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The BALM Task Allocation Model
Picking the right team member for the right job.
By the Mind Tools Content Team
Let's say that you want to coach a world-class sports team. To be successful, you have to understand the game you're playing and the skills that your team needs to play it.
Then, you assign the the right people to the right roles, depending on their abilities and experience. In football, for example, you wouldn't suddenly ask a defensive player to play offense. It's just not what they're trained for.
You can apply the same principle in the workplace. In this article, we explore how a simple model called BALM can enable you to put the best players in the best positions, to get the best possible results.
What Is the BALM Model?
BALM* is a four-stage process that you can use to allocate tasks to the team members who are best placed to complete them successfully. The acronym stands for:
B reak down broad team goals into specific, individual tasks.
A nalyze the competencies required to perform each task.
L ist the competencies of each of your team members.
- M atch individuals to task competencies.
Using this model gives you and your team clarity about what you need to achieve and how you intend to do it.
How to Use the BALM Model
Let's look at the BALM model in more detail, and examine how you can use it to allocate tasks more effectively. All you need is some sticky notes in different colors and a surface to stick them onto.
1. Break Down Your Goals Into Individual Tasks
First, identify the specific tasks that will enable you to achieve your goal or complete your project. Tools such as the Drill Down Technique and Work Breakdown Structures can help you to clearly set out what's involved.
When you've listed all of the tasks, you can use Eisenhower's Urgent/Important Principle or an Action Plan to rank them in order of priority.
2. Analyze the Competencies Needed for Each Task
Think about the skills, knowledge and expertise that your team needs to complete each task, and write these competencies down on sticky notes. It's easier if all of these competency notes are the same color.
3. List the Competencies of Each Team Member
Consider each of your team members' competencies (creating a Skills Matrix can be useful here) and write those down on sticky notes, too. Choose a different note color for each person.
4. Match People to Tasks
Match up your task requirements with your team members' skills by moving your sticky notes around on a board or table. You may want to consider having a backup person or "substitute" for the most important tasks, too, in case you lose any key team members.
Bear in mind that for some tasks, "soft skills" such as negotiation or conflict resolution are just as important as technical skills or formal qualifications. Our article, Four Dimensions of Relational Work , can help you to match tasks to your team members' interpersonal skills.
At this point you may discover some overlaps or gaps in your team's competencies. If that's the case, you can employ two further steps, as follows:
5. Identify Skills Overlaps
If you discover that multiple team members are qualified to perform certain tasks, you might choose to assign the best-qualified individuals to the most important tasks. This gives you a degree of certainty that the tasks will be completed to a high standard.
Alternatively, you might choose to allocate tasks to competent but less senior team members. This can reduce costs, and give you the opportunity to develop your less experienced team members (see Getting the Best Results From the BALM Model, below).
6. Identify Skills Gaps
To fill gaps in your team members' capabilities, you have two choices: to train your existing team members , or to hire new ones.
Training is often less expensive than recruitment. What's more, you already know the people concerned and their strengths and weaknesses, and they are familiar with your business and working methods.
On the other hand, a newly trained person may lack practical experience, and it can take time for them to become proficient.
If you recruit a specialist for the job, there's a good chance that the person will be able to "hit the ground running." But recruitment can be costly and time-consuming, so it pays to be aware of the potential pitfalls .
Also, you may not need a full-time employee for a one-off task or short-term project. If this is the case, you may wish to hire a freelancer or a part-time employee instead.
Getting the Best Results From the BALM Model
Although the basic BALM process is quite simple, there are several ways to refine it and make it more effective.
Involve Other People
You don't have to make all of your task allocation decisions on your own. In fact, it's often useful to involve other people – including, where appropriate, your team members themselves.
They may have valuable insights into the specific requirements of each task, and into their own skills and abilities. They may also feel more valued, and will more likely support your decisions, if they are consulted in advance.
You can also talk to colleagues from across your organization to get their input. Collaborating with a diverse range of people enables you to tap into a wider pool of ideas and experience, and can reduce the risk of groupthink or of developing a silo mentality.
When consulting your team, remember that people don't always have an accurate view of their own skills. Those who lack competence in a particular area may tend to overestimate their abilities in this field, while highly skilled people will more likely underestimate their own talents. You can learn more about this in our article, The Dunning-Kruger Effect .
Balance Task Requirements With Your Team's Needs
At its core, BALM is a tool for slotting cogs (your people) into a machine (your process), to get things done as quickly and efficiently as possible. Of course, this is important – particularly if you're under pressure or working to a tight deadline.
But, when you're dealing with less urgent tasks, or if there's a degree of flexibility around how and when your projects are completed, BALM also offers you a way to focus on your team's longer-term Career and Personal Developmental Needs .
Perhaps you've identified certain individuals as having some, but not all, of the skills they need for a particular task. Training them in these areas can boost their confidence, performance and motivation, and increase their value to your organization.
However, you may need to provide support with unfamiliar tasks, especially at first, so make sure that a manager or a more experienced co-worker is on hand to offer feedback and assistance.
Take care if you have an " extra miler " on your team. Avoid giving too many tasks to the people who always say "yes," as eventually this can cause them to burn out . It may also cause resentment in the wider team, if others feel overlooked.
Good communication is a key part of successful task allocation.
When you assign tasks, be sure that each team member is clearly briefed on what is required, and when. Define each person's role, and spell out their individual responsibilities, authority and accountability (a RACI Matrix is a useful tool here). A team charter is a good way to outline your team's mission, structure and ways of working.
Include your "substitutes" in the briefing process, too. Then, if someone falls ill, takes a vacation, or leaves the team, you can fill their role quickly and prevent delays or bottlenecks .
Sometimes, despite your best efforts to match the right person to the right task, the individual you assign doesn't perform as well you expected.
Aim to address this situation as soon as possible. First, talk to your team member. Is the task not what they expected? Do they already have too much on their plate? Do they find the task boring or unchallenging?
In these cases you might decide to reassign the task to someone else, offer feedback and support, or change the scope of the task, for example. (See our article, Dealing With Poor Performance , for more on this.) When you understand why someone isn't performing at their best, you can find a way to resolve the issue.
BALM* is a model that managers can use to allocate the right tasks to the right team members. It has four stages:
- B reak down projects into specific tasks.
- A nalyze the competencies required for each task.
- L ist the competencies of each team member.
To get the best results from the BALM model, involve others in your task allocation decisions, and balance task requirements with the development needs of your team.
When you allocate a task, provide a clear brief, monitor your team member's progress, and provide feedback and support where necessary.
Originator unknown – please let us know if you know who developed this model.
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Example sentences allocate a task
We started talking about how effective and efficient people are, and looking at how we could best allocate tasks to them.
Next, identify people's strengths and allocate tasks based on that.
Every day, the group was divided into three teams of two and allocated a task each.
The term also refers to the ability of a system to support more than one processor and/or the ability to allocate tasks between them.
Examples feedback giving, allocating tasks, resource distribution.
Definition of 'allocate' allocate
Definition of 'task' task
COBUILD Collocations allocate a task
Browse alphabetically allocate a task.
- allocate a portion
- allocate a seat
- allocate a sum
- allocate a task
- allocate an amount
- allocate assets
- allocate capital
- All ENGLISH words that begin with 'A'
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Work Allocation- How to Efficiently Assign Tasks in 5 Steps
What is Work Allocation?
- The main benefits of work allocation include-
- Easily handle multiple projects of different sizes at the same time.
- Cost-efficient scheduling, which saves the business money.
- Boosts productivity by requiring less time and resources.
- Time management improves, and staff can log more accurate times for shifts.
- Staff morale is boosted when employees know that project managers are examining productivity and staff skills.
- Managing the team workload and having accurate predictions of the completion of the project.
What to Consider When Allocating Work
- Skills Needed
- Task Priorities
- Labor Availability
- Employee Development
- Personal Interest
How to Allocate Work- the Process Explained
Once the above points have been considered, the following 5 steps can be put into action to start planning and allocating work. 1. Set the Strategy This outlines the direction of the project to give the team a clear strategy to follow for reaching the desired goal. It can be a good idea here to include the team in the decision-making process, as it empowers them and will inspire the team to be more engaged with the task. In this initial stage, it's vital to also set the overall objective of the project and make sure it is clear to all who will be involved. It is important to also consider different scenarios in terms of what obstacles or problems may arise in the project so that the team can prepare for the potential risks. 2. Planning Phase This step is about prioritizing the resources and taking into account the time and budget required for the project. Organizations can assess each action of a task in terms of the impact it has on the objectives of the overall strategy. The tasks with the most impact can be allocated more support from the budget or time. Also, note which jobs will be easy to implement and take the least amount of resources . Break down the tasks into high-level milestones and set due dates so the team can stay focused. 3. Allocation When allocating these roles to team members, consider their experience, skills, interests, and opportunities for development within the subject matter. Give all team members a brief on what they need to complete and the expected performance for the project. Encouraging team members to ask questions and make suggestions is key here to also learn whether there are any differences in expectations. Give delivery dates and outline how the task progress should be monitored and communicated (e.g. bi-weekly reporting).
4. Monitor On a regular basis, check-in with the team on the progress of the project and provide feedback that is weighted against the expected performance. Consider how to support team members who may be underperforming in quality or efficiency, so that they can get back on track. The manager holds the role of motivating team members to continue with their tasks and complete their work to a high standard. 5. Acknowledge To help drive the internal motivation of the team, once the project is complete, it is important to recognize the success of each team member and give constructive feedback. In all cases, communicate what went well and what could be improved upon. In the case of poor performance, identify the cause and assess ways to improve in the future. Management should keep a record of the team's success rates to use this information in the future for promotions or allocating additional projects. Allocating work according to demand and skillset will ensure that companies are distributing tasks in a strategic manner to get the most out of the team while reducing costs and increasing efficiency.
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The Importance of Task Allocation
Before a sports team goes out to play a game, a large amount of time is spent deciding which player will play a particular position. The position that a player is placed in will often be dependent on their level of skill. It will also be dependent on the estimated performance of the opposite team.
It is the leader who is responsible for picking the right players to play in a certain position, and this is called task allocation. Task allocation is just as important in business as it is in sports. Learning how to put the right people in the right position will mean the difference between success and failure. It is crucial that a leader picks people for positions based on their skills and experience. Before a leader can put the right people in the best positions, they will first need to understand the battle that they are engaged in, and they must know what skills will be necessary to win it. If a leader doesn’t understand the battle that they are in, it will be impossible for them to know which person to choose for a specific task. In addition to this, a good leader will want to learn as much as they can about their opponents. It will be impossible to win a battle when you don’t know who you’re up against. Once you understand the game and the opposition, you will next need to begin putting your subordinates in positions that allow them to maximize their natural gifts. While this may sound like common sense, it is a common mistake which is made by many leaders, and it almost always leads to failure. You will first want to start by creating a goal for your team, and you will then want to begin giving tasks to team members who are able to help you achieve this goal. You will want to write down all the necessary tasks before you begin assigning them to your team members. Each task should be listed based on its level of importance. After you have wrote down and ranked each task, you will next want to write down the skills that are necessary to fulfill each task. After you have this information written down, you will next want to begin listing the skills of each member of your team. Compare the skills of the members to the skills that are necessary to complete a specific task. Team members who have skills which match up to a particular task should be placed in that position. This is the basic method for task allocation, and it may have a few missing pieces if it is being used in a real world situation. To deal with these missing pieces, you have one of two options. You can either choose to place qualified people in places where they can perform important tasks, or you can give a task to somone who is at a lower level. Both approaches can be good for specific situations. The person that is qualified is reliable and is likely to do an excellent job, while the person who is lower will can do it quickly for a much lower cost. If you find large gaps in the skill level of your group, you will need to either hire new members or train your existing members. The path that you choose can have a number of advantages and disadvantages.
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Proper allocation of tasks between humans and machines is an important component of user centred design. First identify which tasks can only be allocated to either the machine or human (mandatory allocation), and then provisionally allocate tasks on either a permanent and dynamic basis. This provisional allocation should then be evaluated and revised if necessary.
