In many companies, the cost of White-Collar Staff is very significant. By international standards, the number of staff that Indian Companies hire is significantly high. The Productivity of the Staff in a company seems to be very low. We seem to be throwing ‘Warm Bodies’ at work and problems! More Problems, more ‘Warm Bodies’..
The Indian Companies have been waking up to the higher costs of employees in the past Decade or so. The profits are under pressure. Top line is not growing as aggressively as one may want.
In this situation too, many companies have been addressing the Blue-Collar cost. Companies have been trying to hire cheaper and cheaper labor. I know many companies who try to run the whole Manufacturing Plant with temporary and low-cost labor. Genuine attempts to improve Productivity have not been many. Indian Companies have a long way to go in improving the Blue Collar Productivity.
By Comparison, the White Collar Productivity had been an unexplored area for most of the Companies.
No Standards for work!!
Most of the Companies do not have a Standard for the work of the White Collar Employees. What is the work each Position should be doing and what is the Standard time and effort that each of the work is supposed to take?
Resultantly there is no measure for the work of the White-Collar Employees. When something is not getting done, more employees are recruited. Sometimes having more people will result in more confusion and more inefficiency.
The other side of this continuum is that some companies simply refuse to recruit White Collar Employees or fire who is there. Even this act will not have any rationale. Usually it is the ‘feel’ of the Boss who may just ‘feel’ there are too many people and they are ‘wasting’ their time!
Direct and Indirect Cost of White-Collar Employees and their work
The White-Collar employees are tasked in every company with very important tasks. They decide what Raw Materials have to be purchased, at what cost, how much inventory to keep, what price to sell a product, how to market the products and many other crucial decisions.
So, the money that the Companies spend on the Salaries of the White-Collar employees is only a small proportion of the Total cost. The Cost that this group of Employees can inflict on a Company is huge. They and the work that they do can either make or break the Profits of a Company.
Hence, this category of employees deserve a much higher Quality attention! It is not enough to just focus on Blue collar and drive their productivity !
What needs to be addressed?
Companies need to consider addressing two elements of this category of employees.
01. The numbers in this category. How many people you have and how you can optimize this number? This ensures you spend as little as possible on this category of costly employees. This addresses the Direct cost of White-collar employees.
02. The Quality of the work and decisions of this category of employees. Companies need to pay attention to this as they can inflict a very high cost on the company due to the quality of the decisions that they may take.
Let us address these issues in two or three articles.
Addressing the Direct Cost of the White-Collar Employees
This again can be addressed at two levels. You can improve the Productivity of White-collar Employees in two phases.
a) Multiply the Productivity by applying the Lean Principles.
b) Go to a new level of Productivity and way of working by adapting Technology tools that are available today.
Multiply the Productivity using Lean Principles
I would suggest a methodology to address this area.
While many companies may have KPIs for their Employees and may be some of them are using them well, the Productivity at Task level may still be suffering.
Have a Target: When you start improving the White-Collar Productivity, it is important to have a CLEAR target. I would suggest the target as ‘Avoid recruitment for next one/two years’. Do not start with a target of ‘Cutting 25% of Staff’. This would be like cutting the foot to fit the shoe. While this is so basic and everyone should be knowing, I see many companies just firing Staff to reduce costs!! A Good team is what the Management should be looking to build. They would reduce costs and improve profits!
Log your time: Encourage the employees to log their time and find out what are they actually spending their time on. You can give them Log sheets and ask them to capture what they are doing and to what KPI is it really related to. This effort may give you a long list of activities. Pick the Pareto items for improvement. You need to do this for each Position in the company.
Time Study: Study the specific Tasks on which you are spending significant part of your time. By capturing the micro details of the Task, you can examine the various losses that you have in doing that particular task. Usually you would have very BIG losses.
Identify Kaizens: Identify the improvements that you can do to reduce the time that the task takes. The improvements may involve changing the Work flows, changing the authorizations, improving the ERP features and many other activities.
Carry out the Kaizens: Here, the company has to move with some great purpose. One should not be stuck with some Kaizens that are difficult to implement. It may involve modifying your ERP and modifying your methods. Good amount of ‘Change Management’ is needed here.
Multiply the Productivity
One should aim at improving Productivity by 2-3 times with this methodology. A lesser target will not justify the effort and possibilities that are there in every organization.
Wherever IMA handled this type of Project, the improvement in Productivity was at least twice.
What is critical: Try out in one model area. Take the help of outsiders in this project. An outsider can bring a fresh perspective for this work. But, you should develop an internal team that would focus on Productivity of People forever.
Next Article: We will examine how an Organization can transit in to a New Way of working at the next level of improvement.