implementing change, and these will generally depend on the critical-success factors and strategic goals identified during the planning phase: organizations that don't change at least as quickly as their external environment does put themselves in peril.
An organization may wish to pay varying degrees of attention to the staffing of different employee-groups depending on how critical each group is considered to be to the success of the organization's plan. Most employers pay particular attention to the senior management, professional, and craft categories, and may adopt a more macro-planning approach to other groups. None of this precludes the integration of all career-planning, self-help, monitoring and evaluation processes, nor does it prevent focusing on unanticipated problems as and when they occur.
If there is not sufficient commitment at top level then no system, and particularly no staffing system, can work. That this commitment is increasingly present is probably a reflection of the organizational damage that is now regularly done by the departure of key leaders, the low productivity of burned-out or stagnant mid-life professionals, the increasing difficulty in recruiting qualified replacements for leavers, the rising cost of finding new skills for new business initiatives, and the increasing expense of employee turnover at all levels. These comings and goings cost dollars that would otherwise go to the bottom line, as well as costing in the harder-to-quantify areas of missed opportunity, organizational renewal, mission-achievement, service quality, etc.
Whatever the circumstances, a staffing change-plan is needed to lay out how each organizational initiative and system will integrate with each other, the timing of the initiatives, targets and success-measurements, resourcing, etc.
While it is difficult to generalize, organizations are often weak in a number of areas essential to optimizing staffing.
First, the organization-structural elements of the system (what jobs, what structure, what competencies, what decision-taking processes, when?) are often guessed at but seldom quantified: this holds particular dangers when demographic projections suggest that senior managers and several specialist categories of worker will be increasingly hard to find and replace. Putting some simple projections of these organizational targets and assumptions on paper is not usually a very elaborate exercise.
Many organizations have regarded all interventions related to employee attraction and retention as being an unquantifiable "soft" area and have never tried to track and evaluate the effectiveness of what they are doing. Relatively simple human-resource accounting mechanisms can give a good order-of-magnitude feel for the costs and benefits associated with staffing activities, and can certainly provide a way of setting targets and monitoring performance to benchmarks.
Particularly in Western cultures time-horizons for planning are typically short. In some dimensions this is an asset, permitting swift changes of business direction and fast entrepreneurial action. Where staffing is concerned, though, adopting short time-horizons can be exceedingly dangerous, especially where tight labor-markets may restrict the potential to recruit externally. People-planning and -development is like growing trees: it takes at least 20 years for a maple-seed to grow into a tree big enough to give sap and syrup.
Some employers take it for granted that their organization's culture (what it stands for, how people work together, its noble purpose, etc.) needs little cultivation and will be apparent to all team-members, including new hires. History has shown that this is a dangerous assumption to make, and that group motivation, cohesion and "belongingness" must be actively fostered.
Other organizations pay lip-service only to their training and career-counselling mechanisms. Regrettably much of this continuous-learning help exists only on paper, either because supervisors have received virtually no training in coaching or counselling, or because corporate staff are too few, too remote, or are perceived to be insufficiently neutral.
A surprising number of organizations expect each team-member to be able to inventory his or her life and career to date, plan for the future, and generally chart their own career-course: but most can't without the benefit of some counselling and access to self-help opportunities. Furthermore life-crises occur for all of us, and we can seldom cope without our performance deteriorating to some degree. People need the tools to work with effectively and help in using them.
Too many organizations do a poor job of communicating (and selling) the opportunities they can offer the people who work there, both today and in the future. Few organizations are successful at integrating their initiatives in strategic planning, organization design and development, current and future compensation, training, the provision of self-help tools and coaching, etc. so as to present a supportive, inclusive and human face to the members of their team.
Successful staffing can only take place as part of the dynamic interaction of several organizational systems. It must be planned and systematically orchestrated over time. The payoff of successful staffing is keeping the right people for the right reasons, and losing the ones we lose for the right reason too: how many organizations seem to land up with the wrong people for the wrong reasons? And getting it right adds greatly to an organization's effectiveness (optimizing what it can achieve with the resources it has) and will considerably reduce overhead costs over time. Well worth some investment to achieve.
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