We’ve been working with a couple of great small businesses. One is a software consultancy and the other is a small manufacturing organisation. Each of them want to focus on the future and each is looking to develop their business based on, and supported by, their staff.
My first thought was to rely on old faithful the ‘SWOT’ to get the job done. For those who have been asleep for the past 50 or so years, that’s the notion credited to Albert Humphrey in the 1960s as a means to identifying the internal Strengths and Weaknesses and the external Opportunities and Threats to help your business to plan and develop. However, SWOT can be perceived as ‘old hat’ and dull, dull, dull. So, this set my mind racing. Is there a more relevant version for today’s businesses that is practical and yet maintains a link to the original idea? Of course there is and it’s this – the Updated SWOT of Staffing/ Workflows/ Organisation/ Timing.
Staffing – do you have the right resources; the right number, working at the right level of productivity, in the right roles, with the right skills and attitude, to the right timeframes? If you consider the 80/20 Pareto principle, that 80% productivity comes from 20% of your workforce, have you the right 20% in place, or the potential talent there to ensure that 20%?
You should also consider another 80% in your staffing plan, that you ‘man up’ for approximately 80% productivity so that you have sufficient resources. However you need to discuss and consider how to smooth out the peaks and troughs within that guide, and, if you are unable to, where the extra resources can come from when you need them.
The manufacturing firm I’m working with is really busy from Easter onwards. The order book rapidly increases and production struggle to keep up. This is in contrast to the periods immediately before and after Christmas which are so quiet they struggle to keep the staff focused and utilised. Until recently, their solution was to take on temporary staff to cover the peaks and then let them go when the trough starts. Great they thought – job done. However, when talking to the supervisors about the main things they would change if they could, they suggested maintaining experienced staff to prevent the loss of production when temporary staff started. It offered consistency of manufacture and reduction in error rates. So, how else could the company meet the needs of the business? They thought about taking on ‘summer students’ and training them fully and asking, even committing, the same ones to return in subsequent years – an almost ‘apprenticeship’. Now there’s a novel approach brought about through a staffing review.
Another consideration with staffing is looking at their development requirements. I ask managers if their staff have the right skills, next I challenge the managers to consider if the staff are using those skills appropriately and if not how the staff can be coached and guided to. Often development is dismissed as ‘costly training’ and when times are hard it is the first thing to be slashed in budget cuts. But there are alternative ways to bring about change. Does a member of the team already have those skills? Can they be persuaded to teach the others? What ‘on the job’ experiences can you facilitate without putting the core business in danger? In those lean times, instead of layoffs, can you reskill or multi skill for when the economy does start the full upturn? Do you need to do key presentations? Maybe you need to hold ‘dress rehearsals’ to calm those nerves and hone the skills. Just some food for thought.
Read part two of The Threedom Solutions alternative SWOT© analysis next week – the impact of Workflows to assist business planning.