Co-Op Staffing

Each project we take on will have requirements for equipment, resources, and staffing.  In the planning stage, we'll need to know what people can do in order to better determine the path we want to take.  It makes no sense to open a breakfast restaurant if we have noone available who can cook breakfast.  We can train people in the various tasks, but it may take a little time to develop enough people with enough skills and experience to open the doors from early in the morning to late at night.

The way people organize their lives, the morning will not leave many people free.  There is work, school, appointments, and the greatly appreciated sleeping in on days off.  With young people involved, after school and into the evening will put a great deal of available labor at our disposal.  It may be that opening a pizza shop, deli, or supper house only in the evenings is the best way to proceed.  As our people gain experience, expanding into lunch can be done with a small crew and seizes the opportunity available.  Breakfast may be a challenge and is a bridge that will be crossed when we get there.

It may be that starting with a farm is the best way to get started.  We can do a great many things to get started and begin training our crew in the jobs we'll need them for in the weeks to come.  We've got plenty to do with in all the projects going on.  In order to make the best use of the equipment and resources, we'll need to examine staffing requirements and available manpower.

Even with 200 people, we can run into a shortage of staff.  Early development of this plan had people pitching in some small amount of time each month.  The pizza shop had 5 hours/month being contributed by the shareholders.  If we are to staff a kitchen/deli/store with 4 people at all times, 15 hours/day, over the course of a month we need to come up with 1800 labor hours every month.  What's more, those hours are rather specific, being broken down by day and hour.  

If we are to pull this off, the people involved need to contribute as much time as possible.  10 hours/month would cover the minimal staffing of only a kitchen/deli/store operation.  If we want to develop a farm, bake bread, market cookies across the state, and serve dinners every night, we'll need to do what it takes.   It is important to understand that this is not a job.  Think of this enterprise as your own business.  Customers depend on us being open when we say we will, and offering the same high quality of product every day.  If we can't staff the place at 6 AM we'd be better off not opening the doors until lunchtime.
How much time we have to draw from is dependent on how much people are willing to contribute.  The sharecroppers plan makes it possible for anyone to contribute as much time as they wish.  I can see a minimum contribution of 10 hours per month being part of the sharecroppers agreement.  But if we are to do all the things in this plan, we'll need people willing to work considerably more.  10 hours per week is probably more in line with what is needed.  20 would be incredible, giving us the equivalent of 100 full time employees.  With families pitching in regularly, we'd have an army to work with.
Getting started,

Based on 10 hours per month, we'd have 2000 hours to work with.  The lions share of these hours is in the afternoon and evening.  I have no doubt that the skills available when we first initiate the enterprise will be more than adequate to operate the kitchen with a deli component.  How a deli is staffed will tell us a lot about the staffing requirements.  

It's a given that we'll need a cashier to handle the money, bag purchases, keep the place tidy and help out around the place.  If we are open to the public from 4PM to 9PM, 1 person each day is all we need.  In a month, this is 30 slots to fill, 5 hours at a time, 150 hours total.  There are some positions which can be split, someone coming in for a couple hours, someone else for a few more.  This position is not one of them.  Handling cash should be done by one person only.  Too many hands going into the till reduces accountability and opens the door for pilfering.  If we were to expand into lunch, it makes sense to have a second shift, with a cashup between shifts.  

Deli Counter
We've got hot and cold items, some needing to be portioned and served according to customer selection.  A busy evening may warrant a couple of people working the counter.  As long as the people manning the station understand procedures, this position can be covered by several people throughout the evening.  For training purposes, it's a good idea to have an extra set of hands around.  The staff in this position handles all aspects of stocking, cleaning, maintaining, opening and closing the station.  During slow periods if the station is in a high state of readiness, the worker would have a chance to help out in the kitchen.

Prep Cook
In the kitchen we'll need someone to handle the preparation and cooking of items going out to the deli.  If this person also has training to work at the deli counter, we have a back up plan in place for those busy times.  This position would start before the doors open, giving time to heat cold items and prepare out of stock items.  There is plenty to do in the kitchen, so having an extra set of hands around gives us a chance to get some training in.

The sales volume will determine if we need more people to handle the deli operation.  With only these 3 positions needing to be filled in 5 hour increments, we've used up 450 hours/month.  There will be days which see very little traffic in the store.  Bad weather, traffic situations, maybe a parade going on.  These jobs are in view of the public, offer customer service, and are essential to operating a place with Open For Business hours.  Come what may, we need to maintain a staff of 3.  For those times it's slow, these folks can prep items for the next day, and there is always cleaning that can be done.

We take on another project, we have to determine how it can fit in.  Bread is on the short list.  We've got ovens and unless the deli is extremely busy, we should have a window available to use them most of the day.  The procedure is not complex.  Starting with a handful of people who are experienced breadmakers, we can set up a schedule for making bread.  Couple the experienced bakers with rookies.  At the start, it's Bread Class.  If very few people are interested in baking bread, group them together once or twice per week.  The rookies will pickup experience each time they come in.  High demand for baked goods will see those rookies become competent and bread production becoming a more regular routine.  Once a week becomes twice a week.  Build up staff to handle daily production.  3 people on a baking crew every day for 5 hours uses as much staff as the deli.  We're up to 900 hours/month.

