Good staffing plans start with treating your team like humans, not resources—and people have lives outside of work. See how to ensure project work gets delivered on time while creating space for your team to rest and recharge.
In this class, you’ll learn how to:
Speaker 1: Brett, you ready to roll or what?
Brett Harned: Just give me one second. Whatever. All right, I'm ready. Sorry. I was trying to win Tetris, and really there's never any winning. Trust me, I know. I've been playing it since I was a kid with a Game Boy. Now I play on my phone and kind of professionally as a project manager as well. All right, let me back up. First, welcome to class 11 of Art and Science of Leading Projects. This class is all about managing staffing plans. Some folks call that resourcing, but we're talking about people here, and we all know you shouldn't call people resources. So back to my professional Tetris career. I've always thought that managing workloads is sort of like Tetris. It's easy to get wrapped up in the concept of little shapes coming together in a logical way to clear a goal. The pieces compliment one another, yet they all work naturally together in different ways.
Brett Harned: Like I said, the game has stuck with me since I was a kid. I now have it on my phone and my iPad, and I find myself playing it when I'm on a flight, or if I'm bored, or waiting for something to happen, like recording a new video, I guess. But whether I'm playing the game a lot or not, the idea of making tiny boxes fit in neatly and clearing out rows of work is ingrained in my brain. It's the project manager in me. But here's the thing, what project managers do on a daily basis when it comes to managing people and staffing is similar to Tetris, and it's a big project management challenge that we all face. The biggest difference between managing workloads and Tetris, well, the team members we're trying to assign tasks to are not blocks. They're human beings and they come with a lot of variables. You know this as a human, so that's an important thing to consider when you work through this stuff. Don't treat people like resources to be applied to a task. Treat them like people who have the amazing ability to help solve challenges.
Brett Harned: Okay. I want to take this a little further. We're positioning today's class to be about managing workloads, which is just a different way of saying resourcing. So what is that? Resource allocation is assigning your resources, time, people and tools across various tasks in a project to work towards your deadlines. Imagine you're managing a new website redesign project. You need to know who's available to do the research, design, content and development work. These things are also known as the tasks you've estimated and planned, and are required to get the job done on time and within budget. That's resource allocation in a nutshell. In this class, I'm going to talk through some tips to make resource allocation easier for you and less scary for the folks you're planning for. That said, there is an aspect of resourcing that does deal with booking spaces, equipment and more, but we're focusing on workloads and people in the class.
Brett Harned: Okay. So now that that's out of the way, let's dig in. With the right tools and frame of reference, creating a staffing plan is not terribly difficult as a task. It's the human aspect of the task that makes it a little more complicated because it takes a lot of consideration when planning. There are always a ton of challenges or even roadblocks to consider, whether you're working with a small or a large team. So maybe you can relate to some of these common challenges. Task estimates do not exist, meaning no one came up with an estimate for the level of effort, so you're not sure how to plan for it time wise. It's really common. There are new unknown project tasks or deliverables. This happens a lot with innovative teams who are taking on new work in uncharted territory. It's hard to know and plan for the unknown. I don't know my team. This happens when you're working with a new team and don't have a sense for their capabilities or expertise. There's some digging to be done here.
Brett Harned: We don't have the expertise needed. This is something that can happen mid project, especially if the project undertaking is a new one to you and to the team. Project timelines are colliding. This also happens a lot, especially if your team are staffed to multiple projects or teams. It's hard to keep many timelines straight, but not for long. I'm going to show you how you can easily manage this in TeamGantt. My team is unclear on priorities across projects. This can be a challenge even when you do have things well planned and documented, but a well-communicated staffing plan can help you here. And the last one is so, so common. We have too many projects and not enough people. Can't tell you how many teams are overbooked and stressed out. A good staffing plan can not only help you to end the chaos and provide a good work life balance, but also help you make the case for new hires or even onboarding contractors to help.
Brett Harned: Those challenges are indeed proof that staffing is really complicated. And I'm not here to tell you that TeamGantt will solve all of your challenges, but it can help. So with that said, I'm going to talk to you about how to set your projects up properly to be able to create more accurate staffing plans and to adjust those plans when issues arise, because they will. But where TeamGantt comes in and takes away some of the complexity is with helping you to match your estimates to actual work plans. That's a huge help when you're trying to manage multiple projects, teams, tasks, and even stakeholders. So let's talk about what a good planning system will do and how I learned to make them work for me as a PM. At one point in my career, I went from working at a large digital agency with over 125 employees in one office, to a small agency of 12 people total. Both scenarios felt like a masterclass in staffing plans and figuring out what to do for the teams.
