What do I do with extra resources as a result of improvement without laying them off?

One of the most important things you can do to have a successful culture of improvement is to remove any fear of job loss.

It is highly recommended that the top leadership make a commitment that no jobs will be lost due to improvement work.

What should a company do when they free up resources, and don’t have anything for them to do?

Here are a couple suggestions to consider for how to redeploy resources:

  • Redeploy to an area that is short on resources or in need of help
    • Sometimes we work in silos and don’t realize that a little swapping of people could address two problems. One area is short on people, and another area is overstaffed, yet they don’t communicate enough to realize this. Of course, the skill set needs to match, so sometimes the person who is freed up won’t be the same person that goes to a different group.
           
  • Take your best people and create a “flex team” to fill in for absences each day
    • If you know you are always having 1-2 people gone per day unplanned, the flex team could be deployed in that area to fill in and keep the work flowing and the customers happy. They would be experienced people who get paid a little extra for their flexibility and skill set. They might even work different shifts each day if they’re really flexible.

  • Use the extra resource to continue making process improvements
    • You could take the resource and develop them into the improvement expert who would get trained on Lean and Six Sigma, and continue eliminating waste in that area. They could also be moved to another area to help them make improvements, since they have some experience with improvements already. Again, it doesn’t have to be the actual freed up resource that takes this role. Maybe a high potential worker takes on that role, and the freed up person back fills that person’s job.

  • Move the resources earlier in the value stream to prevent future problems
    • For example, when a new product line or service is added to the workflow, they could be used to identify potential problems for the workers before it is fully implemented into the process. In manufacturing, this is your new product introduction team. Or they could be sent to work with suppliers or customers to better understand their needs, or provide support and feedback during the early stages of the new product/service.

  • As people leave through attrition or retirement (voluntary), use extra resources to replace them right away.
    • This would require cross-training them for different roles in the organization until these opportunities arise, but it’s a great way to be proactive, and not have to react when someone suddenly quits, wins the lottery or has long-term disability.
    • Cross-training is a great way to fill the gap with workers who have some free time, especially when an entire person isn’t freed up, only part of their time. This also works well when there are problems in an organization that bring the process to a halt temporarily, instead of working around the problem just to keep people busy.

The general philosophy for process improvement should be to take on more work (increase sales and growth) without adding any additional resources. The best way to do this is to go talk to your customers and ask them if there are tasks or services you can do for them to make their life easier (since you have the capacity to do that now).

If you do have to layoff people for economic reasons or due to the loss of a major customer, make sure the messaging isn’t related to process improvement. There needs to be a clear distinction between economic conditions and process improvement. Otherwise, it could be perceived that the layoff was related to the improvement, and you can imagine how that would really hamper any future Lean and Six Sigma activity you want to start…

What other ways have you utilized resources from an improvement activity?

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