Is job consolidation a good idea for your workforce? Consolidating job functions means business owners keep costs low with fewer employees, while employees try new roles and responsibilities. It seems like a win-win. But is it the right path forward for your organization and your business? The answer varies from company to company, with culture being among the biggest variables.

At the end of the day, it's your employees who will take on the additional work, so scale responsibly to avoid employee burnout. If you impose responsibilities on an employee that are beyond his or her skill set, you, as the employer, may be responsible for any shortcomings if you have not provided the right tools to help the employee succeed. Here are some tips to guide you:

Identify What's Important

How do software companies like 37Signals, the creators of Basecamp, build products for hundreds of thousands of customers with teams of fewer than 50 people? The answer is simple: They embrace the concept that less is better by focusing on efforts that make an impact. They spend less time doing grunt work and more time planning and strategizing.

As a business owner, it's important to have a bird's eye view of all operations. Take an audit of all job functions and analyze the specific elements of each team members' roles. Which efforts are moving the needle? Tailor your operations and headcount accordingly.

Implement Automation

After you've conducted your audit, you'll be in a good position to make process improvements. After identifying inefficiencies within your business, focus on your most redundant operations first. For instance, you may notice members of your sales teams send the same emails over and over, or you may notice scheduling is taking too long. If you notice these pain points, look for technologies that serve as remedies. For example, you may try implementing marketing automation to make follow-ups with prospects and customers more streamlined. Automation can help you consolidate job functions and ensure employees are most efficient.

Collect Structured Feedback

As you implement process improvements, keep a close pulse on whether your employees feel they have too much on their plates; then determine where consolidating job functions makes sense. Partner with your company's managers to conduct an internal audit of your team's time. Are team members productive? Are initiatives falling through the cracks? Use the data you collect to make changes to employee responsibilities to help ensure that operations are aligned with key strategic priorities as well as a realistic workload for employees.

Managers and small business owners can use their existing communications protocols — for instance, employee portals, surveys and email — to identify where the workforce is spread thin and make process improvements accordingly. Keep an eye out as well for slipping performance or employees that seem to put in excessive hours. This process also helps ensure employee roles and headcounts remain tailored to the jobs that need to be done.

Final Thoughts

If you're thinking of hiring new employees, conduct your due diligence. Survey your teams and analyze the tasks and responsibilities spread among them to decide whether consolidating job functions may be the right move. Be sure to remember, however, that consolidating job functions may sometimes result in loss of employment, work hours or a change in job duties. Consult with a skilled employment lawyer or HR advisor to help ensure compliance with wage and hour and other employment-related requirements.

Tags: consolidation job functions employee headcount