Unfortunately in these times downsizing a team does not always mean losing dead wood. It does not create a happy team where the surplus people who weren't doing anything are now gone. It means fewer people doing more work. In this way your team need to have top notch Excel skills and the latest Excel package in order to increase their productivity and reduce errors.

As a manager, training your remaining team will ensure that they are able to cope and prevent you making unreasonable demands which will only cause frustration to all. You need to be aware that employees can only be pushed so far and overworked, frustrated employees make more mistakes. Giving them a way to prevent human errors by increasing their skills in Excel will be beneficial to all concerned. How about them having an Excel crash course?

One advantage of Excel skills in practice is the analysing of a wide range of data efficiently. Staff can use Excel functionality such as filters to locate specific data easily. They can also use the advanced, yet user- friendly charting capabilities to analyse and present data in a way that everyone can understand it. The days of having to trawl through thousands of records are over. Excel's new charting capabilities can even put a tiny chart in a single cell.

With these new skills, employees may well be able to improve the current spreadsheets. With fewer team members, this is a good idea since data needs to be stored, located and updated efficiently and without errors. But how can you achieve this? One of the more obvious ways to start is through Excel 2010 conditional formatting. A simple example would be to add a rule to the worksheet that flags up values that are out of a particular range.

For example, a sales sheet where a sale is less than thirty pounds might not be financially viable and may need to be reconsidered. Fewer people will mean less time to manually keep an eye on such things and then flag them up to management. Rather than leaving it to the risk of human error and wasting time manually checking, a validation rule can be added to ensure any cells with thirty pounds or less will have a red background. This will be visible at a glance and will save time, thus boosting productivity. Staff members should not have to spend a great deal of time entering and checking data manually, they should be free to spend that time analysing the data.

Another way of using the conditional formatting to allow easy analysis is for a list of values. Conditional formatting in Excel 2010 has data bars, colour scales and icons which can be applied to entire column of data in one simple step. This leaves a column where the lowest numbers or coloured red, scaling the colours up to the highest numbers which are green. This avoids having to highlight and sort data on this column or adding a chart to see which values are the highest. Excel 2010 has many such additions which makes data analysis highly user friendly. If you haven't already upgraded, it may be time to do so, especially since it is highly intuitive allowing users to perform complicated tasks easily.

Another example of improvements to a sheet could be to add data validation rules to include records that are in a particular time period where an employee is on holiday and therefore not able to work on the date. Any records that are in this time period could be flagged and an error message will appear. It is better to increase Excel skills so that such improvements can be made which will enable greater amounts of work to be taken on by employees. Reducing time wastage should be a key focus at this point. Validation rules can also be added to prevent staff members entering incorrect data.

One frustration for managers can be duplicate data on a sheet. This can be very problematic when data is used for reporting purposes and can be a result of user error when entering data into a sheet or database. Imagine a sheet which is going to be used for a client mailing list. One person has entered a client, but another missed that and entered the same client address with a slightly different client name. This would send out two letters to the same address with two different names. You now have fewer people to manually check for such errors, but Excel 2010 has excellent duplicate checking capabilities. Searching on the address column could immediately show any duplicate records and the sheet could be adjusted.

If you have been forced to downsize your team, upgrading to the latest Excel version and increasing the Excel skills within your team could at least help to make downsizing less frustrating for all concerned. One employee may have taken on the work of two, but at least you have given the employee the best tool available and skills which will make it a viable achievement. There is no point in giving them unrealistic challenges and an employee that can see you are at least attempting to invest in skills to help make their job easier will be happier and more productive in the long run.