There’s a fine balance to be had between meddling in your team’s To-Do lists and ensuring that the workload is equal and fair for everyone. One of the most critical parts of a manager’s job is to get that balance right. Project teams look to you to clarify what they should be doing and when. But they don’t want you hovering over their shoulder as they tick off every task.
This simple 5-step approach to ensuring your team stays on top of their tasks will make it easy for you to manage the workload in the team without looking like you are micro-managing.
1. Review Your Team’s Current Workload
If you are starting from scratch then you need to start by reviewing what’s currently going on. Perhaps this has been initiated by someone in the team saying they have too much work to do, or perhaps another team manager has called you to say that your guys aren’t keeping on top of their work and have missed a deadline for him.
Remember, you can only manage what you know. In a matrix structure, you might have some people who are only available to work on your tasks for a portion of their week, so be sure to get clarity on that. These days, “Who is in my team?” is definitely not a stupid question!
The fastest way to find the answer is to use resource management reports from your project management system to show you who is working on which tasks. In ProjectManager.com you’ll find that on the Workload tab.
2. Identify Over Allocated Staff
Look for people on the team who are over allocated. That just means that they have been given more work than they can actually do in the time available.
A good rule is that people should be allocated to specific tasks only 80% of their time. The remaining 20% will be for answering phone calls, attending team meetings, dealing with the customer who calls with an urgent problem and so on.
The 20% should be spread out across the week; it’s better to fill people’s time for, say 6 hours per day, than give them every Friday with nothing to do apart from catch up on the things they weren’t able to finish earlier in the week.
3. Identify Under Allocated Staff
You are also looking at your resource reports and dashboards for people who don’t have enough work to do. Keep your team motivated by ensuring they have meaningful tasks to fill the day.
In reality, your team members will always look busy. They will find things to work on, perhaps taking on tasks of their own accord or helping out one of their colleagues. Your time management system will help you understand if they are working on tasks that you deem to be their priority.
You can also pick up clues about whether your team is over or under allocated from them directly. They may ask for more work or point out that they can’t take on another assignment. This is where your professional judgement comes in: are they genuinely too busy or just working on the wrong tasks? Or incredibly unproductive? The better you know the strengths and work patterns of your team the easier it will be to interpret what your timesheet system is telling you.
4. Account for Skills and Absences
You can manage your team’s workload better if you know when they are going to be around. Talk to them about upcoming holidays and include those in your planning so you don’t assign them work while they are away.
Equally, check in with your team to make sure your knowledge of their skills is up-to-date. They may be able to work on more projects than you expected if they have developed new skills.
If you don’t have the skills you need in the team you may have to go out and get them. This video guide by Jennifer Bridges explains how to build a team with the right skills.
5. Adjust Your Assignments
Finally, you’ve got to put those over and under allocations right. Start with the people who have too much work assigned to them. Split up the big tasks into smaller chunks and assign someone else to help them out. Or make the task stretch over a longer period so they have fewer hours to work on it each day.
You could also move some of their work to another member of the team who doesn’t have enough to do. Boost someone’s workload by asking them to take on another project, develop their skills or involve them in planning for next year.
If you are going to change an assignment in your resource planning system, don’t forget to speak to the people involved first! That’s one of the key ways to make sure that you are keeping your team happy. You can explain that you are shifting resource requirements around to balance out the work and that it is not a reflection on their performance. In fact, as a result of your workload planning they may end up with even better assignments.
There’s also prioritizing, and that applies to workload management too. Take a look at project manager trainer Devin Deen’s video, “Project Work Priority: How To Prioritize Work For Project Teams,” embedded below to learn more.
Resource management software makes this whole process easy, especially when it’s integrated into your project management solution. Updating your plan automatically updates the resource reports in ProjectManager.com so you quickly see who has time to take on additional tasks. Start your free trial today.