How to prove that a department is overstaffed

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Rey Elbo-125

In The Workplace

I am the general manager of a manufacturing plant with 300 plus workers. How can you prove to the satisfaction of all concerned that a department, section, or corporate unit is overstaffed, with both regular and “endo” workers? What’s the best way to increase labor productivity so that we can justify the employment of people in an organization? Please advise us. — Pink Rose

US General William Westmoreland was at one time reviewing a platoon of paratroopers during the Vietnam War. As he went down the line, he asked each of them a question: “Do you like jumping out of airplanes, son?” The young paratrooper replied “I hate it, Sir!”

The general was surprised: “Then, why are you here?” The reply was: “I want to be around people who do.”

Many of us love to be around with people. Naturally, we are sociable. The trouble is that this same mindset could put us in a lot of trouble. Imagine, for instance a group of eagles who are efficient and fast doing all the work, while turkeys around them do nothing. Having many people in a group could hide the weaknesses of individuals who rely much on the group effort, and yet are paid almost the same salary.

It’s not easy for management to discover these invisible issues unless it explores the following strategies, in this order:

One, calculate the exact amount of payroll money that the company is spending. Have a clear figure of your fixed manpower costs. Include the cost of statutory benefits like those paid for social security and other requirements of the law for both regular and contractual workers. That should be the baseline figure. You may be in for a big surprise when you find out the amount. Just the same, whatever amount you may discover, share the same information with your managers, so they will know the extent of their departmental expenses.

Two, demand productivity increases of at least 20%. There should be no compromise with the managers who may choose only between the American and Japanese solutions. Let’s use a hypothetical company with 10 workers making 100 cars a month. The American solution calls for the termination of employment of two workers (preferably “endo” staff) so that only eight workers would make 100 cars a month. On the other hand, the Japanese solution requires that the same 10 workers make at least 120 cars a month without sacrificing quality, safety, and other related factors.

Three, empower and engage all workers up to a certain extent. Management can’t do it alone. Establish an army of problem-solvers either through quality circles, kaizen teams or whatever name you may want to call it. All workers must participate. There should be no exceptions. But first, your management should organize a system where it would be easy for all workers to assist in discovering issues, generating solutions, analyzing them and in implementing one chosen solution.

Four, establish a no-holds barred open-door policy. Allow the workers to elevate their issues to top management, if they are not satisfied with the answers given by their line supervisors and managers. If you have an open line of communication with employees, they will surely know of any adverse impact of any situation. If an employee idea is meeting resistance from managers, try to identify the causes and then work to overcome them without alienating the workers and their bosses.

Five, encourage all workers to be multi-skilled for flexibility. If all workers are multi-talented, they can be moved right away as replacements for the workers on sick leave or on an emergency leave. If you’re successful with this, be prepared to compensate the workers according to the number of skills they possess to preempt any issue related to “what’s-in-it-for-me?” Surely, multi-skilling is beneficial to both labor and management for purposes of business continuity and at the same time — motivating a good number of people.

Last, require people to undergo forced enjoyment of their vacation leave. This is related to number five above. It offers one good opportunity to discover how to perform the regular routine of the workers minus a certain number of workers. The annual schedule of vacation leave must be done so there would be no issue at all on which worker is favored to enjoy leave during long holidays. Knowing the policy of forced vacation leaves also gives management the opportunity to conduct an audit of the work being done by people.

Whatever approach you take, get everyone on board to participate in many changes. They should be instrumental in discovering many issues that were not thought before or even suggest many solutions.

ELBONOMICS: Wake up every day fully motivated, then sleep at night with full satisfaction.


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