Tasks should be allocated to humans and machines in a way that best combines human skills with automation to achieve task goals, while supporting human needs.
Context analysis and task analysis should be used to identify the task structure and demands, the knowledge needed to perform the tasks, environmental constraints, functional and safety requirements, and any other relevant issues.
Mandatory allocation can be identified from the task model, e.g.
- to humans due to technical infeasibility or ethical or safety considerations
- to machines due to demands exceeding human capabilities or a hostile environment
Permanently allocate tasks based on factors such as task criticality, cost, training or knowledge requirements, or task unpredictability.
Dynamically allocate tasks based on factors such as human workload, the need for cognitive support, individual differences in users, changing capacity of the user, or organisational learning.
Jobs must be designed from the tasks based on factors such as responsibility, task variety, interference between and within tasks, communication between users, and individual capability.
The provisional allocations and jobs should be evaluated based on factors such as: safety, system performance, usability, cost, job satisfaction and human well-being, acceptance by users, management and society and social impact. The evaluation findings should be used to review and revise the provisional allocations which should then be re-evaluated.
This procedure is based on:
Allocating Tasks between Humans and Machines in Complex Systems Mark-Alexander Sujan and Alberto Pasquini, 4th International Conference on Achieving Quality in Software, Venezia, 1998
The prototypes produced for evaluation of task allocation can be included as part of the iterative design process . This is followed by implementation .
Older, M.T., Waterson, P.E. and Clegg C.,W. (1997) A critical assessment of task allocation methods and their applicability. Ergonomics, 40(2): 151-171.
Ip, W.K., Damodaran, L., Olphert, C.W. & Maguire, M.C. (1990). The use of task allocation charts in system design - a critical appraisal. In D. Diaper, G. Cockton, D. Gilmore & B. Shackel, Eds. Human-Computer Interaction INTERACT'90, pp. 289-294. Amsterdam: North-Holland.
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Manage Tasks and Teams with the Right Work Allocation System for Project Success
One major responsibility when leading a team is task allocation to each person on the team. This requires making decisions about who is capable of performing specific tasks for a successful project.
To make these decisions effectively, the team leader must make judgments concerning:
- One or several tasks that must be completed
- Which employees in the department is able to complete the tasks
- Finding the best fit to achieve project goals
Generally, this means the team leader needs to combine people and tasks. Maintaining proper staff levels is also important when allocating work assignments.
A team leader will often have a set of tasks when allocating work to different members of the team. Each tasks must be assessed to determine:
- What tasks need to get done?
- What deadlines are necessary for each task?
- What tools or equipment do team members need to get tasks done?
Typically, a project requires one task to be completed before work can move forward. Therefore, assessing the importance of each task is crucial to planning work allocation in advance.
Assessing the Team
Knowledge and competence level of team members will ensure the project is staffed accurately. In some situations, the team leader can use a skills matrix to have a visual of the variety of skills on the team.
Not only does it present a visual of similar skills, but the matrix will also identify what is missing. This assessment of team skills makes task allocation easier to accomplish.
This presents a useful way of considering what each team member does well. Otherwise, the team leader runs the risk of underutilizing certain skillsets . Assessing the team provides a better picture of areas where professional development is useful to prepare them for the next project.
Additionally, team leaders can also identify certain skills team member do not need to learn. The company will save training dollars by not training more employees than necessary to perform certain tasks.
Using the best person for a task is always a sensible thing to do. However, a company could have only a certain group of people doing repetitive tasks. Obviously, they become better at what they do, but others will never learn.
This requires some creative juggling for a team leader. On one hand, he or she wants to avoid boredom from repetitive work. On the other hand, he or she wants to make sure unskilled team members are not resentful when their skillset never expands.
Involving the Team
Motivating the team can be as simple as involving them in decisions such as how work is allocated. Team leaders can also ask if members want to learn a new skill before starting on a new project.
Morale is boosted when the company shows an interest in their professional development. In addition, cross-training can also guarantee that coverage is available for different tasks when others take time off from work.
Getting the team involved in making decisions helps to develop high-performing teams. The direct link to better performance is stronger productivity numbers that feed the bottom line.
Every team leader wants to manage a team that consistently meets project targets. Because of this, some might be hesitant to ask for input from subordinates. But, involving the team does not change the way decisions are made about tasks and timelines.
The leader still looks at different tasks and available skills on the team. However, the leader gets buy-in from members to agree how best to allocate skills and resources.
Collective decisions foster discussions on how the team will arrive at the best decision for the project. This increases enthusiasm and motivation where team members draw on their experience to ensure the project’s success.
Work Allocation is about Managing Tasks
Working towards a positive outcome for a project is about two primary things: carefully managing tasks and the people who are expected to do the job.
Companies can generate extra revenues when tasks are assigned and completed within a given time. Allocating resources properly become the building blocks to a successful completion. Otherwise, it becomes impossible to meet target goals.
Beginning with a solid plan, team leaders have a visual of what it will take to work on the project. This plan also serves as the blueprint to utilizing the right resources in the right place.
Even with limited budgets, team leaders can manage a team better when the right people are trained and skilled to perform different tasks. Planning allocations before the work begins means half of the work is already done.
All that is left is for team leaders to explain, motivate and include team members in the final decisions. This lessens the chance for misuse or waste. Instead, leaders can select who is the right fit.
Tiny budgets can become enough to complete projects without cost overruns. Team members are motivated when they know their skills and experience is valued. Most importantly, the entire team works towards a successful outcome.
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Task syndromes: linking personality and task allocation in social animal groups
1 Department of Anthropology, University of California at Davis, Davis, CA, USA
2 Department for the Ecology of Animal Societies, Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior, Radolfzell, Germany
3 Department of Biology, University of Konstanz, Konstanz, Germany
4 Centre for the Advanced Study of Collective Behaviour, University of Konstanz, Konstanz, Germany
5 Department of Entomology, University of California at Davis, Davis, CA, USA
6 Department of Environmental Science and Policy, University of California at Davis, Davis, CA, USA
This article has no additional data.
Studies of eusocial insects have extensively investigated two components of task allocation: how individuals distribute themselves among different tasks in a colony and how the distribution of labor changes to meet fluctuating task demand. While discrete age- and morphologically-based task allocation systems explain much of the social order in these colonies, the basis for task allocation in non-eusocial organisms and within eusocial castes remains unknown. Building from recent advances in the study of among-individual variation in behavior (i.e., animal personalities), we explore a potential mechanism by which individuality in behaviors unrelated to tasks can guide the developmental trajectories that lead to task specialization. We refer to the task-based behavioral syndrome that results from the correlation between the antecedent behavioral tendencies and task participation as a task syndrome. In this review, we present a framework that integrates concepts from a long history of task allocation research in eusocial organisms with recent findings from animal personality research to elucidate how task syndromes and resulting task allocation might manifest in animal groups. By drawing upon an extensive and diverse literature to evaluate the hypothesized framework, this review identifies future areas for study at the intersection of social behavior and animal personality.
Consistent individual differences in seemingly task-independent behavioral tendencies can potentially drive task allocation in animal groups. Recent studies have found that animal groups containing behaviorally diverse individuals can outperform less diverse groups. In reviewing the literature, we find support for the hypothesis that efficient task allocation driven by variation among groupmates in task-independent behavior contributes to the success of diverse groups, and we generate predictions for future exploration of this phenomenon.
Task allocation, the process by which groups distribute individuals among tasks to meet variable task demand ( Gordon 1996 ), may be a key adaptation driving the success of large, ecologically dominant societies (e.g., ant societies; Oster and Wilson 1978 ). In eusocial insects, which have been the focus of task allocation research, age- and morphologically-based caste systems often determine broad patterns of task specialization ( Oster and Wilson 1978 ; Seeley 1982 ). However, task allocation cannot be completely explained by variation in morphology and age alone. For instance, some eusocial insects demonstrate task allocation without any apparent worker caste system ( Gordon 2016 ), and conspicuous task allocation patterns have been observed in non-eusocial systems as well ( Dictyosteliida (Amoebozoa) : Sathe et al. 2010 ; Pseudoscorpionida : Tizo-Pedroso and Del-Claro 2011 ; Lepidoptera : Underwood and Shapiro 1999 , Rodentia : Hurtado et al. 2013 ; Cetartiodactyla : Gazda et al. 2005 , Mastick 2016 ; Carnivora : Stander 1992 ; Passeriformes : Arnold et al. 2005 ; Cichliformes : Bruintjes and Taborsky 2011 ; Primates : Boesch 2002 ). A gap, therefore, exists in our understanding of how early forms of task allocation manifest and are regulated in social systems. We propose that, under certain circumstances, task allocation might arise when variation among individuals in behavioral tendencies unrelated to major tasks becomes reinforced and elaborated in such a way that causes individuals to specialize on different tasks. We refer to the resulting correlation between antecedent behavioral tendencies and later task participation as a task syndrome, and we suggest that these task syndromes have the potential to occur across a variety of social systems.
Animal personality, or the component of behavioral variation in a population that is explained by among-individual variation ( Dingemanse et al. 2010 ), has important ecological and evolutionary consequences ( Sih et al. 2004 ; Bell 2007 ; Réale et al. 2007 ; Sih et al. 2012 ). An individual’s fitness can depend critically upon how well its central behavioral tendencies (i.e., behavioral types) are suited to the particular environment that it experiences ( Dall et al. 2004 ; Réale et al. 2010 ). For social animals, groupmates represent a significant component of the environment that an individual experiences, and accordingly, personality can strongly impact how social animals affect and are affected by their groupmates ( Webster and Ward 2011 ). Among-individual behavioral variation has consequences not only for individuals, but for entire collectives as well. A group’s composition of behavioral types can affect its collective behavior and performance ( Sih 2013 ; Farine et al. 2015 ; Montiglio et al. 2017 ; Jolles et al. 2017 ). In aggregate, recent research demonstrates that, across several taxa and across several contexts, groups containing greater among-individual behavioral variation can outperform homogeneous groups ( Table 2 ). The mechanism generating these observed disparities in group performance remains unclear. Accordingly, we aim to:
Summary of evidence for the effect of among-individual variation in task-independent behavior on group performance
- Present a conceptual framework connecting social interactions to the reinforcement of among-individual behavioral variation within groups and a group’s adaptive task allocation system;
- Thoroughly review the evidence evaluating each hypothesized component of the framework;
- Critically appraise the framework by suggesting circumstances under which it may or may not apply and presenting alternatives to those hypotheses set forth in the framework components;
- Establish predictions that can guide future tests of the robustness and generalizability of the proposed framework, and suggest a general method for identifying task syndromes.
Our conceptual framework ( Figure 1 ) consists of several hypothesized links that connect the formation of social groups to the improved group performance through task allocation. In the first link, we propose that increased social interactions that result from group formation lead to greater among-individual variation in behaviors that are independent of tasks ( Figure 1 ; I). Secondly, we hypothesize that this among-individual variation improves group performance ( Figure 1 ; II). To explain how this variation improves performance, we suggest that among-individual variation in task-independent behaviors may guide task participation and thus specialization ( Figure 1 ; III) and that the task allocation regime resulting from this specialization enhances group performance ( Figure 1 ; IV). Lastly, we hypothesize that a group’s performance affects several upstream components of the framework ( Figure 1 ; V), thus initiating feedbacks that further elaborate and hone preliminary forms of task allocation.
Framework outlining conceptual connections and feedback loops reviewed in this manuscript. Numbered arrows correspond to numbered sections in the main text. Previous research has focused on the connections between sociality, among-individual variation in task-independent behavioral tendencies and group success, and those between task specialization/proficiency, task allocation, and group success. We urge future research to investigate how among-individual variation in task-independent behaviors can lead to group success, and specifically examine if it is through functionally advantageous task allocation. The overarching feedback loop that connects all of these concepts has yet to be fully studied in any social system. We suggest that among-individual variation in task-independent behavioral types and subsequent task syndromes provide a pathway that connects sociality to task allocation.
