Flexibility is more than Scheduling - Report from the 2012 Regional Seminars

September provided the chance to accelerate our work on flexibility with two regional seminars focussed specifically on the topic. These seminars followed the release of the flexibility tool-kit and provided more discussion of and evidence of the need for flexibility. These findings are being pulled together in a book on flexibility which will be available in late 2012/early 2013.

The regional seminars provided a great insight into the needs of our members, case studies from Direct Line Group and Carnival UK showed what is possible and the impact that successful flexibility can have. As Greg Rothney from Scottish Widows put it “I realise that flexibility is something within our grasp before the seminar it seemed distant”

The same old blockages still appear to be present, with legacy contracts and personalised shift patterns the biggest issues. Another area of concern is how WFM systems do or don’t support the need for flexibility, with several attendees needing work arounds to deliver what they need.

Return on investment can come in many ways including reduced FTE, reduced overtime costs, improved absence, adherence and attrition, reduced recruitment costs, improved employee morale and finally improved performance.

Our thanks go to our expert panels at both events, with representatives from BT, Carnival UK, Direct Line Group, Enterprise Rent a Car, Response and Three providing great insight into the role of forecasting, real time, MI and Operational buy-in, in delivering successful flexibility. “Discussion around how other areas (Forecasting, Real Time, MI) can support flexibility was really useful” Chris Bradwell, Everything Everywhere

Understanding the amount of flexibility we need is a key question to answer, whether longer term within our recruitment and scheduling process or on the day itself as tools for our real time teams. The answer to this question can then drive the strategic flexibility discussion within the business, where the true cost and potential savings can be understood. As Adrian Hawes from Aviva says, “Everything is possible, but maybe evolution rather than revolution is the best way to overcome resistance”.

The ingredients for success that were indentified are clear:

  • Get buy-in – selling your ideas at the top and at the bottom, engage union’s early, start the education around the need for change before you start discussions on the change itself.
  • Consistency and transparency – the approach used needs to be understood, keep it as simple as possible, have regular reviews and listen to people issues.
  • Give people some choice – although the choice may be limited to the shifts you need, it is important that there is a perception of choice and control.
Top tips on implementing flexibility options:
  • Consultation – the earlier the better, helps understanding and engagement with the changes.
  • Pilot schemes and volunteers – proving the concept through a pilot scheme and asking people to volunteer for an agreed period of time is a recognised approach particularly for previously untried initiatives. Often used for long and short shifts or annualised hours.
  • Education – don’t assume that people understand why the changes are needed; education is critical to success and should start as early as possible and at all levels.
Presentations from the regional seminars can be found Regional Best Practice Seminars 2012, if you weren’t able to attend why not join us at the National seminar on the 8th November 2013 which has a further session on flexibility.

Take a look at these articles, videos and links
Editor’s choice: Top Ten Articles for November 2012
KnowHow Case Study 2012: Homeworking and annualised hours
NHS Business Services Authority Case Study 2011: MyTime – flexible for our people and customers
Orange Awards Case Study 2008: Your Time offers lifestyle choices
Resources for Operational Performance Professionals
See the latest articles on Scheduling
Thames Valley Police Awards Case Study 2009: Being there for our customers
The flexibility toolkit


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