ONE GOOD IDEA
Process-based organizations better equipped for low staffing
By Glen Broomfield
How much frustration do you feel when essential employees are out of the office? But you cannot blame employees for being absent due to illness or for wanting to spend time with their families.
The low-staffing pains you’re feeling are likely a product of your organization having a personnel-dependent system rather than a process-based management system. Take steps to fix it now, and ensure there are steady levels of efficiency regardless of staffing levels.
It’s evident that typical short-staffed seasons create genuine issues that prevent managers and employees from servicing customers at certain times of the year.
I recently spoke with an organization that experienced delays in its sales team’s delivery of proposals, causing frustration for its customers. The sales manager said the individual who manages the proposal templates, which are sent to the sales team for delivery to the customer, had taken paid time off.
After more discussion, the manager and I discovered that templates for the proposals could be stored on a shared drive that the sales staff could access. This allowed the sales team to send proposals to potential customers and for templates to be maintained in a central template database, ensuring everyone used the most updated documents.
By introducing this process, it reduced the dependency on one individual and enabled the team to continue meeting its customers’ strict time requirements through the absence.
Consider how many operations in your organization depend on a few people rather than a well-defined process. This is referred to as single point of control. These systems are brittle and inherently risky in terms of customer service. A lack of business continuity often goes unnoticed until it’s too late: After a hero employee takes a few well-earned days off, the number of complaints from employees and customers increases because projects can’t move forward.
A process-based system allows anyone to easily identify the step that must be covered in absence of individuals—possibly by referring to a process flowchart—and take the necessary action to avoid process interruptions or delays.
As you work within your system, these single points of control should be identified and precautionary solutions implemented before they become an issue included on a corrective action request. Removing single points of control effectively renders your organization vacation, illness and holiday proof.
When essential employees are out of the office, it’s the system’s job to ensure customers are unaffected while products and services continue to be delivered at the level of quality they’ve come to expect from you.
Don’t put off improving your systems just because there isn’t an issue today. Anticipate the ebb and flow of employees’ schedules, and give your system an opportunity to rescue staff members from the stress of their co-workers’ schedules, keeping everyone content during the times they should be relaxing, or recovering from illnesses.
Glen Broomfield is a business development manager at SAI Global Inc. He has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Pennsylvania State University in State College. Broomfield has a Six Sigma Green Belt certification from Villanova University.