How people-quality changes

We all know, of course, that we need good quality staff, not just numbers! But what do we mean by ‘quality’ and how can we understand and manage both the quality itself and its impact on other parts of the business?

It is surprising how often simple indicators give a near-enough answer. For example, I recently helped a friend who wanted to improve the client support that his SaaS business was offering. 

His clients submit requests for support and software engineers try to fix those issues.  

Problem is, the backlog keeps growing, so they have to do emergency efforts to clear it – until the backlog grows again!

… and now the business plans to double its growth, and we know that new clients create many more calls than mature clients! 

Easy – surely?! … hire and train more support staff!

Unfortunately, experienced staff are ~3 times more productive at clearing support requests than novices – and it takes about 3 months for new staff to reach that higher productivity. We would like average experience of at least 5 months. But if we double the hiring rate, this (blue line from month 12) is what happens. The green line shows stable experience if hiring continues at its current rate. Still too low, but at least not falling further.

time-chart showing experience falling slowly over 12 months. Then, when the business growth rate doubles, falling further over the next 12 months to less than 3 months. A 2nd line show , with no more growth, experience levels remain stable.

(Why such low experience any way? 1. current growth is already fast, 2. the pressures are causing high turnover, 3. good staff are being moved on to more demanding roles).

How to work this out?

Simply populate the items in the structure below with time-series values and do the sums. In this case, hired staff have no relevant experience, but that need not always be the case.

Causal diagram, showing staff numbers being hired and lost from the Staff stock, and below that a parallel structure, showing the stock of total experience being added-to by new hires and lost with people we lose. Also, total experience grows by 1 month/person each month. *Average* experience is calculated from total experience (person-months0 divided by total staff.

By the way, it might seem strange that the attribute is TOTAL team experience in person-months, but that’s the only easy way to do those sums – average experience is that total, divided by the number of staff.

The solution?

The “physics” of the people-system means that experience simply cannot grow if demand on the team grows so fast … so if ‘supply’ can’t be fixed, cut the ‘demand’ – stop introducing new software features (which drives most of the support calls), and assign some software developers to support the client on-boarding team, so that new clients know better how to use the service. 

This is one example of resource “attributes”. Other attributes that can be understood and managed in the same way include customer-quality (their purchase rate), product appeal (the potential customers they attract) – also financial attributes such as costs of staff and customer profitability. Learn how to model these issues in class 5 of our online course. Followers get a 1/3 saving – enter coupon ‘blog33‘ at checkout.

One thought on “How people-quality changes

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *