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A MODEL FOR EFFECTIVE STAFFING?

 

Introduction

 

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.

  • The past state. The organization structure and design is the product of an evolution that can be charted; over the same time frame the organization can chart changes in organizational climate; and the individuals who go to make up the human resources of the organization have each their life and career histories that bring them to where they are now.
     

  • The present state. Today's state was yesterday's future state: every element of this model is dynamic and continually changing.
     

  • Planning interventions. To plan it is necessary to have a clear understanding of the past and present, as well as a clear idea of the organization's mission and future goals. There is therefore an information base to be created, which might include past, present and projected data on:

     

    • the organization's mission and strategic plan, including people-related objectives;

    • activity analysis, organization structure, jobs, competency requirements;

    • the supply of people apparently available from inside and outside, and competency-based succession patterns;

    • the likely gaps between people-supply and organization demand;

    • key benchmarks and indicators of organizational health (e.g.: employee attitudes, values, turnover, absenteeism, benefits-plan usage, etc.), and best-practice identification, for program-planning and monitoring purposes;

    • reward programs and structures;

    • training, self-help, coaching and counselling programs, their usage and their success;

    • the nature and effectiveness of communications between the organization and its members;

    • the career history, competencies, potential and aspirations of the people in the organization.

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.

  • Desired state. The result of the planning process is the definition of the desired state. While the organization is responsible for identifying its own needs (e.g.: structure, design, climate, productivity, etc.), each individual must define his or her own future objectives: the model illustrates this divergence. At its simplest, optimum staffing will result from the best possible alignment of the objectives of the organization with those who work in it.

  • Change interventions. In this category of interventions are all those key-initiatives intended to change things from where they are today and optimize staffing tomorrow. In a sense they are continuous as needs and circumstances change: they are dynamic. These interventions will likely include the separation of some people and the recruitment of others. In growth circumstances recruitment is obviously necessary, as it is when the competencies the organization needs shift.

    Additionally, effective career planning and development systems will identify where the organization will be better off without an individual or an individual better off without the organization. There is important feedback to senior leaders at this point, because possible human-resource limitations may have a substantial impact on corporate strategy. Such change interventions would generally include:

     

    • making the changes to the structure of the organization, along with changes in roles, responsibilities, committee-structures, etc.;

    • internal staffing moves (lateral, developmental, promotions, etc.);

    • persuasive communications initiatives to make sure that what's happening, how, why, etc. is understood and accepted;

    • initiatives to involve as many people as possible in how changes will be made, including special task-groups, customer-service / total-quality initiatives etc.;

    • changes to compensation, performance-evaluation, evaluation of potential, training, intranets / web-sites, and other programs to align them with the new organizational direction;

    • assistance to individuals in planning their personal-development and careers, providing self-help tools, coaching, training etc.;

    • separations through retirement or dismissal, with appropriate support;

    • recruitment for short- and long-term needs;

    • the creation or enhancement of ongoing tracking and audit / evaluation processes to ensure that the success of change interventions can be monitored and that a sound foundation for future planning exists at all times.
       

  • Future state. It is the marriage of these organizational and personal factors, coupled with the change-interventions undertaken, that will create tomorrow's state.

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.

 

Implementing change

 

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.

 

Common shortcomings

 

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.

 

Conclusion

 

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.

 

Copyright Cooper Johri Management Consulting Corporation: all rights reserved.  Orgpax is a trademark of Orgpax Publications Inc.

 

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