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Natalia Rossingol

What is Staff Allocation? (A Primer with Examples)

Sound staff allocation decisions are an essential step towards project success - it's all about getting the right people, in the right place, at the right time!

At first glance, there is nothing too complicated about assigning tasks to people.

There is work to be done, and there are people who can do it. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. If you dive deeper, you will see how tricky staff allocation can be.

In this article, we will explain why poor staff allocation can set your project up for failure and show you how to make this process effective, making the right choices.

What is staff allocation?

In project management, we often operate with the term “resources.” This is an umbrella term that covers a variety of things (like finances, equipment, facilities, material and intangible resources, and, of course, human ones.) “Staff” refers to human resources, so when we talk about staff allocation, we basically talk about giving assignments to people.  

Who is responsible for staff allocation?

Typically, the person responsible for staff allocation is the individual who makes plans for how a project is going to be completed – which is, a project manager or a team leader. In this case, managing staff is just one of their duties, along with many others. In Mintzberg’s classification, a manager performs 10 (!) roles classified into three categories (interpersonal, informational, and decisional,) and a resource allocator is one of these roles.  

Of course, for one person, handling all these duties can be overwhelming.

Many companies that handle multiple projects simultaneously choose to hire a specialist specifically in charge of the resource allocation process – a resource manager. Obviously, in such a company, staff allocation, as a part of resource allocation, is the responsibility of a resource manager.

Why is staff allocation important?

Staff allocation is an essential step of project planning, and the failure to conduct this step can jeopardize the whole project.

Giving enough thought to staff allocation, on the other hand, facilitates the project management process, helping to improve the workflow, handle constraints, and meet deadlines.  

So how does staff allocation contribute to the project’s success?

Staff allocation makes project management more efficient

When project managers have access to an organized picture of who does what, they can easily make real-time adjustments, as it’s often necessary. This is especially helpful when a new member joins the team – the roles and assignments are clear, and it’s easy to fit the new person into the project, adding a task or filling a gap.

Staff allocation prevents employee burnout

The absence of effective staff allocation can lead to overutilization – assigning too many tasks to the same people that, in turn, leads to stress and reduced productivity. The negative consequences of overutilization could be both burnout and frustration, as people will feel they’re treated unfairly, which eventually ruins the team spirit.  

However, by allocating staff beforehand, a manager ensures even distribution and equality, creating conditions for a fruitful collaboration.  

Staff allocation helps you mitigate bottlenecks

Besides employees’ mental and physical exhaustion, overutilization has a pretty straightforward negative effect on the work process – it creates bottlenecks. Struggling with an excessive workload, people simply cannot deliver results on time, slowing the whole process down.

With staff allocation, the risk of bottlenecks decreases, as everyone gets an equal share of work.

Staff allocation ensures a project's success

By optimizing resource utilization, you align employees’ skills with the most appropriate tasks, have control over your timeline, put everyone on the same page, and, most importantly, satisfy client’s expectations. Of course, that will be reflected in your profitability, revenues, and reputation.  

Allocate staff to projects in the most efficient way possible. 🚀 By balancing people's skills, availability, and capacity against the workload, our platform empowers managers to make people-positive and bottom-line friendly decisions at the same time. Try for free today.

What does a staff allocation process involve?

A staff allocation process consists of several steps:

1. Outlining the project’s objectives and tasks

The project’s objectives determine the key deliverables, milestones, and timeline – and these will determine the use of staff. The clearer the objectives and tasks, the easier it is to decide what skills you will need and how many individuals have to be involved.

2. Identifying available human resources 

Think about who on your team is available to work on the project. It might happen some people will be involved in a different project, so a manager will have to prioritize and then make changes to the schedule, if necessary.

staff allocation
Try Runn to allocate staff to projects. Easily sort people by availability to find the best person for the project.

3. Aligning employees’ skills to the tasks

It’s super logical to assign people with tasks they’re naturally good at. While challenging yourself is a good thing - this is how you grow, there is no need to test your limits daily. Work is not a marathon, and your comfort zone is often the place where you flourish.

While that is more or less clear, there is one more thing people normally don’t take into account while assigning tasks, probably because it sounds too vague, - the meaningfulness of the task for a certain individual. Does that task provide a person with a sense of purpose? Does it correlate with the person’s values?