Brett Harned: At the large agency. All resourcing was done by a resourcing manager who had zero insight into projects and no access to plans. That made things complicated and probably inaccurate. When I went to a smaller agency, there was no resourcing plan. That was even more complicated. But I stood by to see how things were working, and over time it was clear that we needed some level of resourcing. The things you see here on screen are what I wanted from the new process. First, a general understanding of what everyone is capable of doing, and also what they like to do. Thinking about interests and strengths. Second, a way to be sure that work life balance stays intact, and the team knows that you're proactively trying to protect and efficiently manage their work time. Third, a way to discuss how much time a task should take and a way to determine its priority against other work. And finally, a way for me to communicate tasks and intended effort in a way that would make the team feel accountable to the work without feeling or looking like a micromanager.
Brett Harned: That said, the most valuable lesson I learned in both scenarios is that an estimate is always just an approximation. It's really hard to nail those tasks estimates. But having a target is a good thing, and I'll cover estimation in a few minutes. So with all of that in mind, I want to talk through five tips to help you manage your team's time. These are fairly simple directions that I think you can take and adapt in your organization. First, get to know your project. That might sound silly, but having a firm understanding of your scope and what's expected of the project will always help you to make better decisions. In this case, I'm talking about knowing the details of a project before you even have it staffed. I know that's not always a reality for everyone, so think of this as an immediate step you take as you kind of dig into a project and understand what the project needs, whether that means you do it before the project has started or even at the very start.
Brett Harned: I always recommend that project managers dig into project details before getting started. If you watched the earlier classes in the series, like class three on estimation, you know all about it. And I have to say, there's no exception when you're working on staffing plans. If you have a scope, and I hope you do, it'll tell you what the boundaries of the work will be. Sometimes that scope will define deliverables and sometimes it won't. In this case, you're most likely thinking about time. How much time you have to get parts of the project done, and how that fits within your overall timeline. With that time imposed, you'll start thinking about the roles you'll need staffed to the project, and possibly even the specialties within those roles. So, at this early stage you want to think about the team you'll need to complete your projects. I'll talk more about this later, but to start you need to understand some basics about your team, maybe before you even know who they are. Kind of as they related to the scope.
Brett Harned: First, experience level matters here. If your scope is for a senior level person, then your timeline would probably reflect that. Meaning, if you put a junior level team member on a task, they'll likely need more time. It's important to pay attention to this because this single decision can have long lasting impacts on your timeline and your budget. Second, sometimes expertise is just as important as experience level. For instance, if you're working on a project within the healthcare industry, let's say, and you know that you have some team members with expertise there, you're going to want them staffed to your project, because a basic understanding of the industry or the project type can make up for experience in other areas. So this is something to think about. I've always had this idea to have playing cards made for my team so that I have a quick snapshot of this kind of information. The type of work they do, their areas of specialty experience in terms of project types and industries, interests, areas of improvement and more. That type of tool would sure make getting to know them a little easier, or at least provide a place to look at skills. I want someone to grab that idea and make it happen for a team. If you do, get in touch with me directly or add a screenshot or photo in the comments, I'd love to see it.
Brett Harned: Okay. The second step is to talk to your team. Once you feel like you've got the info you need about the project and you either staff your project or someone tells you who's being assigned, you'll want to get to know your team. The reason I include this step is because it's so easy to just start working and not consider the people who will do the work. It's easy to forget that staffing plans are about people, so always consider them. So this step is probably the most personal. You really have to get to know the team you'll be working with. Think about the expertise they hold, their interest in the project's subject matter, how they prefer to work and just how available they'll be, because these things will absolutely impact your project and your overall staffing plan. Plus, in general, it's good to build relationships with your team so that when your plan changes and the amount of time you have to get work done decreases, you can have a more comfortable conversation about resolving the issue together.
Brett Harned: And while you might not really be able to change an estimate or even a deadline, it's best to confirm all of your project details with the team. A short and simple meeting to walk through how the project will work, what will be delivered, who is responsible for what, and just how much time is budgeted can help you to set expectations across the board. At the same time, it's good to get everything out in the open by talking about other work and making sure there are no major conflicts at the start. Of course that could change, but at least knowing about those things will help you to make decisions when change does occur.
Brett Harned: Let's move onto the third step, which is to use hours estimates in TeamGantt. Now I want to talk about formalizing some of the detail in your estimate and aligning them to your project plan. It's important to remember that task estimates will not always align with the number of days in your plan. This goes back to my point about complication. It's really easy to mix up task estimates with project timing. Unless your team's fully dedicated to one project, then things are a little easier. But I always tend to assume people are juggling several projects and tasks. Just a side note here, if you've not checked out class number three, you definitely should. Not only will you learn how to create more accurate estimates, we've provided tools and homework to help you refine your estimating skills. All right, so next I want to jump into TeamGantt and show you some of the basics of assigning tasks and estimates to help you create a staffing plan in TeamGantt.
