Using my regular football analogies in this blog, it occurred to me how the dynamics of staff utilisation in medium to large consultancies can have many similarities with the challenges of managing junior soccer teams. We featured our sponsorships of Cork City and Castleknock Celtic previously and my experience of managing under age teams has often helped me in my professional capacity as HR & Resourcing Manager at Aspira. I am under no illusions that Cork face much wider considerations and challenges but bear with me.
”Don’t you dare leave me on the bench!…..”
At Aspira most of our staff work on in-house and external clients projects. They are specialist PMs, Business Analysts, Software Developers & Testers, System Admin and tech support professionals. As a consulting organisation, it is important that these staff are kept busy for their own personal job satisfaction as well as for the obvious commercial reasons. We hire staff who enjoy working with clients, have a sense of pride in meeting their expectations and feel comfortable with our policy of knowledge and skill transfer throughout project delivery. But there will be down time, and time on the bench….
All Aspira staff have a training plan and we ensure that time is set aside to complete training courses, upgrade certifications, and also work on Aspira internal projects. This utilisation strategy needs to align with our clients’ needs. They value our resources, and generally retain them for at least 3-9 months or longer in some cases. Our software projects tend to have more control from our side so we can plan downtime better. One of our .NET teams will be coming off a major project over the Summer and our plans are already in place to update and appraise their training and certification needs before they are snapped up again on their next client assignment.
This coming and going of staff in our Dublin and Cork Offices is something we are very used to. I know that many of us are always wary of being thrust onto tender work when coming off a project, but our Subject Matter Experts are the very reason that we have won so many public sector tenders. They understand what clients are trying to achieve on their projects, and are able to articulate very clear and comprehensive approaches to tender responses and proposed deliverables. As they are our own staff, we can stand over their delivery and make our prices attractive to client organisations. We believe that this level of engagement with our consultants give them a greater sense of belonging to Aspira, and more aware of our overall objectives.
So this brings me back to my football team. All parents want their child to play, but there are 16 on the squad which means 5 on the bench. I don’t expect any of those 5 to be happy to be on the bench, and I need them to be motivated and ready to play when I need them. I also need to make sure that the 11 on the pitch are set up in the correct formation, give us the best chance to win the game, whilst all are playing in their favoured positions. As with any company project or in the ongoing running of a client’s business, not everything will go to plan in a football match. The opposition are stronger, break us down on the right or left wing, have a greater threat at corners or present any other risk to our hopes of winning the game. So I make changes to counter that. We may switch to a 4-4-2 formation, replace a more skilful player with a more physical player, or use a different more direct approach that requires your tallest player up front. In that brief 80 minute period, the team that adapt better to the pitch, use their resources the best, have the highest work rate, play to a plan, and take their chances…..will win. I want everyone to play, and everyone to feel part of the objectives of the Club and our team. There are only 11 players on the pitch at any one time, but all 16 will feel rewarded in their combined efforts. Our players roll on and roll off the pitch, in the same way that our consultants help our clients deliver their projects.
We pro-actively manage a bench of skilled Project Managers, Business Analysts, Test & Test Managers, Software Developers and IT Support staff who can react promptly to our client’s project demands. Whilst this may not be as urgent or immediate as replacing my injured right back with a suitable substitute, it can be a huge benefit to our client to have a highly skilled PM come onto a project at short notice, and have an immediate impact on a project rescue or simply in standing in for a sick member of staff. The same goes for our SW development team. Clients may not have the headcount clearance to have 10 developers full time, which is where Aspira can help.
Aspira also have a proven resourcing methodology that allows our clients to issue staffing requirements to us, for diverse technical skill sets that our skilled HR team can source from our associate database or through referral. Our excellent screening processes, and inhouse technical expertise and prior knowledge of our clients work culture allow us to shorten response and lead times to fit the need.
In many ways, our children, players, parents and the wider community are the customers of Castleknock Celtic, and this is how I see my role as a mentor. In the same way, our clients staffing needs and projects demands are the priority of our Resourcing team. Please call or email me if you require our assistance in sourcing your staff solutions over the coming months.
Author: Russell Moore, HR & Resourcing Manager, Aspira.