Next up is Meat and Cheese Class.  We've got cold cuts and cheeses at the deli.  We've got a couple hundred people who are already buying cold cuts.  We can ease the burden on the deli counter by preparing cold cuts and cheeses ahead of time.  Slice, portion into 1 pound bags, add a label.  Several types of cold cuts, several cheeses.  This one is quick and easy.  Again, couple the experienced person with a novice helper.  If we have someone experienced in carving steaks, this is a good time to get going on the steaks project.  Moving on to baking our own ham, turkey, roast beef and pork loin brings more products to the store and provides more learning for those with a desire to become more.  Items of this nature would eventually end up on the daily prep list where someone comes in just to prepare items for a few hours.  Each day would see several items to prepare and people with the ability to do the job well.  In time we would develop a kitchen staff capable of handling most or all of the work needing to be done.  When a shortfall in training presents, we'll have other staff members with the competence to train.  In the end we have people who can jump in anytime to do whatever work needs to be done.

With an experienced crew, filling the staffing schedule gets a whole lot less complicated.  We would have some positions in which we want the same people to come back regularly.  We would have crews and teams that handle certain aspects of operation and perform those duties with a high degreee of efficiency.  Each person would be able to peg themselves to some jobs.  For positions that are not filled, we establish a sign up roster with a list of duties, times, duration, and who to contact.  Anyone can sign up for a posted opening.   

  • Kitchen Prep Monday 8-12
    2 spots __________ __________ ALT __________ __________
    Report to Kitchen Manager
  • Planting Potato Tuesday 12-5
    3 spots __________ __________ __________
    If rained out, we'll build bookshelves in the workshop.
    Report to Day Foreman   
  • Compost Crew Wednesday 5-9
    2 spots __________ __________
    Report to John Johnson
  • Building Chicken Coop Saturday All Day
    Open to all
  • Deli Crew Position 1st and 3rd of the month 11-4 See Kitchen Manager to peg

The above example is simplified.  The point is to get the information out as to what positions are available and include pertinent information.  This can be posted online making it possible for people to stake a claim when they have a chance to browse the listing.  I've included some talking points.

The position may need more people or the team leader wants to make sure the shift is covered.  If the sign up is already filled it's a way to put your name in the hat in the event of someone cancelling.

Someone is leading a crew.  It may be one of the Key Managers, it may be someone charged with supervising for the day, or it may be a specific team leader.  What's interesting here is that if someone wishes to take the initiative to start a project they can take their idea to committee or the Project Manager and lay out their ideas.  If the project is approved, the initiator would be able to take the ball and run with it.  

This is a project that needs a lot of people over a long day to get it done.  This is the sort of project that may take time to complete and suggests it is not a regular job.  If someone is looking to put in more time, this is an open invitation to pitch in.

I mentioned earlier that people would be able to "Peg" themselves to a job.  There will be some positions which people can take possession of.  This allows people to develop a routine.  It's MY job.  For those who peg a position, taking skills to a deep level of understanding and ability can improve quality, consistency, and efficiency.  This is a case by case situation.  Some jobs may have a single position pegged with others on that job in a transient position.  This is ideal for a skilled trainer.  Some jobs would be a steady crew every time.  Some jobs would have several people pegged but for limited duration.  This is a steady crew with some turnover built in which allows development of strong skills in that area and brings in new people regularly.

I think a position that is best served by a peg is the deli cashier.  Good accounting is enhanced with the same person, or the same few people, handling the cash regularly.  From the standpoint of the customer, it's a familiar face to greet you.  As with all things, we need to find a balance.  If somone one pegs all the simple easy jobs, I would question their sincerity in being part of a cooperative team.  To prevent abuse, pegging should be approved by the manager of that area.  I think it would be a good idea to have term limits for a peg.  It's YOUR job...for the next 3 months.  

We've got the means to staff a large variety of jobs.  Critical positions get staffed first, by the best candidates.  As we add a project, training a crew will be vital to keep that project going and making it a solid component in the enterprise.  New projects coming online will be in search of a crew.  That's where the sign up program becomes useful.  If you want to start a project on your own, you can find interested people in a few days without having to interview everyone in the group.  If we have a position that MUST be filled, we take down all other postings.  If someone wants to pitch in additional time, they are escorted to that position.

It may come to pass that all positions are filled and we still have people looking for work.  This is where the farm shines.  A farm of just a few acres can absorb massive amounts of staff.  A greenhouse and nursery license would take the equivalent of a couple of full time workers.  In my experience a full time worker with moderate job knowledge can handle a half acre of beds.  A 5 acre property, with 4 acres under cultivation will require the equivalent of 8 full time workers.  Thats 16000 hours/year.  Breaking it down, this is only a day each month if everyone in the co-op works on the farm.  If we have those 4 acres in production all year, as my USDA Zone 8b allows, the projected income and resulting profit puts a larger property in reach within a year.  I've given 10 acres as being a size suitable for the needs of a group of 200 families.  10 acres can be serviced by 200 people giving up 2 days per month.  Not everyone will want to work on the farm for long days and they won't all be putting in the same amount of time.  There will be short-shifters, vacationers, illness, and people going about their lives which will leave plenty to do for those willing.  If we somehow fill all the staffing needs of the farm, another property will not be an issue.  

Our ability to develop new projects and products can always take up labor.  Extend the operating hours of the kitchen/deli/store to include lunch.  Extend it to breakfast if the scheduling allows.  Take breads, pies and desserts to restaurants far and wide.  Make cookies.  Use the kitchen capacity to the fullest.  Set up work crews to perform services for paying customers.  Add restaurant seating and full service dining to the store.  Teach people to produce items in the workshops that they can expand themselves into craft fairs and cottage industry.  Use the co-op the way it is designed to be used.  We'll find ways to put people to work, put ourselves to work, create opportunity individually as well as cooperatively.

Cooperative Enterprise, Plan Outline