Not surprisingly, The Forum has been asked more than ever “what should a Planning team look like?” Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple one-size-all fits answer. Fortunately, there are some key principles.
Start with why?
We need a Real-Time team! I think we could improve our forecasting! We need to do a shift review! These aren’t the reasons why you need a planning team.
Why does the Planning team exist? If it didn’t, what would happen, or what wouldn’t happen? Who would plan for the business and how would this be done? This is a good starting point that is often missed. By understanding the value to the business, along with responsibilities and accountabilities you can start to form a plan for the Planning team. This can provide a structure to the outputs and understanding of the healthy challenge you need to bring to meetings. This also makes it clear to the wider business and stakeholders what you are there to do and how you are there to make things better.
The Planning team is not there to just take work off team leaders, to create a forecast that few use, or administrate shift patterns and annual leave. The Planning team supports the business to implement its strategic vision including both long-term and short-term goals. It acts as the guardian of truth, helping the budget process by bringing stakeholders together with scenario modelling and what-if analysis. It supports the ongoing delivery of the plan, with dynamic modelling to support projects timelines, learning and development, absence, attrition and retention strategies. The Planning team designs and continually improves the allocation of resource with a workforce strategy aligned to flexibility and employee wellbeing. The team anticipates change, making the necessary adjustment and contingencies. They provide on-the-day operational insight, not just calls in the queue. Most importantly they drive understanding and learning which the business uses to succeed.
Scope of team
The team’s purpose is to optimise resources across different skill sets, different channels and probably across multiple locations/home working. Creating the necessary processes, communication channels, accountability and driving understanding and learning. You will need to understand the capability and limitations of technology and workload routing.
The extent of the purpose of the team depends on the level of service you are being asked to provide and the volatility of demand and supply in the workplace. For instance, the scope of the team, and therefore its size, will be different if the operation want a forensic view of levels of demand, at all stages from the very inception of the plan going forward when compared to when the operation simply wants ball-park demand forecasts and little involvement beyond administering the WFM system. Similarly, a business that understands that it is hugely volatile will probably demand more of a bigger Planning team than a more benign business.
The team will need the ability to integrate planning for customer communications, working across functional siloes and considering the end-to-end customer journey. Appling understanding to make holistic judgements within own role. Using knowledge to demonstrate how planning could help other areas and develop new approaches to optimise use of resources and drive customer experience improvements. Track and review customer experience, together with all stakeholders and drive learning in order to optimise resources and the customer experience. Ultimately, creating an operating environment that integrates customer communications and end-to-end customer journey planning.
Too often Planning teams still focus on inbound, maybe with some digital channels, and don’t have responsibility for back office operations, or other support teams. The best-in-class teams now have a broader responsibility looking at end-to-end planning across the business. This is where the real opportunity exists for Planning teams, designing, developing and delivering the workforce strategy across the business. Supporting the employee life-cycle from attraction through to transition either within or outside the business.
Now you have a clear understanding of your purpose, along with your current and possibly future scope of responsibility, you can start to prioritise your key deliverables. The reality is that you need to pay for this support team, to recognise the value it brings and the cost that it avoids. The next bit may be the hardest, as you need to recognise where you currently are culturally: is your business ready for this new team; are your stakeholders receptive?
You can’t change a culture overnight, but you can start to change the temperature. This is as much a journey of the business changing, adapting and adjusting to a new team, as it is redefining the team’s purpose. Changing the people in the team, developing new skills and even new technology can support change, however, if your stakeholders aren’t ready, they will remain in the old world, or as they claim “the good old days”.
By revealing how much more value you could add if only you had the bandwidth is a good way of changing that cultural view. Paint the picture of how the organisation, and the roles within it could look, if your team were bigger, stronger, more involved than they currently are.
The Forum Support
Building a new future takes time, so don’t expect instant change. One of the biggest mistakes we see, is people trying to do this alone, and then finding that the day-to-day and changing business priorities get in the way. Not asking for help, as they already know the answer, but then getting stuck because team and business are not moving at the same pace (and often in a different direction).
Using the networking of best practice is a good way of understanding how different organisations operate and have enabled change. It is also useful to know what stops other teams from developing, what their barriers and blockages are. This can help you to anticipate similar challenges and overcome them.
The Standards benchmarking framework can be used to help you to identify your current starting point and your priorities for change. This method is also good at raising the profile of the team, which starts the education for stakeholders. As Marcus Smith at Direct Line Group said “Standards provides you with the licence to operate”. Where you are already an established team, or your team doesn’t exist yet, the assessment process helps identify where Planning can add value to your business and provide you with a roadmap of recommendations.