How to Establish Your Employees’ Capacity

Posted on: 27 Jul 2017

Getting your team’s workload right is a fine balancing act. Ask them to do too much and standards could slip and their health and wellbeing may deteriorate. Get them to do too little and organisational output is impacted and employees will likely become bored. The starting point for determining the perfect workload is understanding the capacity of your team. So, here are five tools and techniques to help you do just that.

1. Time and Motion Studies
These studies are the gold standard for establishing the time and physical effort it takes to carry out a role. Managers can use the benchmarks that this approach delivers to decide on the content of job roles, establish workload, identify the capacity of individuals, teams and departments and assess performance.

Time and motion studies require staff to document the time spent on specific tasks over the course of a specified period, often one to two weeks or a month. Every 15-20 minutes, employees stop working and record their activity selecting from a pre-defined list of activities to enable workload analysis.

The total amount of work for a task is established by multiplying the average time taken to complete the task with the frequency with which the task is performed. Data is taken from all employees to establish benchmark estimates for low, moderate and complex work activities. This approach also reveals the time spent completing different aspects of the role such as administration.

Good for: more physical jobs, identifying wasted effort or movements that could be eliminated through better working practises and ergonomic design thus improving productivity.
Bad for: taking up significant time and effort that could be used to uncover inefficiencies exist by talking to employees.

2. Get Tech-Savvy
If a time and motion study is all a bit much, turn to technology to track how your team spends their time. Toggl is a good example of time-tracking software that allows you to track the hours you and your team work and for which projects or clients.

As a manager, this kind of software helps you stay on top of your team’s workload and gives you a real-time view of what everyone’s working on. This allows you to identify capacity and time sink-holes or find out who your most productive people are. You can also produce timesheets and reports for clients or your boss to ensure transparent working processes.

Good for: getting a real-time overview and touch of a button reporting.
Bad for: introducing another tool for everyone to get to grips with and remember to use.

3. Ask!
Talking to your team is a good way to establish how they feel about their workload and identify any capacity. You can do this on a one-to-one basis or use a survey to allow people to give their responses anonymously.

Example questions could include:
    • Has there been an increase or a decrease in your workload in the last year?
    • Typically, how much unpaid work do you do in a month?
    • How would you rate your workload capacity over the past year
      • 80-90%
      • 90-100%
      • 100-110%
      • 110-120%
Asking people to consider most of their responses over the course of a year will allow for fluctuations in workload and any peaks in activity. This guide provides a good starting point for an employee survey and you could use a tool like SurveyMonkey to keep costs down.

You should have good gut feel about who’s stretched and who isn’t so combine the results of your research with your own perceptions of your team.

Good for: engaging employees and getting to the facts quickly and efficiently backed up by data if you choose to do a survey.
Bad for: potentially skewed data as the information is self-reported.

4. Introduce Workforce Planning
One way to ensure your employees have capacity is to introduce workforce planning to your organisation. Workforce Planners continuously assess whether you’re employing the right number of people with the right skills to meet your service and production requirements. They also enable the creation of long term people plans and ensure you can meet regulatory and organisational requirements.

Workforce planners will use statistical methods to establish how many people should be able to carry out the organisation’s workload with slack built in aligned to strategic goals. They can predict future workloads and align headcount to ensure workload capacity doesn’t become an issue.

Good for: Larger organisations or those where matching headcount to business requirements is complex due to challenges such as frequently shifting business demand, regulatory requirements or skills shortages.
Bad for: Smaller organisations or those where matching business demand to headcount is straight forward.

5. Project Planning Tools
Identifying capacity is only half the battle. Once you know who should be doing what and how long these tasks will take, you need a way to organise and track workload. There are a range of tools available to help you allocate projects and tasks, set deadlines and monitor completion. Asana, Basecamp, Resource Guru and Hub Planner are all good options that provide at-a-glance overviews of workload and capacity.

Good for: projects and smaller teams organising work and making it simple to see where capacity exists.
Bad for: larger organisations and strategic, organisation-wide planning.

Accurately identifying capacity has many benefits from identifying and tackling inefficiencies to effectively planning recruitment and improving employee engagement. It’s an ongoing effort, not a one-off project. Get your approach right and it will enable you to manage recruitment effectively saving costs along the way.

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