CLARIFYING TERMINOLOGY AND THE CONCEPTS OF PERSONALITY AND PLASTICITY
Personality is the proportion of behavioral variation in a population that is explained by the variation among individuals ( Dingemanse et al. 2010 ). Broadly speaking, it implies among-individual variation at the population-level and relatively consistent behavior at the individual-level ( Sih et al. 2004 ; Sih and Bell 2008 ). While personality is a population-level concept, an individual’s behavioral type is described by its mean behavior relative to the population mean in a given axis of variation.
According to these definitions, task specialization, which refers to consistent individual differences in task-related behaviors such as brood care or nest defense, represents personality as well. Thus, an individual can be described by its behavioral type along several axes of variation, some clearly task-related and others that show no explicit connection to task performance. We refer to the latter behaviors as task-independent behaviors, and they are behaviors that: 1) are not explicitly involved in carrying out a task and 2) can be observed and measured when individuals are not participating in a task or are experimentally deprived of the opportunity to participate in a task. At the population-level, any quantifiable association between two axes of behavioral variation, whether they are task-independent or task-related, can be described as a behavioral syndrome ( Sih et al. 2004 ). Here, we focus on the notion that among-individual variation in task-independent behaviors could be elaborated and reinforced in such a way that leads to among-individual variation in individual task participation, resulting in a task syndrome.
Among-individual variation in behavior, or personality, is not mutually exclusive from within-individual variation, or plasticity. Together, these two components define the total variation within a population, and their contribution to the total variation is illustrated well by the behavioral reaction norm approach ( Dingemanse et al. 2010 ). An individual’s reaction norm represents its behavior as a function of an environmental gradient in a given period of time. The slope of the individual’s reaction norm represents the within-individual component of variation in the given time frame, indicating how much the individual’s behavior will change in response to a change in the environment. The differences between individuals’ behavior within a given environmental context, or differences that persist across several environmental contexts represents the among-individual component of behavioral variation, or personality.
Importantly, plasticity can occur at two scales. Activational plasticity reflects the variation in behavior that an individual exhibits across environmental contexts at a given time ( Snell-Rood 2013 ). Synonymous with the within-individual component of variation reflected in behavioral reaction norms, activational plasticity is represented by movement along an individual’s behavioral reaction norm as the individual transitions between environmental contexts. However, there is also a time-depth component to plasticity not recognizable in a reaction norm from a single time period. Developmental plasticity results from the same genotype expressing different phenotypes in different environments as a result of the environments favoring divergent developmental trajectories ( Stamps and Groothuis 2010 ; Snell-Rood 2013 ; Stamps 2016 ). A critical difference here is that there is a time-lag between experiencing a particular environment and exhibiting a behavioral change, and that this change is typically long-lasting ( Stamps 2016 ). This process is akin to an individual’s entire reaction norm, and thus its behavioral type, gradually shifting over time. Developmental plasticity and genotypic variation together explain personality, through their contribution to behavioral variation among individuals.
Finally, while personality is defined by the proportion of behavioral variation in a population that is among individuals, when a population comprises social animals, the amount of among-individual variation within a social group can vary among groups. That is, just as groups can differ from each other in their genetic diversity, they can differ in behavioral type diversity. We discuss the feedbacks that can affect the amount of behavioral variation among individuals in social groups, and how this variation affects task allocation and group performance.
SOCIAL LIVING CAN DIRECTLY LEAD TO AN INCREASE IN AMONG-INDIVIDUAL BEHAVIORAL VARIATION ( FIGURE 1 ; I)
An individual’s behavioral type is reflected in the food that it eats ( Toscano et al. 2016 ), the methods by which it accesses resources ( Kurvers et al. 2009b ; Carter et al. 2014 , 2016) and mating opportunities ( Kralj-Fišer et al. 2013 ), and the anti-predator strategies that it employs ( Jones and Godin 2010 ). Thus, the ecological niche that an individual fills is determined not only by its species-specific behavioral tendencies, but also by its individual-specific behavioral tendencies ( Sih et al. 2012 ). Social animals typically compete directly with their groupmates over access to food, mates, and refuge ( Bergmüller and Taborsky 2007 ). This environment of competition favors niche differentiation ( Gause 1934 ), with a fitness advantage conferred upon those using rare or new strategies to survive and acquire resources and mates. As an individual increasingly employs an advantageous, rare behavioral strategy, its behavioral type shifts away from that of its groupmates. This process known as “social niche specialization” can ensue across the members of the group ( Bergmüller and Taborsky 2010 ). As a result, sociality can drive behavioral variation among individuals via developmental plasticity in a negative-frequency-dependent manner ( Wolf et al. 2008 ; Bergmüller and Taborsky 2010 ; Sih et al. 2015 ). Furthermore, as individuals diverge in their behavioral types, positive feedback mechanisms that reduce the possible costs of activational plasticity (for costs of plasticity see Hutcheon et al. 2002 ; Relyea 2002 ; Changizi 2003 ; Niven et al. 2007 ; Snell-Rood 2012 ; Snell-Rood 2013 ) can generate further among-individual variation and within-individual consistency ( Wolf et al. 2008 ; Sih et al. 2015 ).
Alternatively, a behaviorally diverse group that contains individuals with minimal niche overlap could, in theory, result from individuals that have a similar mean behavior, but high within-individual variation in behavior, such that they often exhibit different behaviors and thus fill different ecological niches at any given time. Individuals in this scenario would have higher activational plasticity but similar behavioral types (i.e., little among-individual variation). This alternative, however, is unlikely because there can be substantial costs and limitations to activational plasticity, and predictability can be beneficial in social situations (Johnstone 2001; Dall et al. 2004 ; Sih et al. 2004 ; Johnstone and Manica 2011 ). If behavioral variation is beneficial, but individuals are highly plastic in their behavior, groups of finite size will occasionally exhibit suboptimal mixtures of behaviors at any given time simply due to stochasticity. The probability of these suboptimal mixtures occurring decreases as the differences between individuals in their mean behavior and the consistency of individual behavior increase.
Indeed, there is strong theoretical support for sociality as a potential driver of among-individual variation in behavior. Agent-based models show that group-living can cause among-individual behavioral variation to arise and subsequently increase in a social group even when groupmates are initially identical ( Hemelrijk and Wantia 2005 ; Oosten et al. 2010 ). Further work using game theoretical models suggest that the presence of a small number of individuals in a group that can adjust their behavior according to the behavior of others (i.e., “socially aware” individuals) is sufficient to substantially enhance initially small behavioral variations among groupmates ( McNamara et al. 2009 ; Wolf et al. 2011 ). Empirical support for the ability of individuals within groups to adjust their behavior according to that of their groupmates is widespread ( Magnhagen and Staffan 2005 ; Dyer et al. 2009a ), particularly in research on indirect genetic effects, which explicitly considers the effects of neighboring conspecifics’ genotypes on the phenotype of a focal individual ( Santostefano et al. 2016 ; Santostefano et al. 2017 ; reviewed in Montiglio et al. 2013 ; Dingemanse and Araya-Ajoy 2015 ). Thus, group-living can theoretically both create and accentuate initial behavioral variation among groupmates.
Empirical evidence that social interactions can lead to greater among-individual variation in behavior is often consistent with theoretical predictions. Jäger et al. (2019) showed that male crickets that had previously interacted with conspecifics exhibited higher repeatability in a test for aggressive behavior compared with those that had not previously interacted with conspecifics. A common garden study of Eurasian perch, Perca fluviatilis , shows that individuals differ consistently in willingness to forage near a predator over time ( Hellström and Magnhagen 2011 ), likely because of social interactions such as facilitation and competition ( Magnhagen and Staffan 2005 ; Oosten et al. 2010 ). Additionally, formation of groups composed of non-aggressive water striders lead to an increase in among-individual variation, with some individuals becoming hyper-aggressive ( Sih and Watters 2005 ). Early social experiences cause initial behavioral variation that becomes canalized into pronounced among-individual variation in adulthood in several taxa of birds and mammals as well ( Plomin and Daniels 1987 ; Bends and Henkelmann 1998 ; Groothuis and Carere 2005 ). Because individuals in social species potentially experience more competition over local resources than those in solitary species, and thus a greater benefit of niche differentiation, social species should exhibit greater among-individual variation than closely related solitary species. Preliminary comparative studies appear to corroborate this expectation ( Pruitt et al. 2012 ; von Merten et al. 2017 ).
To expand on the research that has grounded this portion of our framework, we suggest further work test the predictions of the hypothesis that social interactions and competition with groupmates leads to an increase in among-individual variation. We would predict, for example, that individuals exposed to more social interactions early in life would exhibit more extreme behavioral types than individuals with fewer social experiences, and that among-individual variation would be greater in groups in resource-poor environments than those in resource-rich environments ( Table 1 ). We would also predict greater among-individual variation in stable social groups than in less stable social aggregations, as there may be little potential for individuals to respond to behavioral types of groupmates with a shift in their own behavioral type when group membership is highly dynamic, especially considering that the developmental plasticity needed for this shift in behavioral type typically results in slow, gradual changes. Further research could also explore circumstances under which this hypothesis breaks down. We might not see social-living lead to an increase in among-individual variation when behavioral conformity is imperative. For example, we might not expect among-individual variation in the willingness to forage under the risk of predation if predation pressure is uniformly high in a particular environment, or if behavioral uniqueness increases the probability of predation (i.e., the oddity effect; Landeau and Terborgh 1986 ; Parrish et al. 1989 )
Hypotheses and predictions for the effect of social grouping on among-individual behavioral variation
VARIATION AMONG GROUP MEMBERS IN TASK-INDEPENDENT BEHAVIORS CAN CORRELATE POSITIVELY WITH GROUP SUCCESS ( FIGURE 1 ; II)
Recent animal personality research has highlighted the importance of group behavioral type composition on group performance ( Sih 2013 ; Farine et al. 2015 ). Taken together, studies demonstrate that, across several systems and across several contexts, within-group among-individual variation in behavior not explicitly associated with tasks can correlate positively with group success ( Table 2 ). The “social heterosis hypothesis” predicts this pattern, positing that variation among group members should improve, rather than impede, group performance ( Nonacs and Kapheim 2007 ). Furthermore, social heterosis might partially contribute to the heightened success of larger groups, as larger groups are statistically more likely to contain greater among-individual variation and less behavioral conformity than smaller groups ( Hellström et al. 2011 ). In this section, we review studies that show a positive correlation between among-individual variation and group success, evaluate alternative hypotheses that could contribute to this result ( Table 3 ), and put forth a tractable hypothesis for a potentially widespread mechanism that might drive this trend across taxa.
Hypotheses and predictions for the effect of among-individual behavioral variation on group performance
Among-individual variation in behavior can correlate with several measures of group success. Groups with greater among-individual variation can have higher direct measures of group reproductive success than homogeneous groups ( Modlmeier and Foitzik 2011; Pruitt and Riechert 2011 ; Modlmeier et al. 2012 ). They also can experience increased foraging success ( Dyer et al. 2009a ; Pruitt et al. 2012; Aplin et al. 2014; Pruitt and Keiser 2014 ) and more effective anti-predator behavior ( Wright et al. 2016 ). Additionally, the efficiency of collective movement to resources can improve with increased among-individual variation in behavior ( Couzin et al. 2005 ; Dussutour et al. 2008 ; Nicolis et al. 2008 ; Michelena et al. 2010 ; Eskridge and Schlupp 2014 ; Planas-Sitja et al. 2015 ). Fitness in groups with greater among-individual variation can also be more robust to variable environments than that of homogeneous groups ( Goulet et al. 2016 ). Theoretical models show that increased among-individual variation leads to higher cooperation and fitness ( Gavrilets 2012 ), thus reinforcing empirical results. Despite these findings, a potential mechanism by which social heterosis acts to increase the performance of diverse social groups when they do outcompete more homogeneous groups has evaded this line of research.
While support for the benefit of among-individual variation within a group appears strong, behavioral diversity is certainly not universally advantageous. In fact, among-individual variation in behavior can be quite detrimental to group performance when variation leads to social parasitism ( Giraldeau and Caraco 2000 ) or decreased group cohesion ( Krause and Ruxton 2002 ; Conradt and Roper 2005 ; Ward and Webster 2016 ). Moreover, past work suggests that diverse phenotypes within a group can produce conflict due to mismatches in priorities or preferences of groupmates (reviewed in Conradt and Roper 2005 ; Conradt 2012 ). As preferences become increasingly unaligned or mutually exclusive, group performance may become negatively correlated with among-individual variation.