Brett Harned: All right, let's look at how you can use your plans and estimates in TeamGantt to create a solid staffing plan that's based on the reality of the work. If you haven't checked out class three on estimation, you'll want to do that so that you understand how estimates in TeamGantt work. But let me give you a brief recap. Before I do that, I should mention that if you want to do workload planning in TeamGantt, you need to be in the advanced plan. Also, in order to make workload planning actually work for you in TeamGantt, you have to make sure that your project settings are correct. So first I'm going to show you the project setup and then I'm going to show you a full plan. So right now I'm on my home screen. What I'm going to do is start a new project by clicking on new project, and then I'm going to go in and set it up.
Brett Harned: So let's say that this one is for workloads. I'm just titling a new class. It's going to start today, which is the 30th. The template's going to be blank. I'm not going to create a new template, which you can do. This is the most important part for workload planning, making sure that you're planning which days that you can schedule work for your team. So that's going to impact the dates or days that you can plan in your Gantt chart, and also dates that you can add estimates and time in. Okay. I'm going to create a new project. And as we get in you'll see that it drops me right into the Gantt view. There are lists, calendar and calendar views. You can also do discussions, and people are pretty important to this as well. But first I want to start with the menu, because we want to look at our project settings and make sure that our project is actually set up to view workload planning.
Brett Harned: So I'm clicking on project settings, and essentially what we're going to focus on is what is on the right over here, our project settings. So, the status of the project is active. Like I said, I'm not using a template. We selected the start date as today. I do want to enable hours, and by enabling hours that allows me to add estimates to every task to individuals in TeamGantt. I also want to include the master workload view, which you can see is turned on. I don't want to allow scheduling on holidays because I'm not that kind of monster project manager. And I want to set the days of the week, which I set before. So you do that in the setup, but also you can adjust it here. So if your dates change, or sorry your days in the week change, you can go back and change that. Okay. So that's all I wanted to show you about project settings. Let's head over to a real project.
Brett Harned: Okay. So now we are in a full plan view, and basically what I want you to see is that I've added groups of tasks in tasks. You can see that I've also added people to my project as well. I've added myself, I'm automatically added, then I've also added my teammates to this project. So I'm going to go back to the Gantt view and show you how you can add hours to tasks and make sure that that time is then accounted for in your availability view. So let's scroll down. So you can see we've got a post webinar to classes page, and that is scheduled for January the 30th and it's assigned to Kelsey. So, what do I want to do? I can click on this person sort of icon here and assign the task to anyone. You can see that the task has already been assigned to Kelsey and I've created one hour per day for her to do that task.
Brett Harned: So if I want to do that to a task where there isn't really much time assigned, I can go to this send replay links task, click on that person task and see that Kelsey has got time, zero time there, but she's the person who's doing it. And I want to account for that time because if I don't, there's a chance that she might get overbooked for work. So I'm going to add one hour there and click done. And then what that does is that's adding time to Kelsey's schedule across all of her projects in TeamGantt. And the cool part about that is that you can see a rolled up view of all of that time right in the Gantt view. So right now I'm hovering over this little tab at the bottom that says view availability. I'm going to click on that and it's going to pull up this little tray that's going to show me the actual availability view.
Brett Harned: So this is really interesting. What this is showing me is all of the time that people have assigned to them across all projects. So as you can see, there's a really quick visual indicator that tells me that someone has way too much work on their plates, and that's Jason. Jason's got, let's say 12 hours on this one day that I'm scheduling tasks on. If I want to get more detail on that, I can click on that number and I can see all of the tasks that are scheduled for him in TeamGantt. So this will help me to make decisions, have conversations with Jason, have conversations with other project managers or managers, just sort out the priority of those tasks and to level out his time. Because generally you don't want to schedule someone to more than six to eight hours of work per day.
Brett Harned: 12 1/2 hours seems very unrealistic, so I definitely want to have a conversation about that. So that's pretty much it. It's that simple. Make sure that you have all of your tasks laid out in your Gantt chart, then be sure to add the proper people to your project, then to the appropriate tasks along with those task estimates. By doing that, you're going to gain a global view of how much estimated time has been assigned to each team member in a single project across all projects as well. All right, that's it. Let's jump back into the class. Okay. Just a quick recap on establishing workload estimates in TeamGantt. First, set enable hours in project settings if you're using hours to estimate tasks, then add people to tasks, add hours to people per task, and then review hours by checking all active projects.
