December 2017 - The numbers game

It was busy in the Herefordshire retail outlet on the run up to Christmas, with all sorts of people milling around behind counters, in between display stands and the store room behind. "How many people work here?" I asked the proprietor. So he laughed and replied, "About half of them!" I laughed too and wondered just how many people a business needs in order for productivity to be effective?

There is a lot of research that has been done in this area. There is a great raft of statistics online that show the number of employees per manager, the industry norm for different parts of the UK, and a breakdown by company size by turnover....

One view is that for any organisational 'unit' to be both effective and efficient there needs to be 150 people or less. And these stats and anecdotes are all very well, but I'm not sure how much practical use they are to our Herefordshire business leaders that have to work in the real world of managing people on a day to day, week to week basis.

Nonetheless one company director on Rotherwas commented that since downsizing from 30 employees to 16, he feels much more in control of what is going on. He said that he feels better, spending less time wondering what staff are actually doing each day. The snag is of course that some businesses do actually need more employees in order to grow.

Another business in the north of the county has recently grown from 30 to 70 staff. The MD asked, "How on earth do you manage all these people?"

And the answer is simple: the larger a business becomes, the more important it is to introduce and sustain elements of best business practice. No argument.

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