When group performance does indeed correlate positively with among-individual variation, it is possible that hypotheses alternative to social heterosis could explain the correlation ( Table 3 ). For instance, behavioral variation within a group, and not necessarily the among-individual component of this variation, could be beneficial to groups. Within-group variation could be achieved by high within-individual variation and relatively low among-individual variation. We remain skeptical that such a group could parallel a group with consistent among-individual variation due to the possible costs of activational plasticity and the benefits of predictability in groupmate behavior. However, future studies could test this hypothesis by comparing the success of groups that are matched in their level of group-level behavioral variation but differ in their level of among-individual variation. It is also possible that as a group becomes more successful, the pressure on individuals to conform behaviorally is reduced, such that group success causes an increase in among-individual variation, as opposed to the reverse relationship. While this possibility could also explain a correlation between among-individual behavioral variation and group performance, the majority of studies presented in Table 2 consisted of experiments in which a researcher created groups of individuals with behavioral types that were measured prior to group formation and then compared a group-level response variable after group formation. This experimental nature ensures that group behavioral type composition does indeed have some causal effect on group performance. Nonetheless, further work should investigate the potential role of this reverse direction of causality.
Although there are reasons to find the results presented in Table 2 surprising, this research does parallel the more extensive research on genetic diversity within eusocial insect colonies. Studies of genetic heterogeneity in eusocial colonies provide strong evidence that group productivity and stability benefit from increased genetic diversity within groups ( Page et al. 1995 ; Liersch and Schmid-Hempel 1998 ; Jones et al. 2004 ; Mattila and Seeley 2007 ; Oldroyd and Fewell 2007 ). Among other hypothesized mechanisms (Shermen et al. 1988; reviewed in Page 2013 ), genetic diversity is thought to improve group performance by increasing the efficiency of division of labor systems in social insect groups ( Mattila and Seeley 2007 ; Oldroyd and Fewell 2007 ). The result that genetic diversity improves group performance may not apply to non-eusocial animal groups, because cooperation and group success can be thwarted by reduced relatedness via within-group conflict ( Kamel et al. 2010 ; Krupp et al. 2011 ). However, the parallel between research on among-individual behavioral variation and research on genetic diversity remains useful because the hypothesized mechanism by which genetic diversity leads to improved group performance—increased efficiency in task allocation—may be a shared mechanism that also explains why groups with greater among-individual behavioral variation can outperform homogeneous groups ( Jandt et al. 2014 ; Jeanson and Weidenmüller 2014 ).
By switching the focus from genetic diversity to behavioral variation itself, which is the cumulative phenotypic result of several factors (e.g., genes, environment, development), personality research can contribute to our understanding of the direct role of among-individual variation in task-independent axes of behavior in generating efficient social organization. Given that animal personality is widespread across taxa ( Gosling 2001 ; Bell et al. 2009 ), we propose that among-individual variation in task-independent behaviors could potentially play a role in connecting the evolution of sociality to task allocation and improved group performance in some systems, and thus, might contribute to the success of group-living animals.
WHAT IS A TASK?
To broaden our understanding of task allocation, we employ a modified definition of what constitutes a task. For example, Jeanne (1988) defined tasks as behaviors performed to achieve some colony-level purpose, which implies that the tasks are only for the benefit of the group, and tends to limit the scope to eusocial animals. We suggest that a task is more profitably defined as any behavior that positively affects the fitness of conspecifics within a social group by providing a good or service to those conspecifics. By this definition, individual task performers in a group can occupy complementary roles that are not overtly cooperative. Overt cooperation is not necessary because the goods or services that an individual produces for the group can be a by-product of selfishly motivated actions (i.e., by-product mutualism; West-Eberhard 1975 ; Brown 1983 ). For example, extremely shy individuals that seek refuge at the first sign of predator presence provide useful information for nearby groupmates and may perform an unintentional vigilance task for others upon group formation ( Gil and Hein 2017 ). It is our goal here not to claim that all social roles (e.g., competitive roles, cheaters) or behaviors should be thought of as tasks. Rather, by establishing a taxon-independent definition of a task, we hope to facilitate the discovery of ecologically relevant task allocation systems across animal societies.
By redefining tasks, we allow our framework to draw upon behaviors and behavioral roles that have yet to be studied from a task allocation perspective. Previously researched social roles in animal societies provide useful examples of the applicability of our definition. For example, “policers” in groups of pig-tailed macaques, Macaca nemestrina , are important for reducing conflict and maintaining social order ( Flack et al. 2006 ). Because conflict resolution is likely beneficial for all individuals involved, this social role can be considered as much a task as more tangible and traditionally studied tasks, such as brood care or nest maintenance. We similarly suggest that leader–follower dynamics should also be considered a form of task allocation, as both “leading” and “following” tasks provide a service for groupmates ( Anderson and Franks 2001 ; Michelena et al. 2010 ; Aplin et al. 2014 ). While leaders ensure efficient acquisition of resources, followers promote essential group cohesion ( Couzin et al. 2005 ; Dyer et al. 2009b ; Aplin et al. 2014 ).
In addition to more discrete divisions of labor such as leader vs. follower, tasks can consist of completing one small component of a larger group activity. The partitioning of tasks can substantially increase group efficiency and productivity, and it has been a well-studied aspect of task allocation in eusocial insects ( Jeanne 1986 ; Seeley 1995 ). However, other animals also split work among groupmates for specific tasks such as foraging. Reports suggest that cooperative hunters, such as lions ( Panthera leo ), Harris’s hawks ( Parabuteo unicinctus ), and Aplomado falcons ( Falco femoralis ), may partition prey capture tasks and that they may also show consistency in their role across different hunts ( Hector 1986 ; Bednarz 1988 ; Stander 1992 ). Animals can exhibit clear task partitioning in other contexts as well, such as when offspring care tasks are split among a pair or group of caretakers ( Clutton-Brock 1991 ). It is important to note here that groups can allocate tasks within one broad task domain (e.g., foraging or parental care), without necessarily allocating all group activities.
BEHAVIORAL SYNDROMES AS A POTENTIAL MECHANISM UNDERLYING TASK ALLOCATION ( FIGURE 1 ; III)
Common to many models of task allocation is the idea that individuals can specialize on specific tasks (i.e., they show consistent individual differences in their task-related behaviors) which may improve their task performance and generate greater efficiency for the group ( Oster and Wilson 1978 ; Robinson 1992 ; Wahl 2002 ). “Task participation” describes the full task repertoire of an individual over some relevant time frame. “Task specialization” has been defined broadly as bias for a particular task ( Johnson 2002 ) but also more specifically as the performance of a task to the exclusion or limitation of other tasks ( Robson and Traniello 2002 ). To frame task specialization using terminology common to animal personality research, we define specialization as relative consistency in an individual’s task participation over time in conjunction with among-individual variation in this task participation. “Task proficiency” refers to an individual’s ability or skill in performing a task relative to that of other individuals ( Dornhaus 2008 ). In this section, we evaluate how task-independent behavioral types can influence developmental trajectories that ultimately guide individual choices in task participation through mechanisms previously established in eusocial insect research ( Table 4 ).
Examples of task syndromes
Individuals in social groups often specialize in a task because of inherent adaptation ( Seeley 1982 ; Trumbo and Robinson 1997 ; Dornhaus 2008 ), which usually refers to morphological or physiological differences among individuals that predispose them to perform specific tasks. Individuals are typically more responsive to and more proficient at these tasks for which they are inherently adapted ( Wilson 1974 ; Pirk et al. 2004 ). However, inherent adaptations can also be behavioral, and pre-existing behavioral differences between individuals within a group may allow for task allocation to occur based on these task-independent behaviors, such that individuals with particular task-independent behavioral types come to specialize on particular tasks. In a social cichlid fish, Neolamprologus pulcher , for example, individuals that are more willing to explore a novel environment in an isolated test are more likely to defend a communal territory from an intruding conspecific, while less exploratory individuals are more likely to maintain the breeding shelter ( Bermüller and Taborsky 2007 ). These behavioral predispositions that guide later task specialization are not constrained to be in axes of variation that are typically the focus of personality studies. For example, in artificially selected honey bee, Apis mellifera , colonies, individual response to sucrose concentration as a newly emerged worker predicts specialization in pollen or nectar foraging 2–3 weeks later in life ( Page 2013 ). Although pre-existing inherent behavioral predispositions can be more cryptic than morphological ones, the task syndromes that they initiate could potentially be just as effective for distributing work within a group.
Prior experience also plays a role in allocating tasks and creating task specialists. Work with eusocial insects shows that individual experience with a task and task-related stimuli can make an individual more likely to respond to that task again ( Theraulaz et al. 1998 ). Repeated experience can, therefore, create a feedback loop that underlies specialization. Among-individual variation in task-independent behavioral type could contribute to task specialization by affecting the rate at which individuals encounter different task-related stimuli in a spatially heterogeneous environment, mirroring the “foraging for work” concept in the eusocial literature ( Franks and Tofts 1994; Tripet and Nonacs 2004 ; Mersch et al. 2013 ; Crall et al. 2018 ). Pamminger et al. (2014) , for example, showed that activity level and sensitivity to light predict the spatial preferences of ant workers in the nest and thus contributes to the separation of workers into foragers and within-nest brood caretakers. Furthermore, the success of an individual in performing a task can affect the likelihood with which it will continue performing that task ( Ravary et al. 2007 ). Self-reinforcement mechanisms associated with task experience are a well-established feature of existing models of division of labor ( Theraulaz et al. 1998 ). Consequently, it is possible for both differences in inherent adaptations and experience-based mechanisms, both associated with an individual’s task-independent behavioral type, to lead to among-individual variation in task participation and thus a task syndrome.
An increase in task proficiency over time is a central benefit of having task specialists ( Seeley 1982 ; Jeanne 1986 ; but see Dornhaus 2008 ), and increases in proficiency are commonly thought to occur due to skill acquisition ( Dukas and Visscher 1994 ; Dukas 2018 ). However, the significance of skill acquisition in traditionally studied task allocation systems (i.e., those of eusocial insects) is contentious due to the short-life span and small brain size of insects. Whether this is a valid critique (see Chittka and Niven 2009 ), we propose that increased proficiency in task performance through skill acquisition is an important part of our framework for two reasons. First, one of the goals of our framework is to expand task allocation research to animal groups outside of eusocial insects, such as mammal and bird societies, in which skill acquisition and development over time may play a more prominent role in improving task proficiencies. Second, individuals with different task-independent behavioral types may vary in their cognitive capability and their propensity to use previous experience and/or social information to guide decision-making ( Guillette et al. 2009; Kurvers et al. 2010 ; Cole et al. 2011 ; Sih and del Guidice 2012 ; Dougherty and Guillette 2018 ). Thus, among-individual variation in behaviors outside of task domains could affect the role task proficiency plays in task allocation by influencing which types of individuals and which types of tasks are most shaped by skill acquisition.
In Table 5 , we put forth a set of hypotheses and predictions that will facilitate future tests of the occurrence and prevalence of task syndromes, as well as the impact of these task syndromes on task proficiency.
Hypotheses and predictions for the effect of task-independent behavioral type on subsequent task participation choices
TASK SPECIALIZATION AND ALLOCATION IMPROVE GROUP PERFORMANCE ( FIGURE 1 ; IV)
To date, research and theory on task allocation, specialization, and group success has almost exclusively focused on human and eusocial insect societies. The division of labor among humans is unique in that cooperation often occurs within groups of individuals that are not closely related, an exception to the kinship-based cooperative relationships that generally structure many other animal societies ( Axelrod and Hamilton 1981 ; Boyd and Richerson 2005 ). Still, general ecological and economic principles apply well to understanding the success of human groups across space and time: more cooperative groups outcompete non-cooperative groups and groups of specialists are able to outcompete groups of generalists ( Richerson 1977 ; Boyd and Richerson 2009 ). The field of sociology even has a specific term, “organic solidarity,” which describes the interdependence and unification of humans within a society resulting from a specialized system of division of labor ( Durkheim 1947 ). In further support of the framework, modern human task specialization (i.e., job choice) is highly dependent on an individual’s behavioral tendencies outside of the workplace ( Tom 1971 ; Holland 1997 ).
