Planning Flexibility

During 2014 we took our members on a challenge to understand the volatility of their workload and flexibility requirement for their company, customers and colleagues. This year the challenge has been productivity and a deep dive into the world of shrinkage, to understand how 100% of time (and cost) is split. In preparation for the final round of workshops I thought it would be good to remind ourselves of the 10 critical factors of understanding from each of these challenges.

10 critical factors for understanding Volatility & Flexibility
  1. Understand how predictable, or uncertain, the need for flexibility is
  2. Analyse the scale of variability
  3. Know when your need for flexibility occurs. Is it annually, seasonally, weekly or daily?
  4. No single tool will be sufficient to meet the range of requirements from your people
  5. It’s unlikely you will need all tools; we don’t face all the problems all of the time!
  6. It is essential to have a really good understanding of what each tool can be used for
  7. A flexibility strategy with multiple options can extend your recruitment pool and help you offer new choices to people
  8. The purpose of a flexibility strategy is to evolve working practices and shift trade-off patterns that are sustainable
  9. Articulate the benefits to different stakeholders and create understanding of the range of options available.
  10. Don’t base your flexibility strategy in response to today’s problem
10 Critical factors for understanding the Productivity Journey
  1. Benchmarking and categorisation, the breakdown of activities and sub-activities will be bespoke for each organisation, however for effective benchmarking we need to be working towards the same “master” categories.
  2. Sight of 100%, this is most important to understand the impact each change has on the other categories.
  3. Don’t flat line, it is rare for an activity to remain constant throughout the year without any variance, therefore factor the variability in your plan.
  4. Forecast like you would for workload, understand historical patterns and future projections, plan in for the known and consider the unknown
  5. Analyse the data to understand the outliers and identify performance management opportunities
  6. See the interconnection and understand cause and effect. Does sickness increase due to high contact time, or low wait time? How is attrition impacted by changes within the planning wheel? How is quality and customer experience affected by reduction in training time?
  7. Induction and new starter plans. The productivity of new starters will be different so this needs to be planned somewhere.
  8. Overtime, if you use overtime don’t assume that 100% of this time is within customer contact. Short periods of overtime may be, however longer periods will need breaks and maybe offline activities included.
  9. Understand and agree how granular you need to go. Understanding shrinkage by intra-day level may be of benefit, or it could lead to analysis paralysis. However monthly probably won’t give you enough insight.
  10. Track all categories and regularly report and review to evolve planning models and performance management opportunities
In addition to the above factors it is crucial that we engage with our stakeholders and educate them to make them realise the benefit of a strategic framework for forecasting, scheduling and operational/tactical management.

“Ensure your analysis does not only focus on customer demand workload volumes.”

With over 50% of an employee’s time spent away from customer contact there should be analysis of this time to understand if it can be better managed.

Our most recent benchmark survey showed that 19% of time was split between absence, sickness and holidays (often abbreviated to ASH). Your employees are entitled to annual leave which is typically between 20 to 25 days plus the bank holidays. Some organisations offer more based on length on tenure, whilst others offer the opportunity to buy or sell leave. The challenge of annual leave planning is balancing the need/demand from your colleagues against that of the company, customer and workload. Yet, different times of the years can be more popular for time off than others. The question is what happens when annual leave is declined and how does this impact other factors like: sickness & absence, morale, quality and attrition. Sickness is going to happen and we need to be realistic about the amount we budget/plan for. However, can it be better controlled and kept to a minimum? Could better shift patterns and greater flexibility reduce sickness, could improve annual leave allocation also have a similar effect? 
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