As with many such things in our business, there is no real rule of
thumb here. Based upon the range of responses, someone could make a
case that you're woefully overstaffed or you're woefully understaffed.
YOUR JOB, I'm sorry to say, is to write a business case for what you
need to function -- and that may be fewer, or more, people and
My company of about 20,000 associates globally has a richness of
records resources. But the nature of our business is record-keeping
(benefits and HR records for client companies). We have two CRMs doing
strategic work, policy development, records retention, and client
consulting, with a little project management thrown in for good
measure. We have operational teams of one to six associates in various
locations around the world. I haven't had to order shirts for everyone
in a while, so I've lost count on how many people have "records" as a
primary or secondary duty (but counting folks doing imaging-related
work, it's probably between 75 and 100 globally). We have five global
imaging centers, with staffing ranging from two to 20.
What I'm getting at is that the nature of the work you're doing drives
your staffing. We outsource all of our inactive records storage. We
selectively outsource some image capture of high volume historical
(i.e. client legacy) records needed for ongoing work.
What you need to look at are all of the services you provide. Quantify
the output and develop measures for productivity for each service.
Develop service level agreements (SLAs) with all of your internal
customers (if no one has a written expectation that you'll image their
documents by tomorrow, management will never let you staff to meet that
requirement). Understand your unit costs of work. Understand the ebbs
and flows of your business. If you get buried every January, but have
nothing coming in during the summer, work out ways to balance the load.
You can't hire staff just for peak periods.
Challenge your staff to work harder and contribute their ideas for
efficiency. They have to buy in to any changes you're going to make, so
you need them to feel a part of the process. what you want folks to
understand is that you're trying to bring them more work and preserve
their jobs. People tend to work at a pace that allows them to expand
the volume of work at hand to fill available time. If people have to
perform to meet an SLA (in which they all share accountability), you'll
find that they are more motivated.
Attrite your staffing numbers and see what happens. If people believe
that an open position will not be filled and they are accountable for
getting the work done anyway, they will get creative. Reward hard work
and good ideas. Listen to those folks.
What you want to be, is in control of your destiny. The questions that
you ask imply that you're being asked to answer such questions. If you
can't be proactive, someone else will make decisions for you, and those
decisions will be based upon assumptions -- or simply designed to cut
dollars with the fallout to be dealt with later.
Market your services. Consider placing the burden on the departments
you work with to reduce your staffing needs. Look to regulatory
requirements for things that you have to do to protect the
I'd hazard to say that a supervisor and a lead over three front line
workers might just be too much supervision unless the duties are
clearly laid out to distribute line work supervision away from the
supervisor (who might be doing retention schedules, training, managing
other services and leads, etc.).
Look at outsourcing as either the ongoing way you work, or something
you engage for projects. If the volume of work you get is so variable
that you can't justify enough staff to a) stay busy year round or b)
keep up with the work for much of the year, then you need to look at
letting someone else deal with the labor issue. If things come in as a
result of special projects, then give those projects to an outsourcer
as they come up. What the outsourcer buys you is flexible staffing.
Your unit cost analysis will also help you understand if outsourcing
Patrick Cunningham, CRM
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