The division of labor between reproductives and workers and among workers themselves in eusocial insect societies is believed to be a primary cause of their ecological dominance and evolutionary success ( Oster and Wilson 1978 ; Wilson 2001; Hölldobler and Wilson 2009 ). In a broad taxonomic sense, the sheer biomass of eusocial insects relative to their less social counterparts in sympatry is often the first line of evidence used to assert that their task allocation structures are an important component of their success. This biomass disparity also holds true between humans and other terrestrial vertebrates ( Boyd and Richerson 2009 ). Beyond differences in biomass, strong correlations exist between the complexity of the division of labor system of a eusocial colony, the degree of individual specialization, and the group’s ecological success ( Jeanson et al. 2007 ; Johnson and Linksvayer 2010 ; Jeanson and Weidenmüller 2014 ). The possibility that these factors shape the success of groups in other taxa seems probable, given the generality of the principles underlying ergonomic efficiency, but this possibility remains to be thoroughly explored ( Table 6 ).
Hypotheses and predictions for the effect of task allocation that results from task syndromes on group performance
FLEXIBILITY IN TASK ALLOCATION
Task allocation refers to both stable differences in task performance (division of labor) and the process by which groups shift individuals to other tasks as demand changes ( Gordon 2016 ). In contrast to the benefits of specialization previously discussed, group-level inflexibility is a potential disadvantage of highly specialized groups ( Robinson 1992 ; Bonabeau et al. 1998 ; Gordon 2016 ). However, an analysis of task participation patterns in social insect societies by Kolmes (1986) suggested that many division of labor systems, even in colonies with caste systems and task specialists, are adapted more for flexibly responding to environmental perturbations than strictly for maximizing efficiency. Further studies of eusocial insect colonies also suggest that individual specialization and colony-level flexibility are not mutually exclusive ( Robinson 1992 ; Johnson 2003 ).
Group-level flexibility could potentially be achieved by activational plasticity at the individual level. While specialization implies relative consistency in an individual’s task-related behaviors, task specialists can still show some variation around their mean task behavior. Indeed, even some morphologically specialized eusocial insects are capable of temporarily switching tasks when colony demand changes ( Wilson 1984 ; Brown and Traniello 1998 ). Individual activational plasticity in task-related behaviors can likely allow for group-level flexibility in task allocation in non-eusocial animals as well. Variation in task participation around an individual’s main task is particularly likely when task participation choices are driven by task-independent behavioral type, given that there is often significant within-individual variation around the central task-independent tendencies that might ultimately guide the task participation ( Bell et al. 2009 ).
Additional work on eusocial insects has suggested that colonies might further circumvent inflexibility by relying on individuals that are more specialized (i.e., show less activational plasticity) for increased productivity and individuals that are less specialized for increased flexibility ( Robinson 1992 ; Charbonneau and Dornhaus 2015a ; Charbonneau and Dornhaus 2015b ; but see Johnson 2002 ). Task allocation regimes that result from task syndromes may exhibit a similar mechanism to balance productivity and flexibility. An individual’s mean task-independent behavior can often covary with the variance in this behavior ( Dingemanse et al. 2010 ). For example, individuals that use safe habitat more and feed less in the presence of a predator are more behaviorally flexible and cooperative than their bold groupmates ( Westerberg et al. 2004 ; Magnhagen and Staffan 2005 ; reviewed in Magnhagen 2012 ). These findings support results from coping style research that suggest that aggressive, bold, proactive individuals exhibit less within-individual variation than shy, docile, reactive individuals ( Koolhaas et al. 1999 ; Koolhaas et al. 2006 ). If variation in task-related behaviors indeed correlates with that of task-independent behaviors, task syndromes may establish a system in which individuals with particular behavioral types are more extreme specialists with rigid task syndromes, while those with other behavioral types show more variation in their task participation choices.
Group-level flexibility in task allocation might also be achieved by developmental plasticity at the individual level. Within-individual variation in task participation discussed thus far in this section represents activational plasticity and does not imply a change in task specialization. Individuals specialize on a given task but show some variation in their task-related behaviors such that they may sometimes perform other tasks. However, it is possible that through developmental plasticity, an individual’s task specialization might actually change over time. This mechanism of flexibility provides a slower and more permanent response to a perturbation in task demands. Honey bees exhibit this developmental plasticity when the population of brood care workers in a colony becomes insufficient, with older honey bees regenerating their hypopharyngeal glands and reverting from foraging back to nursing ( Winston 1987 ; Robinson et al. 1992 ). The extent to which individuals exhibiting task syndromes experience gradual changes in their central task-independent and task-related behavioral tendencies over time to meet changing group needs remains unknown but is worthy of investigation.
OPERATIONALIZING TASK SYNDROMES
Task syndromes arise when central tendencies in task-independent behaviors influence developmental trajectories that eventually result in task specialization. The process by which task syndromes develop is, therefore, an example of developmental plasticity. Accordingly, we can conclude that a task syndrome exists when prior task-independent behaviors and current task participation correlate statistically. Empirical tests of the existence of task syndromes will, therefore, require measuring individuals’ antecedent task-independent behavioral type, assessing the tasks in which individuals later participate, and testing for a correlation between them. In practice, this involves taking several longitudinal measurements of relevant behaviors, monitoring subsequent task performance over time, and then modeling task participation as a function of task-independent behavior. But how long should one wait between measuring task-independent behaviors and task performance? Furthermore, developmental plasticity can cause an individual’s reaction norm, and thus their central tendencies in both task-independent and task-related behaviors, to change over time. So, how does one decide when to measure them so as to maximize the chance that they are stable enough to determine the structure of correlation between them?
We devote the remainder of this section to putting forth guidelines and benchmarks that will answer these questions in order to aid future empirical tests for the presence of task syndromes. One should ideally measure task-independent behaviors before they might initiate the developmental pathways that result in task specialization and then measure task participation after the developmental change is complete. For animals with relatively discrete life stages (e.g., animals with a larval stage and adult stage) and animals with periodic general behavioral stages (e.g., animals that hibernate, animals that mate seasonally), we can infer that developmental change is most likely to happen during the transition between stages. Thus, we might expect task-independent behavioral type in one stage to correlate with task specialization in the next stage (e.g., the level of foraging activity under a high risk of predation during non-birthing season predicts task specialization in parental care during the birthing season). The stage in which to measure task-related behavior and the stage in which to measure task-independent behaviors should be dictated by when individuals most actively partake in tasks. Of course, empirical evaluations will require some system-specific deviations from the scheme established here. For example, with species that hibernate, it might be best to measure task-independent behaviors in one active season and then task participation in the next active season in order to avoid behavioral assays of a hibernating animal.
For animals that do not have discrete life stages and do not exhibit periodic behavioral patterns, we suggest measuring task-independent behavioral type when individuals are not fully matured, either sexually or morphologically, and correlating this behavioral type with task specialization when individuals are adults. These potential carryover effects, both between discrete and more continuous life stages, provide a good opportunity to test for task syndromes because task-related behaviors can be more easily isolated from task-independent behaviors due to developmentally or seasonally specific performance of tasks in particular task domains.
FEEDBACKS FROM GROUP SUCCESS
Despite the presentation of group performance as the culminating response variable of our framework, group performance itself has significant feedback effects on key components of the framework. In the following sections, we incorporate both proximate and ultimate consequences of differential group performance to contemplate not only how task allocation can emerge from sociality, but also how selective pressures on the performance of a group and its members produce more complex social orders.
Feedbacks to individual fitness ( Figure 1 ; V a ) and among-individual task-independent behavioral variation within a group ( Figure 1 ; V b )
The survival and reproductive success of animals in stable social groups is often critically dependent on the success of their group ( Wilson 1975 ; Fewell 2003 ; Wilson and Wilson 2007 ; Boza and Számadó 2010 ; Crofoot and Wrangham 2010 ). The impact of group performance on individual fitness is itself important, but it could also have significant consequences, both proximate and ultimate, on the amount of among-individual task-independent behavioral variation within a group. A group’s performance could impact its composition of task-independent behavioral types within one generation in two ways: by altering the mean behavior of current group members or by impacting group membership (i.e., immigration and emigration). Farine et al. (2015) suggest that, over longer time periods, the mean behavior of individuals might change in order to achieve a more adaptive distribution of behavioral types in the group. Individuals could use either global information sampling ( Johnson 2008 ) or proxies of group state based on individual state ( Seeley 1995 ; Toth et al. 2005 ; Toth and Robinson 2005 ) to track group-level performance and then adjust their behavior accordingly. This change in behavioral type is a result of developmental plasticity, and, therefore, could only occur on longer timescales, but empirical evidence suggests that changes in individuals’ mean behavioral tendencies over time do indeed occur ( Favati et al. 2015 ; Costa et al. 2019 ; Monestier and Bell 2020 ).
The ability of individuals to adaptively change their long-term behavior and central behavioral tendencies based explicitly on metrics of their group’s performance and behavioral composition is highly intriguing but needs much further investigation. It is possible that some animals are not able to accurately track group performance and are, therefore, unable to adaptively shift their behavior. A related issue may be that individuals can and do respond to depressions in group performance but a lack of coordination in behavioral shifts by individuals within the group delays or impedes the establishment of optimal task-independent behavioral type composition. Of course, behavioral types could also be insufficiently flexible, especially as individuals age ( Stamps and Krishnan 2017 ) or in individuals with very extreme behavioral types, and this inflexibility would also impede groups from effectively achieving optimal behavioral type distribution via developmental plasticity.
Without necessitating a shift in the behavioral reaction norm of individuals over time, a group’s performance could also affect among-individual variation in behavior by impacting group membership. Work with slender-billed gulls, Chroicocephalus genei , shows that group membership can change in response to poor group performance ( Francesiaz et al. 2017 ). Although Francesiaz et al. (2017) did not explicitly consider personality, previous research in other animals shows that both an individual’s behavioral type and the composition of behavioral types in the prospective group can influence group membership decisions ( Cote et al. 2012 ; Harcourt et al. 2009b ; Hellström et al. 2016 ). Furthermore, colobus monkeys, Colobus vellerosus , make group membership decisions by avoiding phenotypes (e.g., sex) similar to their own ( Teichroeb et al. 2011 ). Whether animals might use behavioral type-based similarity avoidance in group membership decisions to ensure that they join groups with significant among-individual variation in behavior is largely unknown, and we, therefore, need empirical work in this area.
It will be important for future work to test the hypothesis that an individual’s group choice reflects a preference for avoiding similar behavioral types against opposing hypotheses that explain group membership decisions. Instead of joining a group based on its composition of behavioral types, individuals could be assessing more obvious qualities of individuals in the prospective group such as sex, age, or body size ( McRobert and Bradner 1998 ; Griffiths and Magurran 1998 ; Hoare et al. 2000 ), or even simpler criteria such as group size ( Cote et al. 2012 ). Empirical work has also demonstrated that individuals can preferentially join groups with individuals that are more similar to them thereby further homogenizing the group ( Harcourt et al. 2009b ). This evidence is contrary to the hypothesis that individuals join groups that will minimize their niche overlap, and so further evidence is needed to analyze if and when individuals join groups of individuals that are behaviorally different from them rather than similar to them.
A group’s performance can impact the amount of task-independent behavioral variation among group members on an evolutionary timescale through three different selective pressures: disruptive selection, negative frequency-dependent social selection, and group selection. Models show that slight differences between groupmates in central behavioral tendencies can result in disruptive selection on behavioral types within the group and selection for increased social responsiveness ( Johnstone and Manica 2011 ; Wolf et al. 2011 ), which drives further increases in among-individual variation ( Dall et al. 2004 ; Harcourt et al. 2009 a; Wolf et al. 2011; Wolf and Weissing 2012 ). While disruptive selection enhances among-individual variation in behavior, negative-frequency dependence can maintain this diversity by conferring a fitness advantage upon individuals with an underrepresented behavioral type (social selection theory; Wolf et al. 1999 ; Farine et al. 2015 ).
