Management

Planning for changes in the workforce

Have you ever been a member of a team and had someone get promoted?  I think we’ve all been there at some point, sure you’re happy for the person but you also know that until a replacement is found your workload is going up.  This is a result of not planning ahead and a continuation of my previous post The importance of planning ahead.

Example

Let’s say you have a team of 5 with a supervisor managing them, one member is promoted to supervisor for a different team and now that team of 5 is down to 4 and has to pick up the workload for the team member who was promoted.

The Result

The remaining 4 employees are now overworked, think management doesn’t care about them for putting all the extra work on them, and thinks management is incapable of planning ahead.

Breakdown

Let’s look at this situation in pieces.

  • A team member was promoted leaving the rest of the team to pick up the workload.

How could this have been handled better?  Once the promotion was decided on, a replacement should have been found and trained to take on the person’s responsibilities.  In the meantime if the position the person is being promoted to is vacatied a member or members of management above that position should take on those responsibilities until the person being promoted has a replacement.  

The person being promoted could also begin training for their new position during this time and if possible start taking on some of the responsibilities which would ease the transition to the new job.

  • The remaining team members are overworked.

While the remaining team members may genuinely be happy for the member being promoted they will not be happy about the extra workload they now face.  Overworking employees can lead to disgruntled employees, errors in the work, and ultimately employee burnout.

  • Employees think management doesn’t care about them.

When an employee thinks those above them don’t care about them they are less likely to care about the work or be loyal to the company.  This goes back to my previous post The only power is future power.  Planning ahead is a projection of future power, by showing your employees that you planned ahead to make sure the burden didn’t fall on them and they will respect you more, and as a result your future power with them will grow.

  • Employees think management is incapable of planning ahead.

This again goes back to the previous post The only power is future power.  By not planning ahead you are telling employees that you are incapable of doing so.  Even if you are fully capable of planning ahead, by not doing so when it comes to situations like this you are leading your employees to believe you are not capable.  This lowers employee trust in management and leads to less loyal and hard working employees.

Solution

Employees recognize when management plans ahead and when they don’t. If you know someone is going to be promoted or retire, plan a transition as far in advance as possible. Going back to my example, management should know the person is going to be promoted from the team in advance and as such should be in the hiring process to fill that person’s soon to be open position.

Where employers fail is when they promote an individual out of a position leaving it open for an extended period of time, only after the promotion has taken place do they start the hiring process to fill the open position.  All the while the remaining employees are left to pick up the slack and feel they are not valued.

The flow should be something like this:

  1. Recognize a position is about to open up and start the hiring process to fill it so soon as possible.
  2. Pick your candidate to fill the position early in the process, and have them start training with the person they will be replacing.
  3. Start the hiring process to fill the candidate’s soon to be open position
  4. Pick your candidate and start training them with the person about to be promoted.
  5. Promote the candidate to the higher position and let the new hire take the position that has been vacated.

Some positions will require that a person be fully trained before they can take on the position, but in most jobs having a week of training will get the person far enough along that a supervisor and other employees can take over the rest of the training.  I do understand that this will mean having to pay an extra employee for a short time, resulting in increased costs.  But let’s look at what it would cost to wait and leave the position open.  Employees are left to pick up the work, they become overworked and less loyal.  This results in more errors in the short term and less output in the long term, it also can result in higher turn over long term resulting in more onboarding and training costs.  It is therefore better to incur short term costs than long term costs, spend a little now so you don’t spend a lot later.

Caveat

Of course sometimes things happen, people quit, they pass away, and sometimes management has to scramble to fill a position.  The key in a situation like that is to be upfront and honest about the situation with your employees, tell them the facts and how you are planning to handle the situation.  The majority of your employees will appreciate your honesty and see you are trying to fix the situation and will do what they can to help, and to help mitigate interference from those who don’t understand.  Sometimes having a voice of reason from someone at your own level is more likely to calm you down than from someone above you, even if the person at your level says the exact same thing the person above does.

Sometimes people just feel like anyone above them is talking down to them and will only listen to those they see as equals.  That is why gaining trust and respect with the other employees is so important, they will calm the troublemakers, or at least try, and allow you to implement your plan to fix the problem without having to deal with the troublemaker.

Conclusion

Trust is a two way street, to trust that your employees will be loyal and hardworking they have to trust you to do everything in your power to take care of them.  A policy of openness and honesty with your employees can go a long way to facilitate this, but showing you are planning ahead to minimize the burden on them is an equal responsibility.  Management can always be open and honest but if they routinely burden employees with extra work due to poor planning then disgruntlement and burnout will happen regardless.

Key takeaways:

  • Be as open and honest as possible.
  • Plan ahead
  • When unforeseen situations arise formulate a plan and communicate it to your employees as soon as possible.

Resources

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