Monday, February 6, 2012

Calculating Staffing Requirements Based on Animal Population


I don’t think anyone would argue if I made the blanket statement that all shelters are on a limited budget and must carefully apportion their resources in order to manage their animal population best.  In that spirit, one of the most important resource allocations a shelter makes is deciding how many staff are required to clean and feed the animals in its population.  Too many staff can drain the shelter’s budget, and too little staff can compromise the health and well being of the animals in its care.  So, how does a shelter manager decide how many staff to assign?

To answer this question, let’s start with the animal care time requirements suggested by HSUS and NACA and also endorsed by the Association of Shelter Veterinarians in their 2011 Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters document.  These groups estimate a minimum of 15 minutes is required for adequate animal cleaning and feeding.  This is a good starting point for calculations, but if you feel 15 minutes is too long or too short, you can adjust the calculations accordingly to hit your goal.  Next, we need to know how many animals are in the shelter.  We can use our historical data to make staffing projections, or we can use the daily shelter count to make real-time decisions.  Let’s use some faux data from Shelter XYZ:

Table #1: Shelter XYZ Daily Population, January
January
Total Cats
Total Dogs
Total Population
1
100
75
175
2
111
76
187
3
99
79
178
4
98
80
178
5
99
81
180
6
100
76
176
7
104
74
178
8
109
70
179
9
121
69
190
10
123
68
191
11
120
66
186
12
121
67
188
13
125
69
194
14
121
61
182
15
119
63
182
16
118
65
183
17
115
69
184
18
113
64
177
19
101
70
171
20
99
71
170
21
99
60
159
22
100
61
161
23
111
62
173
24
111
63
174
25
112
64
176
26
108
66
174
27
106
60
166
28
103
70
173
29
102
71
173
30
101
77
178
31
99
70
169
Average:
108.6
68.9
177.5


And, finally, the third variable of total time allotted for staff to finish the task is needed.  For our calculations below we will use four hours, but based on each individual shelter’s operating procedures, this may differ.  

To calculate for real-time staffing decisions (using January 21st as an example day):
  • We had 159 total animals in the shelter that day: 159 x 15min/animal = 2,385min
  • 2,385min / 60min/hr = 39.75 care hours
  • Staff are expected to finish cleaning and feeding in 4 hours: 39.75 care hours / 4hr = 9.9 (10) staff required to complete the task


To calculate for projection staffing (using January animal averages):
  • On average, we had 177.5 animals in the month of January at Shelter XYZ: 177.5 x 15min/animal = 2,662.5min
  • 2,662.5min / 60min/hr = 44.3 care hours
  • Staff are expected to finish cleaning and feeding in 4 hours: 44.3 care hours / 4hr = 11.0 staff required to complete the task


What if you are curious to know how long it is currently taking your staff to clean and feed the animals?  One option is to time your staff.  But, I would not recommend this as anyone doing a task knowing they are being times/watched will at the least be suspicious, and probably perform differently as a result—in other words, your data will be significantly skewed.  The other option is to work the above math backwards to find a time per animal.   For example, if I have five staff cleaning and feeding for three hours, and 50 animals they are tending to, then they are spending 18 minutes per animal:

·      5 staff x 3 hrs x 60min/hr = 900min
·      900min / 50 animals = 18min/animal

Although I am not a fan of timing staff, now knowing the theoretical time per animal, a shelter manager can pull out their stopwatch to see how the data compare. 

Looking at the population numbers from the past year will allow shelter managers to plan appropriately for the upcoming year, and help save money and stress when high population season hits.  For example, if we know from last year’s data that June-October produces our highest populations, then the shelter manager can prepare for the staffing fluctuations needed to accommodate the rise in animals in February or March, rather than be taken by surprise in June and July and have husbandry and animal health compromised as a result.  When hiring seasonal help, I have found two techniques to be of great service:
  1. Begin the hiring process 2-3 months before you actually need the seasonal help.  This will allow you to train new staff during a period of lower population when stresses are less and you can dedicate more time and attention to training.  When the high season begins, they are all in place and ready to jump in.
  2. Consider rehiring the same seasonal help year to year.  This works great if you have a relationship with college students looking for summer work or even stay at home moms or retirees who would like a little work from time to time.  And again, having the same seasonal help will minimize the learning curve.


Photo from Health Technology Professional Products (htproducts.net)

Once you do the calculations above, and set your goal for animal contact time, what should a shelter do if it can only employ so many paid staff?  Using the data from January for Shelter XYZ above, we need 11 people to accomplish the task in four hours.  Shelter XYZ only has budget for eight staff.  My suggestion is to get trained volunteers in to work along staff and fill in the staffing gap to hit the target.  

2 comments:

  1. Shannon BlizzardJune 5, 2012 at 1:00 AM

    I have just stumbled on your blog and am loving it. Thank you for usable information for those of us managing shelters! Going to put your "numbers" to the test this week and see if we are on target or not! Thanks1

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for reading the blog, I'm glad you enjoy it Shannon. Good luck reviewing your staffing numbers!

    ReplyDelete