In some species, an individual’s fitness is highly dependent upon group dynamics, and group selection can, therefore, maintain an optimal composition of behavioral types within groups ( Wilson 1975 ; Wilson and Wilson 2007 ; Huguin et al. 2018 ). In water striders, for example, aggressive males experience higher reproductive success than docile males, but all individuals experience extremely low reproductive success when a group contains several highly aggressive males ( Eldakar et al. 2009 ; Eldakar and Gallup 2011 ). Therefore, multi-level selection maintains among-individual variation in aggression in water striders despite a selective advantage of high aggression at the individual-level.
Feedbacks to task allocation ( Figure 1 ; V c )
Because an individual’s task-related behaviors are part of its behavioral type, a group’s performance can impact its task allocation in much the same way it influences the distribution of the task-independent behavioral tendencies in the group. Poor group performance can lead to the reallocation of tasks ( Mooney et al. 2015 ). Task switching has received significant attention in the eusocial literature ( Gordon 1989 , 1996; Johnson 2002 ), but Biro et al. (2016) suggest that there is a time-depth component of collective behavior in both eusocial and non-eusocial groups, by which animal groups might evaluate metrics of previous performance and reallocate social roles accordingly. Due to a correlation between behavioral tendencies unrelated to tasks and social role ( Montiglio et al. 2013 ), this task reallocation likely occurs simultaneously with the proximate and ultimate changes in task-independent behavioral type distribution that occur by the mechanisms established above. If task-related behavioral tendencies indeed form a task syndrome with task-independent behavioral tendencies, then efficient allocation of tasks could also evolve with the evolution of an optimum composition of task-independent behavioral types. Thus, although primitive task allocation that results from task syndromes could potentially arise shortly after group formation, it could evolve and be enhanced into more nuanced task allocation systems seen in some taxa today.
Feedbacks to sociality ( Figure 1 ; V d )
Improved group performance as a result of task allocation also influences the evolution of sociality. The evolution of grouping depends critically on the costs and benefits of group-living ( Krause and Ruxton 2002 ). Once sociality is established, however, increasing the benefits of sociality by the mechanisms presented in this framework (i.e., higher productivity and efficiency due to task allocation) could render the evolutionary transition from social- to solitary-living less likely in some cases. Theoretical models predict a positive feedback loop of sociality, in which the interdependence of groupmates, which could result from task allocation, leads to increasing interdependence ( El Mouden et al. 2010 ; Lehtonen and Kokko 2012 ). The most extreme form of sociality—eusociality—is generally accepted as an evolutionary endpoint from which a species cannot return ( Foster 2009 ; Hölldobler and Wilson 2009 ), and the positive feedback in our framework (sociality ↔ personality diversification ↔ group success ↔ sociality) hints that all social species might resist the tendency to revert back to solitary-living because of socially selected task allocation patterns. A phylogenetic analysis of primates confirms that while the evolutionary transition from group- to solitary-living is possible, it is rare ( Shultz et al. 2011 ).
Alternatively, it is possible that the occurrence of task syndromes as a result of the framework that we present can actually make a group vulnerable to social parasites. If individuals with certain task-independent behavioral tendencies consistently perform the most relevant tasks for the group, it is possible that behavioral tendencies of other individuals in the group do not predispose them to perform a particular task, or even predispose them to perform no task. This situation might occur with individuals that vary in their general activity level, with the most active individuals performing several tasks and the least active individuals performing no task. The least active individuals in this case will benefit from the tasks performed by their more active groupmates, while providing no benefit to these groupmates. This social parasitism could reduce the benefits of group-living, thus increasing the likelihood of an evolutionary reversal to solitary-living.
Despite decades of research into the mechanisms of caste-based task allocation in eusocial insects, studies on mechanisms of task allocation that do not depend on age- or morphologically-based castes remain comparatively scant. In evaluating the literature, we found that among-individual variation in central behavioral tendencies unrelated to tasks could provide a sufficient mechanism for task allocation in species that do not have discrete castes, and that this task allocation might explain the interesting finding that has emerged in several taxa that animal groups containing greater among-individual variation in behavior can be more successful than more homogeneous groups. This extensive review of the literature lends credibility to the field of study at the intersection of social behavior and animal personality.
As a critical next step, we suggest future research test the predictions developed herein to evaluate the applicability of the framework to diverse taxa as well as the potential for alternative hypotheses (summarized in Tables 1 , ,3, 3 , ,35, 35 , ,36). 36 ). In this review, we have suggested that any social group might be capable of exhibiting task syndromes, but more research is needed to more fully understand under what circumstances one or more components of the framework break down, thus breaking the link between sociality and task allocation. Species with facultative task allocation, in which some groups allocate tasks while others do not, could serve as ideal systems in which to test alternative hypotheses. Additionally, groupmate interactions can range from cooperative to hostile. We have focused herein on cases of cooperative, or at least complementary, roles, but if early systems of task allocation that result from task syndromes generate conflict and cheating, then this could undermine the evolution of adaptive task allocation structures. To inform the generalizability of our framework, future research, both theoretical and empirical, should investigate the extent to which groupmates in conflict-based roles are capable of adaptive task allocation.
We urge empiricists to consider the possibility that some groupmates that seem to be in conflict, may actually occupy complementary roles and exhibit task allocation. For instance, scroungers in groups with a producer-scrounger dichotomy are considered parasites on their producer groupmates. However, both Dyer et al. (2009a) and Kurvers et al. (2009b) found that boldness predicts producer–scrounger tactics, and they suggest that bold producers may actually benefit from the caution and vigilance of shy scroungers. Therefore, in some cases, social host–parasite relationships may be a misrepresentation of underlying mutually beneficial task syndromes.
As a final point, this framework has implications beyond behavioral ecology. As Krause et al. predicted in 2010, the rise of animal personality research has drawn interesting parallels to our own species. Studies show that personality diversity in human groups is positively correlated with group performance ( Neuman et al. 1999 ; Mohammed and Angell 2003 ). Our review draws findings from across the field of animal behavior to support the conclusion that diverse groups can be more productive than homogenous groups, and we provide an explanation—task allocation arising from among-individual variation in task-independent behavioral tendencies—for this pattern that is thoroughly applicable to human groups as well.
J.C.L. acknowledges support from a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and a UC Davis Dean’s Distinguished Graduate Fellowship. A.A.P. was supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. A.S. acknowledges support from the US National Science Foundation, specifically NSF DEB 1456730 and NSF IOS 1456727. We are grateful to Leigh Simmons for inviting this review. We thank Jonathan Pruitt for his helpful contributions on several drafts, the Animal Behavior Graduate Group at the University of California - Davis for their insights during the conception of this review, and Margaret Crofoot for her advice and support throughout the writing process. We are also grateful to David Westneat, Leigh Simmons, and an anonymous reviewer for their comments and suggestions that greatly improved the quality of this manuscript. Although our literature review cites manuscripts that are now under investigation, we note that while the review draws important conceptual ideas from the manuscripts in question, no component of the framework presented in our review depends solely upon findings from these manuscripts for empirical support.
Conflict of interest: The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.
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Schedule Allocation means mapping out the pieces of work (tasks, activities, etc) on a schedule to visually represent their durations and arrangement in terms of chronology. Schedule allocation may mean breaking down a time necessary to complete certain task into smaller periods being scheduled on different days throughout the entire project timeline, so employees are assigned to the work at this task in smaller portions, but regularly (for example several working hours every day, or twice a week, etc). This method works well for tasks involving a lot of routine work which can be hardly expressed in terms of particular activities, stages and steps.
Since a working task has an allocated timetable (work is allocated over a prolonged period of time), it is necessary to keep control over the time dedicated by employees to this task (to make sure their efforts actually match the allocated schedule). For this purpose a time-sensitive system of control over the check-ins and check-outs needs to be established, so the task supervisors can inspect the compliance of timing which was spent by employees at the task with the plan they have to follow. Besides the time controlling, it is necessary to inspect amount and quality of work done (which are regulated by specific level of plans standing behind the allocated schedule).
International Conference on Principles and Practice of Multi-Agent Systems
PRIMA 2022: PRIMA 2022: Principles and Practice of Multi-Agent Systems pp 106–121 Cite as
Task Allocation on Networks with Execution Uncertainty
- Xiuzhen Zhang 12 ,
- Yao Zhang 12 &
- Dengji Zhao 12
- Conference paper
- First Online: 12 November 2022
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNAI,volume 13753)
We study a single task allocation problem where each worker connects to some other workers to form a network and the task requester only connects to some of the workers. The goal is to design an allocation mechanism such that each worker is incentivized to invite her neighbours to join the allocation, although they are competing for the task. Moreover, the performance of each worker is uncertain, which is modelled as the quality level of her task execution. The literature has proposed solutions to tackle the uncertainty problem by paying them after verifying their execution. Here, we extend the problem to the network setting. The challenge is that the requester relies on the workers to invite each other to find the best worker, and the performance of each worker is also unknown to the task requester. In this paper, we propose a new mechanism to solve the two challenges at the same time. The mechanism guarantees that inviting more workers and reporting/performing according to her true ability is a dominant strategy for each worker. We believe that the new solution can be widely applied in the digital economy powered by social connections such as crowdsourcing and contests.
- Task allocation
- Social networks
- Mechanism design
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Assume that there exists at least one agent whose cost to perform the task is less than q , otherwise we can add a dummy agent d with \(c_d=q\) , and the payoff to the dummy agent is always 0 to ensure the social welfare will be non-negative.
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This work is supported by Science and Technology Commission of Shanghai Municipality (No. 22ZR1442200).
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Shanghai Engineering Research Center of Intelligent Vision and Imaging, ShanghaiTech University, Shanghai, China
Xiuzhen Zhang, Yao Zhang & Dengji Zhao
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Correspondence to Dengji Zhao .
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Özyeğin University, Istanbul, Turkey
Universitat Politècnica de València, Valencia, Spain
Université Paris-Dauphine, Paris, France
King's College London, London, UK
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Zhang, X., Zhang, Y., Zhao, D. (2023). Task Allocation on Networks with Execution Uncertainty. In: Aydoğan, R., Criado, N., Lang, J., Sanchez-Anguix, V., Serramia, M. (eds) PRIMA 2022: Principles and Practice of Multi-Agent Systems. PRIMA 2022. Lecture Notes in Computer Science(), vol 13753. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-21203-1_7
DOI : https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-21203-1_7
Published : 12 November 2022
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Online ISBN : 978-3-031-21203-1
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A Simple Guide To Effective Task Allocation In Project Management
Task allocation in project management.
This is probably the most vital phase in project management that no project manager can afford to go wrong with. Yet, some project managers fail to utilize human resources to the best of their ability.
Why? Because they are not good at it. As simple as that.
As the Chief Marketing Officer of ProofHub , our organization’s foremost priority is to identify each employee’s unique strengths, and capabilities, and allocate tasks accordingly.
Right from day one, we are proud of the fact that we have never encouraged multitasking at the workplace.
And this is one of the reasons why our workforce, our greatest strength, continues to thrive in a highly competitive yet considerate environment at ProofHub.
That said, task allocation is much more than assigning the right tasks to the right people. There is a task allocation system that an organization needs to put in place to achieve desired results.
Do you want your organization to excel at task allocation?
Do you want to know how you can do better task allocation?
Do you want to know what is the best task allocation tool?
Relax. This article will provide all the information you’re looking for. Put everything aside and read till the end and I am sure you will benefit in more ways than one.
Let’s get started.
Table of Contents
What is task allocation?
1. optimal resource utilization, 2. task accountability, 3. better task delegation, 4. accurate tracking of progress, 5. boost in employee morale, 6. save time and money, 7. better project profitability, 1. have a plan, 2. identify available resources, 3. set clear expectations, 4. communicate one-on-one, 5. divide tasks into subtasks and create to-do lists, 6. say no to multitasking, 1. task management software, 2. table view, 3. custom fields, 4. control access and security, 5. kanban boards, 6. gantt charts, 7. timesheets, 8. notifications, 9. project scheduling calendar, why is task allocation important, what are the best ways to allocate tasks effectively.
