The Auxiliary Workforce Plan
by Jason C. Blais
I believe the first step on the path toward success is to look within. That doesn't mean we need to set up meditation schedules and personal reflection time, though those aren't bad ideas, but rather that we need to figure out just what our companies are made of. Specifically, what skills our workforce is made of. I am willing to stake my reputation on the fact that there are employees working in all our organizations today who have valuable skills that we are completely unaware of. That is, our current employees may present us with the skills we need to operate lean and thrive while other businesses merely survive.
There are numerous studies available that provide statistics on the dollar-value of engaged employees, and the damages caused by bored ones. For access to a number of these reports, visit SHRM, and type "engaged employees" or "bored employees" in their search engine. You'll find volumes of surveys and articles to this point.
Figure 1 The Life Cycle of an Employee, Used With Permission from SHRM
Through careful and thoughtful analysis of the skills that are required to carry out your business functions and the ancillary or unused skills present in your workforce, you can begin to build engagement while operating more efficiently.
During staffing reductions, either by layoffs or attrition, there is often a work gap left behind by the departed employees. That is, when a company lays off one person, it is common that some portion of the work that person performed must still be completed. Customarily, this work is picked up by the remaining employees, adding a sense of increased burden to the insecurity they are already feeling. We have an alternative to this process, however, which can have a splendidly counter effect- increasing our employee engagement and sense of security. It's what we call the Auxiliary Workforce Plan (AWP).
Essentially, the AWP provides the roadmap to identify, develop, and utilize untapped skills and talents present within our current workforce. Through this mechanism, we can provide interdepartmental and cross-functional opportunities to our employees, which lead to stronger engagement, and better overall understanding of our business. For the employees, it manifests professional development, resume building, and increased variety in their day-to-day job activities. This is truly a win/win practice that will provide the greatest benefits when the economy is at its worst.
Fundamentally, the premise is rather simple. First, we identify skill sets associated with each job function within our company. Then, identify secondary and tertiary skills that our employees have, but do not use in their primary job description. When staff levels are reduced, we can now examine the work gap created, in terms of job functions, and identify which skills we need to complete those tasks. Next, we simply match up the necessary job functions with the right employees based on the skills sets needed and available. Okay, maybe it's not exactly SIMPLE. Here is a scenario that may provide a clearer picture:
While developing an Auxiliary Workforce Plan can be time consuming, the short- and long-term benefits are significant. The process of surveying our workforce to uncover the auxiliary skills can, in itself, generate excitement and engagement from our workforce immediately. Over the long-term, a well-developed AWP provides our company with engaged, productive, and dynamic employees, which leads directly to increased profitability. The AWP also gives us an added dimension in our recruiting and hiring process, as we uncover those latent skills during the interview process, providing us with a better view of how a candidate can contribute to all facets of our business.
This information was collected, developed, and shared by Jason C. Blais, Director of Business Development, JobsInTheUS.com, at the 14th Annual Maine HR Convention, under the JobsInME University program.
The following excerpts are used by permission from the Society of Human Resource Management:
From "Bored Employees Found To Damage Organizations"
By Kathy Gurchiek, HR Magazine, March 2008
- Bored employees are less satisfied with their jobs, finding them less challenging and poorer matches to suit their skills. In addition, they are less innovative and feel less valued, he stated.
- Employees with more than 10 years’ tenure with the same employer reported being overworked or bored more often than those with zero to two years’ tenure with the same employer.
- Moreover, they want and expect jobs to be more than just sources of income; they expect them to be stimulating and fulfilling. Yet this need is clashing in many cases with the relentless industrial pressure to drive down costs, which seems to involve controlling aspects of employee work with ever greater precision.
From "15 Ways To Train on the Job, In a down economy, trainers turn to homegrown help" By Kathryn Tyler, HR Magazine, September 2008
- Instead of hiring external consultants, turn to the real experts: your own employees.
- Highlight internal talent.
- Implement job shadowing.Create or expand formal mentoring.
- Develop teachers throughout the organization.
- Cross-train. Employees who have more than one skill become more valuable and flexible.
- Host interdepartmental conferences.
- Give job rotation assignments.
- Develop training projects. On-the-job training projects and “stretch assignments” give employees a chance to learn while doing real work, not just hypothetical classroom exercises.
- Create an online bulletin board, e-mail discussion list, blog to share best practices & ask for help.