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Why continued Brexit uncertainty is pushing workforce planning up the agenda 

It’s safe to say that not many things are certain around Brexit…apart from uncertainty itself. 


This leaves ports and airports in a particularly tricky position. 


The ability to respond quickly to whatever change emerges will be crucial to avoiding operational problems or capitalising on opportunities. 


Businesses with legacy workforce planning and management systems are likely to find themselves at a significant disadvantage. 


Recognition of the need to modernise systems and approaches appears to be behind a significant growth in demand from the sector for our shift working optimisation software and services. 


Many ports and airports realise that, no matter what the eventual outcome of the Brexit process, ensuring shift patterns and rota schedules can be adapted to align with fluctuating demand is becoming an increasingly strategic priority. 


This article briefly explores how businesses in the sector can ensure they have the shift working technology and know-how needed to plan for any eventuality and manage change effectively. 


Demanding demand   


Airports and ports face similar planning challenges created by volatile demand. 


This includes:  


  • A constant flow of [incoming and outgoing traffic/passengers] with significant intraday variations. 


  • Short notice changes driven by weather and other external influences. 


  • Detailed checks which can slow down processes if there is a backlog. 


  • Significant interdependencies across departments and locations. 


  • Fluctuating seasonal demand across the year. 


Despite this demand profile, many businesses maintain shift patterns and rota schedules that are inflexible and unable to respond to unplanned events.  


This can lead to crunch points where the workforce doesn’t match the workload and there isn’t the capacity available to service demand.  


Ultimately this impacts customer satisfaction and delays have knock-on effects right through the operational chain. 

To address this, forward-looking businesses are introducing Demand-Led Rostering, a resourcing model that uses optimised shift patterns and rota schedules to align supply and demand and provide built in ‘flex’ to manage unplanned volatility. 

By undertaking rigorous analysis of labour supply and labour demand data, a unified model can be established which enables more accurate forecasting of requirements.  

Crucially it also supports ‘what-if’ scenario planning, ensuring the impact of change on working time can be modelled, anticipated and addressed.  

Managing through change 


In addition to enhancing workforce planning through Demand Led-Rostering, considering the day-to-day management of shift workers will be key if ports and airports are to ensure they are truly change-ready. 


Non-specialist or multiple spreadsheet-based systems often fall well short of requirements when it comes to managing shift patterns and rota schedules within a dynamic, complex environment.  


For example, we have talked to several organisations recently that have up to six or seven processes and systems for recording holidays.  


Coupled with misaligned supply and demand and out-of-date practices, this creates a huge administrative burden that needlessly costs time and money and frequently leads to oversights and errors.    


In our experience, businesses in this sector require: 


  • A ‘live’ view of cover to support on-the-day resourcing decisions. 


  • The ability to manage variances such as sickness and absence quickly and accurately, avoiding costly capacity gaps, admin overhead and payroll errors. 


  • Visibility over hours worked to maintain working time compliance and alignment with other regulations and standards, particularly for demanding roles.  


  • To be able to quickly assign teams with the right combination of skills to specific operational areas. 


  • Self-service so that employees can efficiently book time off and make shift swaps remotely and from their own devices. 


  • A secure database of working time that can be analysed to identify opportunities for optimisation and to feed other planning and reporting systems.  


It was feedback from customers in ports and airports that helped inform the functionality of the latest version of our cloud-based WORKSuite® software. 


We know how frustrating and costly it can be for businesses in the sector to have little control or flexibility in the way they manage their workforce. 


If you’re looking at ways to optimise how you manage and schedule shift workers on a day-to-day basis, we’d be more than happy to give you a personal demo of how the software can be deployed effectively for your business. 


Employer brand 


Recruiting and retaining a skilled, motivated and diverse workforce will be essential if ports and airports are to capitalise on future growth opportunities created by change.  


Record levels of employment and increased scrutiny of employment practices such as zero hours is creating a highly competitive market, where shift patterns are increasingly seen as a key differentiator. 


Designing and managing optimised shift patterns can support working conditions and a work-life balance that appeals to candidates and helps maintain a healthy, happy workforce. 


It also allows employers to create patterns that suit a broader set of demographics.  


This is particularly important if organisations are facing a ‘skills cliff’ and want to offer a more gradual path to retirement for experienced employees and more flexibility to attract millennials and working parents. 


Working Time Solutions has decades of experience in helping design, implement and maintain highly productive and appealing shift working environments. 


If you’re interested in exploring the topic in more detail, we’re hosting a Workforce Planning Masterclass on 16th May 2019 in Manchester city centre. 


The day will involve a mix of informative presentations, interactive exercises and case studies from industry leaders.   


Senior representatives from United Utilities and Unison will be keynote speakers, providing a unique opportunity to hear first-hand how the UK’s largest listed water company and biggest trade union approach shift work optimisation.Click here for details.


You can also arrange a free 1-2-1 consultation with one of our experts via our Shift Planning Clinics. 

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