In show business, the job we are setting up today is more important that any work we can put off until tomorrow. Or so we think. It doesn’t take long until tomorrow’s work becomes next week’s, then next month’s.
When you focus on problems instead of solutions, you end up with a crisis.
Here are some of my tips for developing a more productive staffing culture in the production rental industry.
Tip #1: Employees Should Work at Their Highest Level of Contribution
If you don’t have enough work for a full-time audio engineer, why do you have one?
Picture your Senior Audio Engineer driving a delivery truck just because he wasn’t scheduled on a billable project (and he’s one of the few employees who has a CDL).
How long before he quits to take a job that respects his time and talent?
You may believe that maximizing staff utilization is the model of efficiency, but the long-term result is poor morale, high turnover, chronic mistakes, and a non-stop culture of “we’re too busy”.
Tip #2: Career Development Isn’t Always Advancement
A common mistake I see is the practice of hiring warehouse help with the intention that they become show technicians or managers. Why not just hire people that will be valuable contributors in the warehouse?
If the only way to make more money on your company is to advance, then you don’t value hard work.
When I hire a warehouse worker, I am looking for someone that will continue to meet the requirements of the role for years to come. There is nothing wrong with someone advancing into a technical or management role, but if you always hire for that aptitude, you will always have a novice operational team.
Tip #3: Labor Scheduling Should Focus on Downtime
If you schedule your team with a Gannt chart style system, it easy to understand what downtime looks like: It’s the white spaces on the schedule.
The goal is not to fill up the white spaces. The goal is to space them judiciously.
If your payroll math says that you have to work the team thirty days straight during busy season in order to afford to keep them on payroll in slow season (and do what, sit around all day?) – then your math is wrong.
Hire a full-time employee when you have full-time work. Outsource when you don’t. Anything less than this is poor management.
Tip #4: Labor Resource Management is About Planning Not Urgency
On your busiest day of the year, how many people are working in your warehouse compared to your slowest day of the year? If your answer implies that being busy means you have taken all your warehouse team and put them in the field, then I will suggest you have your priorities wrong.
In 100% of the companies I have analyzed that follow the “all hands” policy, I find three conditions:
- Low profits
- Low morale
- High operational errors
Bad planning creates urgency. Urgency causes bad planning.
Tip #5: Management’s Job is to Set Priorities
You can’t tell me that running an efficient, clean, organized warehouse only matters when you are not busy. Then why do so many companies “steal” warehouse crew and send them out to do shows during peak times?
The solution is simple. The Warehouse Manager controls her core team of workers. She can lend them to show scheduling at her discretion, but her priority is to maintain warehouse efficiency.
The Labor Resource Manager controls the field team of technicians. He can lend those folks to the Warehouse Manager at his discretion as long as he is optimizing their schedule in the field.
Tip # 6: All Work is Directed
Many companies assume their employees will find useful things to do when they come to work. It is unreasonable for management to expect hourly staff to make these decisions.
If you follow Tips 4 & 5, then this tip is easier to follow.
Your regular warehouse team will have a mix of daily tasks, daily projects, and reactive tasks.
- Daily task are the things we always do for example: Sweep the floor before going home for the day.
- Daily projects are Perform Quality Control, Check in Returns, Prep Orders.
- Reactive Tasks are the things that interrupt our tasks, but once resolved, the worker returns to daily projects.
When the Warehouse Manager requests field crew to supplement her warehouse team, the temporary crew are there to focus 100% on Daily Projects.
Tip #7: Balance the Obligation and Privilege of Employment
There are not many traditional 9-5 jobs in our industry other than admin and accounting roles. One of the biggest mistakes I see in staffing is the concept that your hourly direct employees have a fixed Monday through Friday schedule augmented with “extra” work on shows.
That results in unproductive days, which in turn creates a culture of privileged employment.
Your obligation as an employer is to provide full-time work to full-time employees. Follow the labor laws where you are, but in general full-time doesn’t mean weekdays only.
The privilege of employment is to meet the obligations of the job. Both parties need to get the formula correct, but if management doesn’t do it first, then employees never will.