There’s a right way and a wrong way to reduce your staffing ratios… the well-considered, well-managed and consultative approach (good) versus the process where consultation, options and opportunities to give feedback are sadly lacking (bad!).

Whether a business is facing financial pressures, hasn’t got much work in front of them or is simply changing, they might not be able to keep everyone on board in the same capacity they’ve enjoyed to date.

At this point, too many employers think their only option is to get rid of staff, and then they fall into the trap of waiting until the last minute to do so. This doesn’t necessarily have to be the case.

This article is not about how you should approach a restructure. There is no one-size-fits-all approach because every restructure has its own set of circumstances and considerations.

What I do want to share with you is how you might re-engineer your thinking to help you manage staffing levels before you are forced to. An ideal time to do this is when a staff member resigns. When this happens, take the time to look at whether this might create opportunities to reduce staff and minimise the need to downsize in the future.

You should be looking ahead and building flexibility into your staffing structure. Your focus should be on what it is that your business needs (whilst balancing your good faith responsibilities towards your team).

Starting with the simplest of steps – ask yourself, when someone resigns, do I need to replace them?

And then ask yourself (and your leadership team if there is one) the following starter questions:

  • Can we move things around?
  • Can we train another team member up?
  • Can we automate some or all of the work?
  • Do we need to replace them with the status quo?
  • Can we change the hours and/or the key responsibilities?

I recently recruited a new staff member to join the People in Mind team and I worked through these very questions before I went to the job market. Whilst I haven’t changed the overall hours, I have been able to change the staffing mix and redirect some additional resource into the HR consulting work we do without compromising our payroll service to clients.

Even if you don’t end up making changes to your staffing structure, it’s a worthwhile exercise to work through.

Note: If you do need to make changes which will impact on jobs, I highly recommend you get advice on board before you start the process.