Brett Harned: All right, I want to talk about something pretty important in the next step, and that's that you cannot forget about non-work time. I cannot stress enough that any system will only get you part of the way to a full plan. There are things you need to consider that are outside of TeamGantt, or maybe finding alternate ways to get them in TeamGantt. So I mentioned holidays in project settings, but you still should double check that the correct holidays are showing in your account because it's way too easy to schedule over them. In order to set the right holidays, your account holder should go to account settings under manage holidays, then you need to apply any planned vacation or time off. One tip that we use at TeamGantt is a separate project where employees list their time off and hours associated on the Gantt chart, that way if a project is being planned, that time will show in the availability tab.
Brett Harned: Another thing to consider is how many hours makes a work day. Many companies consider admin time and things like that in their weekly resourcing. Typically, I see companies planning between 32 and 36 hours of tasks in a week. But sometimes there are bigger full day meetings that are not associated with actual project work, so it's hard to keep track of that stuff. In that case, you could certainly make an admin tasks project and list those hours. As you can tell, it's a lot to think about, but having estimates associated with your projects and actual tasks is powerful, because you'll always have a sense for what work is on someone's plate. But still that requires communication, which leads me to my final point. Just like any other part of a project and project management, you can't just set it and forget it. Every plan requires care and maintenance, because projects change constantly and someone has to stay on top of and document that change. But we all know this, right?
Brett Harned: Well, if you've watched the previous classes in this series, you definitely know it. Plans are always subject to change and it'll be up to you to keep up with, manage and communicate the impacts of those changes, both large and small. The thing about change is that most changes will bring about a number of issues with your staffing plan, both inside and outside of your project. So as you adapt to change on your project, you need to make sure you're accounting for the things listed on screen. A missed deadline creates a conflict with other tasks. It happens. You move one task, and that impacts another task or another project, and that work starts to pile up and your teammates freak out. Then unplanned requests or task pop up and take someone away from your project. Yes, it happens all the time and it's really tough to control or even manage, especially when an executive is jumping in and hijacking your project work.
Brett Harned: And of course, tasks take longer than estimated. We know an estimate is just an approximation, and this is mostly where you have to deal with the fallout from inaccurate estimates. But that's okay. You can sort out the scheduling and learn from your miss estimation. Next, someone is double booked or over allocated. This is the worst. Sometimes you'll make it work by re-prioritizing work, other times you'll search for more help. Either way, you'll be doing good work because you're working to not stress your team out. Then there's something that will inevitably happen when working with humans. A team member needs to be out of the office due to illness. This will impact your ability to get work done as planned, and it might cause some issues that show up earlier on the list. As you can tell, staffing can be something that just creates a bevy of issues for you to resolve. It's fun, right?
Brett Harned: Last is one I've experienced, and it's that project leads have to fight to get people assigned to projects. When your team is small or everyone is overstaffed, you end up stressing out about making sure you have someone, anyone to do the work you need to stay on track. What it comes down to is that when issues arise, schedules change and that's when conflict happens. And it's not just conflict within your project. It can be conflict with other projects that you have no control over. That's when this gets really fun. That was sarcasm, it's totally not fun. It's confusing and frustrating, but you have to remember to put yourself in the shoes of the other person's time you're scheduling. Make sure you're not making that person feel like a resource. I know I've said it a few times, but it's important because it helps to build trust in project management, and that can sometimes be tough to do.
Brett Harned: Because the issues I mentioned are all too common, you should have some preset ways to handle your staffing plans. First, make sure your team's always in the know about what's happening on your projects. Second, you must communicate and make sure your team is always aware of constraints, because so often you're tightly planning around those constraints. Next, deliver status reports to your team and stakeholders and be sure to document possible issues, so when they become real issues, they're not surprises. And you might have some thoughts on solutions in advance of that. Next, conduct regular staffing meetings. When I managed a team of PMs, we would meet weekly just to talk about project health as it related to resourcing. Then we'd review the data and discuss the factors and issues to help make decisions about changes. Five always, always, always be sure that management is aware of your issues with staffing, after all, part of the reason you do these plans is to not only make sure employees are happy and not overworked or under utilized, but to justify new hires when needed.
Brett Harned: So it all comes down to the fact that you have to stay on top of the details at all times and make sure that staffing is considered with every turn of the project. If you take some of the advice I've provided in this class and roll out your own staffing practice in your team, you'll find even more effective ways to get your team engaged in the staffing process, and you'll all end up a little less stressed and a lot more productive. Thanks so much for watching this class. I hope it's been helpful. Just remember there are many ways to tackle staffing, and you need to come up with practices that will work best for you, your team and your organization. But check out the homework assignment in the class downloads so you can practice how to refine workloads in TeamGantt. If you have any followup questions or comments, please feel free to leave a comment and we'll get back to you. And join us for the next class in the Art and Science of Leading Projects, which is all about effectively managing meetings. Thanks.