Organizational capacity is the ability for your organization to perform the tasks required to achieve your mission. To have appropriate organization capacity means having the proper:
Headcount in each functional areaKnowledge & trainingWorkforce planningOrganizational structureProcesses
There are a minimum number of people required to operate a nuclear power plant. There is a direct relationship between headcount and organizational capacity. Without adequate headcount, it is impossible to have sufficient organizational capacity. However, simply having the right number of people is only the first step towards ensuring there is sufficient organizational capacity. Those people must have the proper skills, training, and experience. Nuclear Power Plants in the United Kingdom use the acronym SQEP, which stands for “Suitably Qualified & Experienced Personnel” – having the right number of SQEP’d people takes on a whole new meaning in terms of what it will take to get to that point.
Maintaining proper capacity requires an investor’s mentality
Investor’s consider the long view, and plan accordingly. All the while, though, they monitor drivers and trends. To maintain capacity, nuclear plant operating organizations should take the same approach, focusing on investing in their human capital, and the training and development that will be required.
Every job involves a learning curve. The steepness of that learning curve is dependent on the complexity of the job, and examples in operations, maintenance, and engineering highlight the variety of time and methods of training/learning that are needed. In most countries on-shift Operators are required to complete regulated training courses before they can ever work in a control room. Most positions within maintenance craft require qualification through training. Most experienced Engineers agree that it typically takes several years before a new hire can be truly effective in their specific role.
The bottom line is that investing the time and training in new hires is required before they become “Suitably Qualified & Experienced Personnel.” Below is a chart that shows the number of months that usually must be invested before a new hire is ready to fully contribute.
Increasing headcount requires additional training and mentoring. This additional training and mentoring will be a drag on your organizational capacity for a period. The workload on experienced staff will increase as they spend time training and mentoring the new employees. Larger increases in capacity typically require hiring additional full time trainers. That is why it is important to think of the new employees as an investment in the future.
Investments in capacity must be ongoing
Investments imply a near term sacrifice for a greater gain in the future. Without making an investment in capacity today, your organization is likely to face capacity challenges in the future. A hiring freeze might save some money in the short term, but in the long term it is often just “robbing Peter to pay Paul.” The pursuit of sufficient capacity is fluid and dynamic, and therefore requires constant vigilance through a robust workforce planning program. Healthy organizations are always engaged in some form of workforce planning. Don’t trick yourself into believing that a one-time increase in capacity is a suitable substitute for ongoing workforce planning efforts.
What should you do?
Keep investing in the things that increase organizational capacity. Hiring experienced personnel, and utilizing contractors can help bridge capacity gaps during ramp-up periods. However, relying too much on experienced hires or contractors is not a replacement for a long-term investment in pipelines for key positions. A balanced portfolio of employee pipelines, experienced employees and competent contractors is the path to success. As organizational structure and work processes also drive your level of capacity, so work towards optimization in both of these areas as well.