You don’t have to read a definition by an expert project management guru to understand what it is all about. As the term suggests, task allocation is the process where employees are assigned relevant tasks, according to their skills and capabilities. Tasks are allocated in a way that the workload is distributed properly so that some employees do not feel overburdened with the work in hand while others are not left with too little work to do.
There are times when human resources can be scarce in project management. Therefore, it is the responsibility of a project manager to ensure tasks are allocated at the right time to the right people within the project schedule .
What are some undeniable benefits of task allocation?
Task allocation, when done correctly, with the help of efficient task allocation software, can deliver benefits to organizations in more ways than one.
Here, I will share with you some benefits of task allocation that are too worth ignoring.
Smart task allocation helps organizations utilize their resources optimally, which is one of the most effective ways to achieve set goals. Assigning tasks according to employees’ skill sets and capacity ensures that the quality of work is not compromised as it is performed by experts in that particular domain.
Incorrect utilization, like assigning irrelevant tasks, assigning more tasks than your workforce can handle, or even assigning little work to some employees can affect the morale and decrease the productivity of your team.
Using task management software eliminates such possibilities as every employee gets a fair share of the workload.
“Distribute workload evenly among your employees. Switch to ProofHUB ASAP .”
When people don’t know who’s supposed to work on what, it’s easy for tasks to get overlooked.
By assigning tasks to employees, you can assign tasks to one or more people, thus ensuring a clear distribution of responsibilities in one place. Everyone can see who’ll be working on what, and there’s no scope for employees ignoring relevant tasks intentionally. Task allocation fixes job accountability .
Task allocation involves assessing available resources and allocating them to projects and tasks as per their specialization and competency. This will help you delegate tasks to the best people for the job. Better delegation of tasks means no team member feels left out or overworked, which is also crucial for a better employee retention rate.
With better task delegation , project managers know whom to ask questions in case tasks are not completed in time, by the assignees.
Using excel sheets for task allocation is a thing of the past. Spreadsheets are prone to human errors besides being vulnerable to damage or theft. On the other hand, using a task management tool allows project managers to have a Bird’s eye view of all task-related data at a centralized location.
Kanban boards display which stage the task is in, Timesheets display how much time is being spent on performing assigned tasks, Table view lets you create your to-dos, and Gantt charts allow you to set dependencies between tasks and easily adjust your plans as work changes and deadlines shift.
When employees are assigned relevant tasks that suit their expertise, they feel motivated to do their best and prove their credentials. It also reduces the case of passing on the task to people who do possess the right skills to do it.
Also, project managers are in a better position to identify top performers, mediocre performers, and poor performers based on their performance.
Smart task allocation means efficient utilization of resources, which eventually leads to a significant reduction in the wastage of time and money. When skilled people are assigned relevant tasks, they can perform them in less time while making the most of available resources.
Allocating tasks through task management software helps to bring down business costs. For example, overutilization may lead to employee burnout as well as increased payout in case you pay over time.
Smart task allocation leads to better project profitability because you choose the best people for a given task. And it’s not easy when you have to manage 100-plus employees. Top-rated task management tools like ProofHub give you a good overview of the resources available at your disposal.
You can see who is available for a particular task, create tasks and subtasks , assign them to individuals or groups, set time and dates, set time estimates, track time spent, create recurring tasks , and attach files in one place.
Six tips to improve task allocation
We know how task allocation brings many benefits to organizations and their project teams. The question is how to get better at task allocation. Well, you don’t need to hire an expert in this field to achieve this goal.
As a project manager and team leader, how you allocate tasks across the team members is a critical factor in your organization’s overall success. Task allocation needs to be done smartly.
You would want people to do what they’re good at, so the quality and quantity of work are not compromised in any way.
Let’s take a look at some tried and tested tips to better task allocation in project management.
As the adage goes, failing to plan is planning to fail. Project managers need to create a concrete task allocation plan that outlines the following questions along with the right answers.
- How many tasks are to be completed within a set time frame?
- Who will be the team members that are going to be involved in the project?
- Which team members excel in what area, and who needs the training to improve his/her skills?
You want certain people to do certain tasks and you have shortlisted them in your plan. However, have you checked on them to find out whether they will be available to do planned tasks? It could be that their schedule is already packed to an extent that they’ll not get adequate time to dedicate themselves to a given date and time. So, make sure that you identify available resources so that you can plan and allocate tasks effectively.
Before your team commences on a project, schedule a group meeting and let every participant know what the outcomes would be. Every participant should know about his/her role in the project, but the manager should also see to it that there are no unrealistic expectations and goals.
Progress of the project and tasks should be apprised at regular intervals and so should the individual performance. This will help in checking whether your team is on the right track to meet the set project goals.
With remote work and social distancing applicable in many organizations, maintaining clear communication with all team members is critical to promote intra-team transparency. Having one-on-one conversations with team members about their share of the workload is vital to motivate and engaging employees.
As a manager, you also need to be an attentive listener to your team’s suggestions, ideas, and concerns. ProofHub’s Group Chat feature allows managers and team members to send and receive instant messages for the exchange of information.
“ Don’t let poor communication ruin your task allocation system. Keep the entire team on the same page with ProofHub. Book your DEMO .”
It always helps to divide big, complex tasks into smaller, manageable subtasks to make things easier and clear for project participants. It becomes easier to manage your workflow in case some tasks are to be rescheduled.
Also, creating to-do lists can reduce confusion and stress by bringing order into your workflow. The tick on the box makes you feel more satisfied and accomplished that you have completed some or most of your tasks. ProofHub offers features like Stickies and Bookmarks, which allow users to create To-Do lists.
As mentioned before, we, at ProofHub, never advocate and practice multitasking. We believe it halves the potential of your workforce when they have to perform multiple things at once. In project management, multitasking can plummet your team’s morale, productivity, and utility. These all can stoop down to an all-time low. Multitasking kills fair and even distribution of workload. Agreed, at times, it is difficult to avoid multitasking, but stay away from it whenever you can.
The best tool for task allocation – ProofHub
Smart task allocation cannot be achieved through spreadsheets. When it comes to project management, there’s so much for project managers to manage and supervise. You have to create tasks, divide them into subtasks , assign them to individuals or groups, set time estimates, and track their progress. Can you expect spreadsheets to help you perform all of these functions? I guess we know the answer already.
ProofHub is an award-winning team collaboration and project management software that helps project managers in more ways than one. Be it project planning, execution, sharing, and collaboration on tasks and projects , ProofHub allows project managers to have ultimate control over teams and their performance through powerful features in a centralized location.
So, how does ProofHub simplify task allocation? ProofHub’s strength lies in its long list of powerful features that cover almost every aspect of project management including task management.
Let’s take a look at all those advanced features that help project managers to evenly divide and allocate workload to the right people within the team. Using ProofHub, project managers can have a Bird’s eye view of all tasks-related activities from a single location.
Task allocation remains a challenge for even seasoned project managers, especially when you have to manage multiple projects and a plethora of tasks at once. ProofHub’s task management feature simplifies the entire process of task planning and assigning most easily and efficiently.
Using this thoughtful feature, project managers can create tasks and assign them to individuals or groups in one place. You can fragment large tasks into small, manageable subtasks. You can add labels, set the start and due dates, set time estimates, track time spent, create recurring tasks, and attach files, ensuring a clear distribution of job responsibilities in one place.
ProofHub’s all-new Table View easily removes the painstaking tediousness of dealing with unorganized tasks. With Table View, project managers can assign and organize tasks to bring more clarity to task allocation.
You can categorize different types of tasks, which makes it easy for assignees to understand what tasks have been completed and what tasks are still pending. The table view has functionalities that will ease down the exhausting process of searching for assigned tasks from a long list through color codes and categories.
Project managers can be used by project managers to give their team a clear idea of which task is a priority .
ProofHub’s table view offers the following features:
- A list-like structure makes it easy for teams to filter tasks according to priority
- You can choose to display or hide columns like task assignees, due date, task progress, etc.
- A single click enables you to add new columns
- Organize your work with powerful grouping and sorting.
- Check the subtask count and every information of about the task right from a single window.
The default fields offered in various PM tools may not be adequate when you feel the need to add more details to your tasks. Custom Fields in ProofHub enable you to add detail to your tasks according to your workflow requirements. Custom fields are descriptive spaces that allow you to add information that is unique to your project. Using this feature, project managers and team members can add the following custom fields:
“Use Custom Fields In ProofHub to add more detail and flexibility to your tasks. Subscribe NOW!”
Let’s take a look at the benefits of using Custom Fields in the task allocation process.
- You can add relevant and additional information that is not possible with fixed, default fields
- You can customize your workflow based on the unique requirements of your project
- You get more insight into work progress and task requirements
- It gets easier for you to access, filter, and sort your tasks and let your team know which task is a priority
- You can track budgets and costs that are related to your project or workflow
- A single custom field can be used for multiple purposes
With ProofHub’s Smart Task Allocation system, you can define roles, create private and group task lists, and give access control to only selected people who are assigned to do certain tasks. You can create custom roles and assign them to the team members, and choose what they get access to according to their responsibilities.
You can create Private Tasks and keep information limited to specific people whenever you want. IP Restriction feature enables you to restrict access to only selected IP addresses to avoid unauthorized access to keep your data secure.
Kanban boards in ProofHub allow project managers to visualize and prioritize tasks according to the project requirements. You can divide your workflow into as many sections as you want. Kanban give you a clear view of which task is in which stage. See work moving through multiple stages. Every time the task is moved to another stage, all people who are assigned to the task get notified. This helps to check the project’s progress as well as improve transparency within the team.
Gantt charts in ProofHub allow you to visualize and plan tasks to stay on your schedule. You can set dependencies between tasks and change your task allocation plans as work changes and deadlines shift. Set task dependencies, highlight critical paths, associate milestones , track progress, drag and drop tasks as work changes, export or print Gantt charts, and see all your Gantt data in one central place.
- Add tasks and task lists to the Gantt chart. Project managers can plan and schedule the task allocation order priority-wise, and visualize them in a timeline view
- Assign tasks to an individual or multiple people, ensuring a clear distribution of job responsibilities at one place
- Set dependencies between tasks and adjust schedules as both deadlines and work change
- Associate milestones with tasks and denote important dates such as desired completion dates and project review meetings on the project plan
- Track the progress of tasks with the percentage that gives a clear picture of how much work has been done and how much is left
- Limit visibility of task lists only to the assigned people with private tasks lists in the Gantt chart, making the most of ProofHub’s online Gantt chart
- Drag and drop tasks right in the chart to change their start or due dates and/or duration.
- Highlight critical paths to track the tasks’ status that directly affects the start/ end date of a project
- Export Gantt charts and keep a documented record to use for resource management , planning, and scheduling
- Print Gantt charts
- Use email-in to add tasks in the Gantt chart through email without logging in to your ProofHub account
- Import tasks and task lists from CSV files in Gantt charts without starting from the scratch
As a project manager, you should know where your team is spending all the time, how much time each task is taking to complete, which tasks are running on time, and which ones are running behind schedule time. ProofHub’s Time Tracking Software empowers project managers to keep all their time data in a central place.
Here’s what you can do with ProofHub’s time-tracking software.
- Add timesheets
- Set time estimates
- Bird’s eye of all-time data
- Track time manually
- Track time using timers
- Create custom time reports
- Export and Archive timesheets
- Mark timesheets as private
The Notifications feature in ProofHub makes it easy for both project managers and team members to get updates every time the task stage is changed, the task is assigned, or someone mentions other team member’s names in the comments to give instructions about tasks. You can get notifications even on the go through the app, desktop, email, and mobile notifications.
ProofHub’s Project Scheduling Calendar offers a single location to project managers and team members to schedule events, tasks, and milestones. You can set automatic reminders for recurring tasks, events, milestones, and tasks. You can have multiple views – daily, weekly, 2 months , and monthly . A Bird’s eye view for all calendars enables you to see all tasks, events, and milestones, without having to jump through projects.
