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Workforce Planning Masterclass review

Workforce productivity and resilience has become a major focus for employers given current economic uncertainty, a highly competitive labour market and changes to working time legislation.

Working Time Solutions regularly host Workforce Planning Masterclasses to provide guidance on how to design optimised shift patterns and implement systems such as annualised hours and demand-led rostering.

This post provides a brief overview of our recent educative events which took place in Manchester and Loughborough.

These Masterclasses provided delegates with an introduction to the fundamentals of Working Time, practical tips, illustrative case studies of recent change projects and advice from employment law and health and safety experts.

Check here for information on future events.

Improving productivity and worker well-being

Working Time Solutions opened the Masterclass by highlighting how shift pattern design and ongoing management is rapidly moving up the agenda for organisations faced with a perfect storm of low productivity, rising wage costs, a competitive labour market and economic uncertainty.

The session highlighted how the root cause of spiralling labour and agency costs and employee wellbeing issues is often legacy working practices.

It explored key areas which need to be addressed…including designing shift patterns that respond to variability in demand, whilst remaining efficient, safe and appealing to the workforce.

Nuts and bolts:

Martin Gee, a Director at Working Time Solutions, provided delegates with a solid grounding in Working Time fundamentals. This session looked at the factors that influence labour supply and demand, the importance of employee engagement in the change process and the need to keep an open mind when exploring multiple shift pattern design options.

He looked at the forecasting challenges posed by constant, volatile, cyclic and seasonal demand patterns and how additional complexity is introduced by a wide range of variables including holidays, training and sickness.

Delegates put their workforce planning skills to the test by taking part in a range of exercises designed to highlight the difficulty of creating shift patterns that meet both the needs of the organisation and its employees. 

The session closed with a demonstration of how technology can be used to overcome many of the challenges highlighted by delegates.

A recipe for success:

Delegates had the privilege of hearing Keith Frostick from Pladis Global (formerly United Biscuits) speak in detail about a major project to modernise working patterns at McVitie’s production site in Manchester.

The business needed to make some significant adjustments to its operations to remove complexity, increase flexibility and respond to changing customer demands.

This required a complete overhaul of Working Time including reducing the number of shift patterns used from 26 to a suite of three and introducing annualised hours contracts for over 500 employees.

The McVitie’s site is now enjoying the benefits of increased productivity, moving up to a 7-day operational window and the ability to respond quickly to variable demand without relying on overtime or agency workers.        

21st century coastal protection:

We also heard from Matthew Briggs, HR Strategic Partner for The Maritime & Coastguard agency – one of the four ‘999’ Emergency Services.

He described how the organisation is faced with the twin challenges of responding to rising but unpredictable 24/7/365 demand whilst delivering improved cost efficiencies.

Key to achieving this was designing shift patterns that would allow its operational structure to change from an area-based concept to a national network with a high degree of interoperability and flexibility.

Matthew talked through the challenges he faced and the absolute importance of employee engagement during the stages of design, implementation and continuous improvement.

Health & safety:

Masterclass delegates heard from Julie Bell from the Health & Safety Laboratory (the commercial arm of the Health and Safety Executive) who gave an overview of fatigue, the implications it can have and how best to mitigate risk.

Julie highlighted how service issues, injury, reduced productivity and ill health is linked to fatigue and how it is often caused by poorly planned shift patterns leading to employees working long hours.

She emphasised the legal duty for employers to manage risks, irrespective of any individual’s willingness to work extra hours or preference for certain patterns.

In addition to the human, reputational and legal impact, Julie revealed that workplace accidents related to fatigue currently costs UK industry over £240 million per year.  

Legal advice:

We were also joined by Stephen Mutch, Senior Associate at law firm Pannone Corporate LLP, who provided legal guidance around the risks of using agency workers to meet demand.  

Stephen focused on the rights afforded to agency workers under the Agency Workers Regulations when they have completed 12 weeks work with an organisation.

He provided useful tips on how employers can set up systems that help minimise risk and liability, particularly within the contracts they agree with the supplying agencies.

Further information:

Use these links if you would like further information on any of the topics above, or check here for information on future events.

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