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It’s 2015 - Do you know where your workers are?

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Using workforce analysis to enhance workload distribution
We often hear the refrain that while an agency’s budget decreases, personnel costs rise and mission delivery suffers. What too few agencies know, however, is that a rigorous analysis of workload distribution can uncover a wildly underutilized workforce and free up badly needed resources. Data-driven workload distribution can allow agencies to function at a higher productivity level and do a lot more with what they have.

A data-driven workload assessment can provide an agency with important insights for making staffing and budgeting decisions. Through this type of analysis, resources can be reassigned to better meet performance targets and increase efficiency. It is important to note that this process is scalable and can be applied to an agency, a constituent component of an agency, or a function within an agency, depending on that particular organization’s specific needs.


Developing a workload assessment
The first step in developing a workload assessment is to dissect the work being performed by creating a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). A WBS provides a comprehensive view of all the activities performed within an agency. These activities and their outputs are mapped to strategic goals to confirm that all work being performed furthers the mission and priorities of the agency. This mapping can highlight activities that add value and those that don’t. By eliminating the latter, resources are made available to support other mission-critical initiatives.

Once an agency determines which activities are absolutely necessary, the agency then draws information from operational systems, interviews personnel, and/or gathers empirical data to measure the current workload and determine how each activity consumes resources. This workload measurement typically requires capturing the time required to perform the work and using this information to help determine whether personnel are fully employing their skillsets on appropriate and necessary tasks. The result is a determination of the volume and distribution of workload, a map of the resources required to perform it, and a calculation of whether or not the agency is appropriately staffed to respond to the workload. If there is a gap between the current workload and the workforce needed to successfully execute and manage this workload, then developing a model of the desired future state will show you what steps to take. This analysis, combined with other indicators of capacity utilization such as overtime and backlogs, offer valuable insight into over or under capacity within the agency.
Create WBS - Map activities to goals and assess whether goals re being achieved with current workforce mix. 
Measure workload - Gather empirical data on work distribution and time required to perform work.
Analyze - Is agency operating over or under capacity? What needs to be done to meet future needs?

Charting the workload distribution profile is also useful for functions that require shiftwork or 24/7 coverage. The distribution of workload across the day, week, month, or year can become a key input in the schedule and resource optimization analyses.

Mapping workload distribution
The practical application of workforce analytics has helped agencies realign their workforces and explore alternative staffing strategies, freeing up precious resources. Some examples include:
  • At one agency, an analysis of Frontline Managers and technical supervisors who support critical functions found that by reassigning indirect activities performed by supervisors to administrative staff, manager/supervisor capacity increased dramatically. As a result of this study, the number of positions to be filled with more expensive and harder-to-find resources were reduced and the overall capacity of the function could be increased without spending more.
  • As another agency prepared for a forecasted expansion in its customer base, an analysis of the workload and existing workforce provided insights into actual workforce capacity, which was inconsistent with the intuitive, and somewhat anecdotal, data. This study provides a more accurate forecast of resource requirements and, once completed, will produce a quantifiable basis for reevaluating, planning, and setting fees for Service-Level Agreements.
  • An analysis of the workload distribution and shift-scheduling processes of a nationwide, 24/7 operation provided insights into the impacts that varying shift start times can have on resource utilization. Different scheduling practices, our study showed, can minimize overtime consumption and maximize resource efficiency.
While the impact of a workload assessment can vary depending on the size and complexity of the workforce, a quick turnaround review and assessment will provide insight into how resources are allocated between direct and indirect tasks. The alignment of resources and staff to workload can provide an initial snapshot into likely under-utilization of resources and make the case for proactively conducting a more rigorous study of internal workload distribution. To find out where your workers are, we suggest you act now.

Kevin Brathwaite is a Director at Grant Thornton LLP. For more information he can be reached at +1 703 837 4443 or kevin.brathwaite@us.gt.com