The success of your project depends on the task allocation system that you execute in your organization for project management. It’s quintessential to assign tasks to the right people so they can do the work with minimal errors, in a quick time.
Using the best task allocation software can put aside your task assignment woes if you’re struggling with it. ProofHub offers powerful task management features in a centralized location and can be used easily by both project managers and team members.
Fixed pricing plans make ProofHub an affordable yet effective solution to all your task allocation problems. So, what are you waiting for?
Give ProofHub a try today and you’re likely to stick to it for a long time to come!
Task allocation is the way tasks are selected and allocated evenly and fairly to individuals and groups.
Task allocation is important because it encourages transparency and job accountability within teams as everyone knows what to work on and when.
Identify available resources
- Allocate tasks according to the assignee’s skills and abilities
- Set clear expectations
- Set realistic deadlines
- Communicate clearly
- Avoid multitasking
Task allocation is not a straightforward task. Learn to improve task allocation with the best software for simplifying complex task allocation systems.
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9 Tips to Better Task Allocation
It’s the start of the week. And you’ve been given a new project assignment which has to be completed as a group. This means then that you need to plan each and every step and decide how everyone will contribute. You’ve seen this in school, in college, and now in office too. The same strategy has to be utilized, with everyone being provided with an opportunity to lead a project in a particular manner.
With a project comes the multitude of components in the project to be executed. Different people in your team means different capabilities, and a standard expectation of quality and on-time delivery So the next question that comes in is as to how to divide and assign these properly so that the project output is efficient and effective. This is where task allocation comes in.
Have A Plan
As the popular adage goes, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. And each working hour is a step forward in the journey of your project and the impact it has on your business. So, set aside one or two hours at the end of each week for reviewing your delegation strategy.
This is especially important as you’ll need to ask yourself the following:
What are the achievement outcomes of the meeting?
Who are to be the involved players?
Which person performs well in what?
Who needs development in what areas?
A group call without a purposeful plan results in no one in the team learning how to execute the tasks. As a result, the team’s true potential will not be built, nor tapped into. Doing so requires calling in the right people , and placing them into groups as needed. Keeping this in mind, one such tool to help with this MultiCall. MultiCall is a calling app that allows group collaboration, be it your friends, family, or even your office team.
If a team member didn’t know what exactly their role was, would you be able to clearly allocate a task for them? Correct allocations of the tasks also means ensuring that the involved team members are clear on their roles. The more certain they are of their roles and responsibilities, the greater the efficiency and effectiveness in assignment and review of work. This is especially important in the context of letting everyone contribute as well.
Part of being a good manager is in the ability to maintain clear communication itself. This is quintessential for managers to perform basic functions in their role such as Planning, Organizing, Leading and Controlling. This is more so at this time of pandemic, with remote working and social distancing in place.
As a result, this directly affects task allocation too. Having individual conversations with team members about their share of the collective workload is critical to ensuring employees stay motivated and engaged. And besides that, this is a good opportunity to talk to your team members about their professional goals. It also allows for gathering and noting aspects on team dynamics, and resolve problems.
With minimal facilities, clear conveyance to the team with regard to information and thoughts is needed. Communication goes both ways; therefore it’s equally imperative to have the communication skill to listen and encourage input by others; and to motivate the other individuals to contribute ideas and solutions. MultiCall’s call-monitoring feature lets you add or remove participants as and when you require them during a group call, and to also see who’s speaking.
The aspect of being available is not just about you as a manager being flexible ; a person’s availability is also essential in properly allocating work. It also comes down to asking yourself as to who is free to do the work, and to prioritize resource of time accordingly.
And this can be done over a MultiCall too. The Call Scheduling feature lets you set the date and time for the call, with the ability to notify all contacts involved. And as time is money, the duration feature is also present which lets you set the call duration for up to 120 mins / 2 hours.
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U.S. Department of the Treasury
Treasury releases proposed guidance to continue u.s. manufacturing boom in batteries and clean vehicles, strengthen energy security.
WASHINGTON – Today the U.S. Department of the Treasury and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released proposed guidance on the clean vehicle provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) that are lowering costs for consumers, spurring a boom in U.S. manufacturing, and strengthening energy security by building resilient supply chains with allies and partners. Since the IRA was enacted, nearly $100 billion in private-sector investment has been announced across the U.S. clean vehicle and battery supply chain.
“The Inflation Reduction Act has unleashed an investment and manufacturing boom in the United States, and since President Biden enacted the law, ecosystems have developed in communities nationwide to onshore the clean vehicle supply chain,” said Secretary of the Treasury Janet L. Yellen . “The Inflation Reduction Act’s clean vehicle tax credit saves consumers up to $7,500 on a new clean vehicle and hundreds of dollars per year on gas, while creating American manufacturing jobs and strengthening our energy security.”
“President Biden entered office determined to reverse the decades-long trend of letting jobs and factories go overseas to China,” said John Podesta, Senior Advisor to the President for Clean Energy Innovation and Implementation. “Thanks to the Investing in America agenda and today’s important guidance from Treasury and the Department of Energy, we’re helping ensure that the electric vehicle future will be made in America.”
Today’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NRPM) provides clarity and certainty around the IRA’s foreign entity of concern (FEOC) requirements. To strengthen the security of America’s supply chains, beginning in 2024, an eligible clean vehicle may not contain any battery components that are manufactured or assembled by a FEOC, and, beginning in 2025, an eligible clean vehicle may not contain any critical minerals that were extracted, processed, or recycled by a FEOC. In conjunction with today’s Treasury NPRM, the Department of Energy has released proposed guidance defining what entities are a FEOC .
In addition to the FEOC requirement, clean vehicles must also continue to meet additional statutory criteria, including additional sourcing requirements for both the critical minerals and battery components contained in the vehicle, a requirement that vehicles undergo final assembly in North America, and a requirement that vehicles do not exceed a Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price of $80,000 for a van, pickup truck, or sport utility vehicle, or $55,000 for any other vehicle.
Foreign Entity of Concern Requirement
The NPRM provides proposed rules to determine whether applicable critical minerals (and their associated constituent materials) and battery components are manufactured or assembled by a FEOC for battery components, and extracted, processed, or recycled by a FEOC for critical minerals. The proposed rules would require manufacturers to conduct due diligence that complies with industry standards of tracing for battery materials.
Under the proposal, FEOC-compliance for battery components would be determined at the time of manufacture or assembly, and FEOC-compliance for critical minerals would be determined by reviewing all phases of applicable critical mineral extraction, processing, and recycling. For example, a mineral extracted by an entity that is not a FEOC but processed by an entity that is a FEOC would not be compliant. Compliant battery components would have to be tracked to FEOC-compliant battery cells, and cells could not be manufactured or assembled by a FEOC.
Critical minerals generally also must be traced. However, given that there is commingling in the critical mineral supply chains and suppliers may not be able to physically track certain specific masses of minerals to specific battery cells or batteries, the NPRM asks for comments on a temporary transition rule, under which critical minerals and associated constituent materials may be allocated to a particular set of battery cells. The battery cells would then have to be physically tracked to batteries and new clean vehicles using a serial number or other identification system.
The NPRM also asks for comment on a proposed additional transition rule as the automotive industry develops the ability to trace certain low-value materials with precision. The NPRM proposes a temporary transition rule through 2026 that would give the industry time to develop tracing standards for these low-value materials. The guidance asks for comment on the need for and design of such a rule, what materials should be included under this approach, and whether alternative approaches to such a transition rule would be more appropriate.
To allow compliant vehicles already on dealer lots and currently being manufactured to qualify for the credit while the rulemaking process proceeds, the proposed rules would provide a transition rule to expedite certification for new clean vehicles that do not contain battery components manufactured or assembled by a FEOC and are placed in service in 2024 between January 1 and 30 days after the rules are finalized.
The proposed rules would also create an upfront review system starting in 2025 that would provide additional oversight of FEOC compliance, as well as certainty to manufacturers. For new vehicles placed in service in 2025 or later, the IRS would track FEOC compliance via a compliant-battery ledger. Each year, automakers would be required to submit to the IRS an estimate of the number of FEOC-compliant batteries they expect to procure each year, along with supporting documentation, and the Department of Energy would review these submissions. Automakers’ balances would be adjusted to account for changes in the number of anticipated FEOC-compliant batteries and would be reduced as new credit-eligible clean vehicles are reported to the IRS. Once the ledger reaches zero for a year, the automaker could no longer submit vehicles as qualifying for the clean vehicle credit under section 30D.
Finally, the NPRM proposes a regime to incentivize compliance by automakers. Inadvertent errors may be cured; otherwise, the vehicle related to the error will no longer be credit eligible. If that vehicle has already been sold, the error would instead cause a reduction to the ledger.
Under the proposed enforcement framework, in cases of fraud or intentional disregard for the rules, all unsold vehicles of the automaker may be no longer eligible for the section 30D credit. The IRS may also terminate the automaker’s ability to qualify additional vehicles for the credit in the future. Treasury and the IRS will carefully consider public comments before issuing final rules.
Battery Component Requirement
To meet the battery component requirement and be eligible for a $3,750 credit, the applicable percentage of the value of the battery components must be manufactured or assembled in North America
- For 2023, the applicable percentage is 50 percent.
- For 2024 and 2025, the applicable percentage is 60 percent.
- For 2026, the applicable percentage is 70 percent.
- For 2027, the applicable percentage is 80 percent.
- For 2028, the applicable percentage is 90 percent.
- Beginning in 2029, the applicable percentage is 100 percent.
Critical Mineral Requirement
To meet the critical mineral requirement and be eligible for a $3,750 credit, the applicable percentage of the value of the critical minerals contained in the battery must be extracted or processed in the United States or a country with which the United States has a free trade agreement or be recycled in North America—as mandated by the Inflation Reduction Act.
- For 2023, the applicable percentage is 40 percent.
- For 2024, the applicable percentage is 50 percent.
- For 2025, the applicable percentage is 60 percent.
- Beginning in 2027, the applicable percentage is 80 percent.
Beginning in 2024, an eligible clean vehicle may not contain any battery components that are manufactured by a foreign entity of concern and beginning in 2025 an eligible clean vehicle may not contain any critical minerals that were extracted, processed, or recycled by a foreign entity of concern.
What does 'sus' mean? Understanding the slang term's origins and usage.
Was your lunch " mid ?" Did someone try to " rizz " you up? Did see that meme because " ijbol ." What do these phrases even mean, if anything?
Trying to keep up with every slang term and acronym used online can feel impossible. New terms seemingly pop up overnight, and each jumbled group of letters can look like gibberish.
Slang can be hard to understand, " iykyk ." But don't worry, we've got you covered. Here is what "sus" stands for and how to use it in conversation.
What does 'sus' mean?
" Sus " is an abbreviated form of "suspicious" or "suspect," according to Merriam-Webster. It is used to call out someone or something with questionable or dishonest motives.
Though usage of "sus" can be traced back to the 1920s, the term became popular in the 2020s thanks to the multiplayer online game "Among Us", Merriam-Webster reports .
In the murder-mystery game, one player is the "imposter," and others try to figure out who they are. Players often use "sus" to describe others who are acting strange and could potentially be the imposter.
Beyond gameplay, "sus" can be used in various scenarios, such as to call out someone for lying or to describe a person's actions as suspicious or out-of-character.
Looking for more? 'Bet', this annual list of slang terms could have some parents saying 'Yeet'
How to use 'sus'
Here's how to use "sus" in conversation:
- "That's kind of sus though."
- "Did you see what Ricky posted?" "Yeah, it was pretty sus imo ."
- "How long has the chicken been in the fridge?" "Not sure, but it looks sus."
Just Curious for more? We've got you covered
USA TODAY is exploring the questions you and others ask every day. From " Where do gnats come from? " to " Do AirPods work with Android? " to " How to make your Facebook private? " − we're striving to find answers to the most common questions you ask every day. Head to our Just Curious section to see what else we can answer for you.
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