Role efficiency studies: Fine-tuning your workforce

Managers, deputies, supervisors, assistants. Team structures can be complex, and if there’s overlap or imbalance, it can make a big dent in your overall efficiency – and your profits. We’ve helped clients across retail, hospitality and office working put different roles under the microscope and identify ways to make them more effective.

Whatever your business, it’s likely that a big chunk of your budget goes on team salaries, so it’s important to be confident that you’re spending it wisely. You can make sure you have the most effective layout, the slickest equipment and a thorough understanding of exactly how long it takes to run every aspect of your business. But if your team structure isn’t right or there are hazy boundaries when it comes to responsibilities, you can end up with colleagues spending a disproportionate amount of their day on back-of-house tasks instead of with customers, killing time, or filling it with things that don’t add value.

The highest stakes are in leadership roles, where salaries are greatest. How different are managers and assistant managers in reality? Enough to justify the extra investment? Do you have the right number of people at each level? And, if it’s important for them to be interacting with customers, how much time are they spending at their desks? A clear picture of how responsibilities are split – in practice and not just on paper – is a vital resource for improving efficiency.

How our studies work

It’s not enough to know whether roles are efficient or not. Our clients want the full story: what’s standing in the way – whether that’s a lack of guidance, too much crossover or a mismatch of resource to customer demand – and how to overcome obstacles. So, our analysts add context with anecdotal observations and use their experience to spot opportunities.

They’ll also have conversations with the people they’re following, uncovering first-hand experiences and useful information that might not otherwise be brought to HQ’s attention. Seemingly small, everyday issues can have a big knock-on effect; for example, a lack of water coolers meant people were travelling from one side of the building to the other to get a drink, taking up valuable time.

Answering challenges

Often, our clients use role efficiency studies as a way of checking their team structure is working – and to add an extra level of insight to broader productivity projects. But they’re also an effective tool for tackling specific challenges. 

Dividing responsibilities across a breadth of roles

When your workforce is made up of many roles covering many different duties, it can be particularly challenging to avoid crossover and keep team members focused. Definition is crucial, and even more so if you’re in an industry that’s subject to an increasing number of regulations; if you’ve got lots of colleagues who aren’t completely clear on what they should be doing, they won’t feel accountable.

One study helped a company take stock of a broad workforce with varied roles, from mortuary team members, to drivers, to receptionists. It gave them a detailed, up-to-date picture of the way tasks are currently split across their business, so they had the information they needed to clearly assign responsibilities and clarify role definitions.

We also pinpointed areas to focus on first: their fleet drivers scored lowest in terms of efficiency – something that could be improved with changes to the scheduling system as well as tighter guidelines.

Restoring balance

It’s easy for a team structure to start out balanced and become top-heavy over time. It sounds like an obvious issue to spot, but sometimes it takes a fresh pair of eyes and concrete data to help you tackle it.

A DIY retailer wanted to know how their structure measured up in terms of efficiency, and asked us to follow colleagues in ten leadership roles at four different stores. A desire to recognise great team members had resulted in many different supervisory roles, and left them at risk of paying for the same jobs to be completed at different pay grades. We highlighted opportunities to rebalance towards a leaner management hierarchy, allowing them to invest in more colleagues. They’ve used our findings to relaunch their structure.

Refining leadership roles

A large restaurant chain called us in to review the efficiency of their leadership roles as part of a wider project to boost productivity. It revealed some valuable insights: the key differences between General and Deputy Managers and Assistant General Managers, for example – and the importance of AGMs being clear on their responsibilities when more senior managers were on shift. Our analysts highlighted variance across restaurants too, and a correlation between efficient management roles, effective front of house teams and good TripAdvisor scores.

Making a leadership budget work harder

As a low-cost operator, this leading hotel chain’s management team need to be hands-on. But they also need to have enough time to develop colleagues and manage behind-the-scenes business. Throw in the extra challenge of big variations in hotel size and function – airport locations often mean quick customer turnaround, for example, while city centres attract more weekend guests – and it could prove tricky to get the right leadership structure and numbers.

We helped shed light on how much time their senior colleagues spent ‘doing’ vs managing across their different types of hotels. We found that some leadership roles were very similar, and some had a lot of waiting time due to their customer-facing nature. They are using the data we provided to find the right balance and guide future strategy for their different sites.

Weighing up a new role’s value

If you’ve recently introduced a new structure or position, a role efficiency study can give you useful insight into whether it’s paying off or needs reshaping.

As well as helping Pandora pinpoint the factors that their most effective stores had in common – their people spent more time talking to customers and helping them try on jewellery, and less time talking through brochures – we found a ‘meet and greet’ role wasn’t working, and needed clarification. They’ve since taken steps to redefine it.

Solving complicated downtime issues

When you’re a leading beauty brand with counters in major department stores, downtime is likely to be a pressing issue. The fact that our client had many different cosmetics brands under their umbrella added extra weight to the problem. And with only one or two beauty consultants looking after each counter during a shift, as well as waiting for customers to pass by, ask questions and make purchases, the answer couldn’t be as straightforward as streamlining workforce budgets.

To help them identify solutions, we shone a light on exactly how their colleagues’ shifts were being spent, identifying which of their brands had more non-effective waiting time, and why that might be; for example, those brands with a model driven by engaging customer interaction has less downtime. Then we used our experience and observations to propose possible opportunities, including carefully aligning rotas to footfall, introducing more part-time contracts, giving colleagues more in-situ tasks like online training or picking online orders during quiet periods, and having more flexibility for their people to work across department stores rather than being tied to a single location. Our findings are feeding in to their long-term strategy.

Driving profits and performance

Taking a closer look at your team’s roles can really pay off. We identified opportunities for one of our hospitality clients to save up to £3 million a year, by reviewing the structure of their leadership positions. Beyond the pounds saved, colleagues who are clear on exactly what’s expected of them are often more likely to work efficiently, and our clients tell us that our studies have helped them encourage their teams towards an improved performance.

What our clients say

“Refreshing to have a business that delivers on its promises and offers impartial advice to support the business focus around efficiency”

Leigh Rushworth, Senior Retail Business Change Lead, Wilko