And it’s not just about employee’s psychological health – it has important implications to a business, too. According to McKinsey, performance improves by 33% when people find their work meaningful.  

Finally, when aligning skills to the tasks, you should remember about such a thing as experience. For a senior employee, the same task may take 1 day, while for a newcomer – a whole week. Remember about that when making your choices. 

4. Monitoring progress

In the course of work, you may notice that your system is not perfect or needs adjustment, for some reason. Don’t hesitate to make changes – better late than never.

What is an example of staff allocation?

So, what could a staff allocation process look like in practice? Let's considered a hypothetical project and break down how you might approach allocating staff to this project.

1. You define objectives, timelines, and tasks. Once you’ve done that, you can identify the project roles, aligning them with tasks. In our case, the roles could be:

  • 1 project manager
  • 1 UI/UX designer
  • 2 developers
  • 1 tester

2. Now you analyze resource availability. Who can be involved? Do you need to reprioritize projects?

3. Assign the right people. What skills and expertise are required to do a certain task? Can you book the person with those skills? Do you need to hire an external expert for this project?

4. Make sure to avoid overstaffing. Check if the people you want to book are not already involved in too many things, so they can handle your project. A resource request workflow, a standardized process of how people are assigned to tasks, can come in handy.

Remember: 100% utilization is not the goal here ➡️ Learn more about Why 100% Capacity Utilization is Not the Goal You Should Aim For.

5. Monitor. Maybe your small team will need an assistant, or maybe you will want to assign a less senior team member to shadow someone on the team. After all, priorities can change, too. Team work is a dynamic process, so it’s better to keep an eye on what’s going on.  

As you can see, the staff allocation is not rocket science. However, there are several blinds spots like cost, capacity, skills, dependencies, time off, and even employee preferences that always make this process trickier. Luckily, there is a solution – resource planning software.    

How to allocate project work to staff

Above, we described the basic staff allocation process, but how do you make that process effective? In this section, we will give you some tips so you can make the best decisions.

Don't forget about non-billable time

The truth is, no one works at 100% capacity on "productive" work. A certain amount of admin just comes with the territory when knowledge work is concerned - whether that's filling in timesheets, booking meetings, attending training sessions, or any else in between.

This work isn't project work per se, but you still need to account for it.

Not to mention that fact people need breaks – whether that's having coffee with colleagues, or stopping to have lunch. And if people struggle to find time to time a break, their productivity and enthusiasm will significantly decrease.

That is why when you allocate resources to projects, you should always factor in non-billable hours, leaving 20% of time for breaks and other essentials.     

Allocate MVPs to highest priority projects

The acronym MVPs stands for “most valued players” – people with unique knowledge or experience that may bring particular value to your project. Their work may cost more, so it makes sense to involve them in projects of strategic importance and high priority, instead of dispersing their effort on less critical things.

Use resource allocation software

Thanks to technology, resource allocation is easier than ever. You don’t have to do it all by hand – there are various resource allocation tools that can help you organize all the important information in one place.

Using Runn's People Planner, for instance, allows you to search for people based on their skills, see their capacity and cost, and then add them to projects, creating assignments.

In the Planner, you can create both one-day and one-week assignments, and then edit them. The editor fields include Effort (employee’s working hours,) Work Days, Total Effort (the hours per day, multiplied by the working days,) Phase, Non-Billable, Delete, Repeat, Notes, and Calendar. 

Capacity and workload charts can also help you monitor resource utilization and identify risks related to over- and underutilization.

Besides short-term workload and capacity, you can also view the long-term ones, this way getting an idea about new projects and recruiting new staff.

Create a staffing management plan

A staffing management plan is a document that outlines the projects’ needs and how to meet them, including information like job roles and responsibilities, required skills set, a number of employees, duration and expenses of activities etc.

A staffing management plan makes resource management transparent, helping the manager to keep track of what the staff is involved into, and providing the employee with more clarity. Thanks to this document, you can achieve optimal utilization, save time, costs, and effort, and improve the overall operational efficiency.  


Staff allocation is a crucial step of your project preparation that will determine the project’s success (or failure). By allocating staff properly, you reduce the possibilities of potential problems that might come up later – like bottlenecks, missed deadlines, and frustration.

So take your time and approach staff utilization wisely, and don’t forget to use the necessary tools for resource scheduling!

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