Staffing Levels

Know you staffing levels. A retail would need to understaff during weak periods and a care business will need backup staffing for 24x7 coverage. Learn how.
  • Author: Siva
  • Last updated: December 9, 2022
  • 5 Minutes
staffing levels - understaffing or overstaffing according to seasonal demands in workplaces explained by Papershift

© / Adobe Stock

Having the right number of staff available at any given time can be a real headache for many businesses. Fluctuations in workload and customer demand can exacerbate the situation and decide how many staff members are required to keep the business running is often a difficult equation that balances current staffing levels, recruitment, and staff attrition.

A dedicated staffing strategy is crucial for every business wanting to keep the lights on when the demand for their products soars or dips.

But what exactly are staffing levels and how can businesses set up an effective staffing strategy to make sure they have the right number of employees available whenever they need them?

In this article, we will answer these questions as well as many more.

Let’s begin.

What do you mean by staffing levels?

Definition : Staffing Levels
In simple terms, the staffing levels of a business are the number of staff they need to function at their peak performance at any given time.

Staffing levels generally need to be flexible to meet the needs of the business at any given time, especially in industries where customer demand fluctuates.

What is a staffing strategy?

Staffing strategies are often confused with recruitment strategies, but they are not the same thing. Recruiting is a single step in the employment journey, it involves seeking and encouraging prospective candidates to apply for roles.

Staffing, on the other hand, is an ongoing process of keeping the correct number of employees available at all times. A staffing strategy does involve the initial recruitment step, but it goes way beyond that to include how a business manages and retains a competent and satisfied workforce, with the correct employees in the right roles at the right time to meet the company’s goals.

For ex: a retail business will have the need to understaff or overstaff based on the seasonal demands. Likewise, an hospitality or healthcare business need to staff adequate backup staff to ensure 24×7 availability. The nature of the business thus decides the staffing levels.

Retail Staffing in Festive Times

How do you know if your staffing strategy is adequate?

In simple terms, your staffing strategy isn’t working if your staffing levels are wrong at any given time. As a business owner, if you find yourself at any point within your working schedule with too many or too few employees available to work effectively, you have a poor staffing strategy.

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Any tips for getting staffing levels right?

Here are our a few steps that you can use to build an effective staffing, or people, strategy that will keep staffing levels exactly where you need them to be:

a. Determine business goals

The best starting point for a staffing or people strategy is to look at your organisation’s business plan, which should contain both short term and long-term goals for the company.

Whether your plan is to increase turnover, expand into new sectors, or launch new products, these goals are all inherently driven by the people available to you.

Because of this, your strategy needs to be fully aligned with the company’s objectives and you may need to increase or decrease staffing levels depending on what you want to achieve.

b. Understand your current staffing levels implicitly 

Once you know what your business’s objectives are, you need to understand what your current workforce picture is.

Having an accurate view of the people available to you needs to start with a single, overall picture of the situation. If the employee data you hold is disparate on many systems and/or spreadsheets, this will need to be consolidated into one system to give you maximum insight into your employees.

From here, you can build reports and actionable insights about staff, like having an accurate headcount report, establishing employee skills and skill gaps, and identifying high potential candidates for leadership roles as part of succession planning.

HR software can help. Check out the HR add-in we provide in our Marketplace.

c. Analyse patterns in staffing levels

There’s always a natural ebb and flow to staffing levels throughout any business and staying a step ahead of potential movements can ensure there are no surprises.

At the most basic level, having a clear view of leaver dates and information will help you recruit and fill these positions well in advance, minimising the risk of losing skills when someone leaves without completing a handover.

Taking this a step further, you can analyse your workforce to identify potential timeframes and situations where staff movements are more common. A modern HR software solution (like the one we provide at Papershift) can help and will allow you to see:

  1. The number of employees nearing retirement age.
  2. Forthcoming maternity and paternity leaves.
  3. Upcoming promotions will require an adequate succession plan.
  4. Individuals who are approaching the company’s average service length.

d. Create a future staffing projection

With the current workforce picture complete, it’s a good idea to build a long-term staffing plan for the next five to ten years and endeavour to understand what is needed to meet this in your company.

Ask yourself questions like:

  • Do I have an adequate recruitment team to match projections? 
  • Do we have the right budget to keep staffing levels where they need to be?

e. Develop a strong workplace culture and employer brand

Recruiting and keeping staff relies on a strong workplace culture and a revered business brand. Understanding how to build an environment in which people love to work is vital to retain the best staff members and needs to be part of your staffing strategy. 

f. Review your staffing strategy regularly

Business needs can change rapidly so scheduling an annual review of your staffing levels and strategy is unlikely to be enough.

It’s important for businesses to regularly review their staffing plan to ensure it can flex and adapt to the needs of the business if conditions change at a moment’s notice.

In conclusion

Getting staffing levels right can be a nightmare for any business. Having the right staffing strategy is crucial to avoid under and over-staffing and to ensure that the company is productive and profitable in the future.

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We hope you have enjoyed this guide. For more useful workplace information or to take a look at our trusted scheduling and HR management software, check out the rest of our website.

Written by Siva

I write & describe the value & benefits delivered by Paperhift's rota planning, staff time tracking, and employee payroll management software. Especially useful for Shift Planners, Rota Managers, Team Admins, and HR Teams :-)