Why Focussing on Enhanced Labour Planning has never been more worthwhile

Recent statistics published by HMRC revealed a total of 29.3million salaried workers on payrolls in the UK in October, up from around 27 million in 2015.

With ONS data from October also showing nearly 1.2 million open vacancies, the signs of strain within the labour market are clear for all to see, with almost daily news bulletins from different industry sectors outlining employers’ issues with recruitment and retention.

Obviously, much has changed over the last two years and for companies who have grown accustomed to the safety blanket of last-minute calls to agencies to plug their labour shortage gaps now finding they can’t just pull in 100 people at the last minute any more, something needs to change.

We are witnessing a seismic shift in the labour market, with workers currently holding the upper hand, forcing many employers to address labour planning in more depth, which is where Libra Consulting come in.

Unsurprisingly, we are involved in more enhanced labour planning projects than ever before. So, what do we do and how do we help?

A usual starting point for Libra Consulting on a project is to consider long-term planning; looking at the last year to make projections for the future, including taking any peak trading periods into consideration. It’s important to also incorporate forecasting by employee skill level and type into these projections, to identify gaps in the workforce.

We often find clients are very fiscally-driven; “I’m doing this amount of work today, so I need to do it for this amount of budget – off you go!”

However, with the ability to step back and look at the data in detail outside of the constraints of day-to-day operations, we work with our clients to workshop potential improvements and make long-range planning decisions.

How can we better put labour out there?

What decisions could we make around training, recruitment and using equipment in different ways?

Our aim is to put detailed plans and contingencies in place so that potential issues can be planned for in advance and nasty surprises are avoided.

We use a detailed labour planning tool, working with the data to help analyse what efficient labour planning should look like in the future. We often find that businesses haven’t realised their demand patterns have changed and aren’t aligning their labour plans optimally.

Contingency planning is also a big part of this process. What happens if we have material shortages or large numbers of staff self-isolating? How can we design risk out?

All processes need to be more robust and we need to go over the plans in a lot of detail. We need a plan B, C, D and E all ready to go.

The detail of the here and now is also important. Our aim is to create a flexible environment that can facilitate last-minute changes where required, albeit last-minute changes that have been modelled and planned based on different scenarios. By adopting this approach, these inevitable last-minute changes become more manageable, more cost-effective, and less chaotic.

Reporting tools are also crucial. Optimising labour planning is a continual and iterative process.

What went well and what didn’t?

How well did any agency staff perform?

Are we getting the most out of our workforce or “throwing bodies at things”?

Traditionally, businesses would look at long-term planning from the perspective of material requirements and capacity plans. However, bringing labour planning into the fold higher up instead of presuming it will drop out of the bottom of the plan is crucial.

Given our projects typically generate a ROI of in excess of 3:1, the cost of this type of project is easily justified by the benefits it delivers, including to people’s stress levels!

But what does the future look like?

Whilst there is still some uncertainty over the future direction of the labour market in this ‘new normal,’ the days of easily hired-in agency labour are behind us and new ways of working must be found.

Increasingly employers are questioning traditional shift patterns. Whether it’s “the 9-5”, “mornings” or “afters”, why are we so rigid with the shift patterns we have?

Is there an alternative that could work better both for the business and their employees?

Could adding flexibility improve staff retention without negatively impacting output and margin?

In a competitive marketplace for employers, the first companies who can properly address flexibility within their shift systems will be at the head of the queue for prospective candidates.

If you would like to discuss how we might be able to help you with your labour planning, please contact Michael Carson (michael.carson@libraeurope.com)


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