There are many reasons why streamlining your learning team matters—take economic uncertainty, rapid advancements in technology, potential budget changes, and the constantly adapting landscape of remote work, to name a few. The correlation between management strategy and a flourishing company environment is undeniable; too often, a lack of organization keeps companies from leveraging their resources and skilled team members. 

To optimize output and efficiency, a learning leader has to optimize their team and capabilities. Overplanning or building an overly expansive team can result in a disparity between employee workloads, leaving some feeling overworked and others underutilized. On the other hand, not planning enough can leave employees feeling suddenly overworked and undermine project productivity. 

This elusive middle ground is possible, and in this post, we provide ideas and some actionable steps to reach it.

How do I forecast my learning team’s capacity?

Forecasting your project initiatives and your team’s capabilities is an essential first step to streamlining your team. We can run this process in four steps. 

  1. Assess upcoming projects and initiatives: begin considering their role in your list of priorities and where these top-priority projects may come from.
  2. Anticipate stakeholders’ expectations: if you can align and communicate with stakeholders, you may be able to look forward with more clarity, so maintain open communication with and between stakeholders. 
  3. Create a staggered workload analysis: take an in-depth look at the team you need to complete every aspect of the project. 
  4. Clarify expectations within your organization: make sure everyone in your team has a clear understanding of individual expectations and group priorities. 

How do I best leverage capacity planning software?

That last step, ensuring company-wide clarity of expectations and priorities, is where capacity planning software comes in. Programs like Harvest Forecast and Airtable allow you to manage and optimize your team regarding both internal and external initiatives, to streamline every facet of project management. Beyond helping to map out broader factors, like a project’s general timeline and scope, these programs allow for more granular organization, allowing management to isolate all necessary skills and determine if the organization has the relevant employee expertise and capacity. 

In Harvest, for instance, you can easily see the people needed to complete a project, and then toggle over to see the day-by-day capacity of everyone across your team. 

The management team can identify a lack of a relevant employee or matters of overlapped staffing and address these issues before they arise. An organization can use these software tools to leverage its resources and attend to any gaps in the necessary skill set. 

How do I go about estimating team costs?

Now that you’ve clarified what the plan of action is and how your employees fall into that plan, it’s necessary to determine your team’s actual work. Beyond employee salaries, a company needs to account for additional expenses surrounding employment, including comprehensive benefits, tax and insurance contributions, and paid time away. The rule of thumb is to add 35% to the base salary to estimate the true, exhaustive cost. This clarity in project costs is paramount for effective budgeting and resource allocation. 

It’s important to evaluate your team not only in terms of financial analysis, but also to assess their skills related to the necessary skill set(s) for your project at each stage of development. To get a clear understanding, you should focus on:

  1. Project-specific skill requirements: determine the skills needed at every stage of your project. 
  2. Timeline skill mapping: align these required skills with the larger project timeline to ensure that employees and time are optimized. You might identify a need for cross-training at this stage, and can begin to work this into your timeline. 
  3. Current vs. required skills: assess the skills your team currently wields against the required skills from Step 1.
  4. Anticipate AI impact: foster an ongoing conversation about how AI will continue to both disrupt and revolutionize your work, both in terms of project management and execution and required skills.

How do I communicate my budget needs?

If you find that there is a mismatch between the skills and number of people you have on your team and what is required to complete a task, you may need to get budget approval to hire an additional team member or external organization.

One last invaluable facet of our internal strategy is mastering the art of storytelling. In many cases you’re going to need to communicate your needs to a decision maker or budget owner clearly. Every aspect of executive communication can be streamlined and improved by reframing arguments within compelling narratives. Arming yourself with facts and comprehensive analysis are important, of course. Often, we overlook a potent storytelling strategy: lingering on the real pain that stakeholders will feel if your request is not approved. Our friend and award-winning journalist Adam Davidson calls this part of your story the “wilderness.” The wilderness is where you get lost, where you come face to face with real threats and challenges, and recognize the bad situation you’re really in. 

No one would go to a movie that has no wilderness. The struggle, challenge, and danger is what’s interesting. Don’t make the mistake of stripping it out of your own communications about the problem you’re trying to solve. Before diving into data and details, it’s crucial to set the stage by understanding and communicating the stakes involved for both the team and the organization. Identifying the “stakes,” or the core challenge, and framing the project as a narrative conflict can significantly bolster team engagement and motivation.

How can Jackrabbit LX help?

Jackrabbit’s own GPS (Guidance, People, and Systems) offering is designed to aid in capacity analysis and managerial planning, built around the following domains:

  1. Vision and strategic goals
  2. Insights
  3. Learning 
  4. Technology
  5. People
  6. Playbook

GPS provides a comprehensive framework that ensures all aspects of project planning and execution are aligned with the organization’s overarching objectives. 

Effectively streamlining your learning team hinges on strategic planning, the embrace of organizational tools, and a comprehensive understanding of team costs and skillsets. Implementing a thorough roadmap with considerations like goal forecasting, utilizing a strategic organizational program like Jackrabbit LX’s GPS, and incorporating storytelling into communication strategies enables organizations to streamline and enhance team efficiency.

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