10 efficient workforce planning strategies

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Managing a large workforce across many units, sometimes in multiple countries, is far from easy. From your staffing levels and scheduling to making sure your labour costs are within budget and your forecasts are on point, there’s a whole range of elements involved in workforce planning and it’s a tough job to get right.

Yet having the right workforce planning strategies in place is essential for creating a happy workforce and when you have a happy workforce, you have a happy business with happy customers.


Here are 10 efficient workforce planning strategies we know will benefit you, your business and your workforce.


1. Get the right people in right place at right time

This is the cornerstone that all good workforce management strategies are built on. Having the right people in the right place at the right time enables you to deliver better customer service and have happier customers.

Just as bad rotas will cost you money, a good schedule will empower employees, deliver business intelligence, and can ultimately be the difference between success and failure in your business.

It’s your schedule that helps you put the right people in the right place at right time and, in order to create great schedules, you have to understand the needs of your employees, the needs of your business and be able to seamlessly integrate the two. To do this well, you’re going to need some help...


2. Find the right tools 

Trying to effectively manage your workforce by hand with multiple different systems can quickly lead to you and your managers becoming frustrated and dialing your stress levels up to maximum. There’s only so much you can do with pen, paper, and an Excel spreadsheet. A good business optimisation tool will automate your schedules based upon your forecasts, allow you to easily and effectively communicate with your staff, and will help power your payroll.

The right business optimisation tool will give you:

- An overview of your business at anytime, from anywhere
- Warnings if you’re going to go over your budgeted hours. 
- Managers who have more ‘customer-facing’ time
- The ability to make good decisions quickly
- A simple way to communicate with your staff
- Integrated task management
- An easy way for your staff to see when they are working, change when they are working, submit leave requests and ask for more shifts
- An unprecedented level of control over your schedules, budgets and forecasting


3. Respond to the needs of your business

While different tools to optimise your business are wonderful, they aren’t a magic wand. To get the most from them and see the best results, you need to understand your business. A great place to start is asking the following questions:

- When will your customers show up?
- What are your busiest times?
- When are your customers eager to buy?
- When do they need the most hands-on assistance?
- How is the business evolving?

The better your knowledge of your business, the better your workforce planning and management will be.


4. Smarter forecasting

Great forecasting is one of the key ingredients in your recipe for better workforce planning and management. It’s a fine art knowing and identifying what your staffing levels should be based upon historic customer demand - but by building up accurate forecasts you know when your peak times of business will be and how to schedule for them accordingly.

When you balance your planned costs against your results, you create the most profitable resource plan. Better forecasting goes hand in hand with smarter scheduling and gives you the data you need to make sure you always have the right people in the right place at the right time.

To create more effective forecasts you should take into consideration:

- Learn from the past. Use your historical data as a base
- The number sales broken down per hour and per employee
- The percentage of salary cost compared to sales
- Payroll cost
- Absence percentage which includes statistics on sick leave and vacation days
- The optimal setup of your staff including how many full time employees you need compared to part time.


5. Create better schedules

Better forecasting will help you create better schedules for your business but a good schedule should do more than this. Good schedules can do many things. They can help reduce labour costs, they can keep customer satisfaction high and they can generate more sales.

But can they make your employees happier? The answer, is, categorically, yes. Before we tell you why, it’s important to understand what life can be like for shift workers who rely on weekly or monthly schedules to see when they are working.

Rarely do shift workers have control of their schedules and, more often than not, they only get, on average, three days notice of the next week’s schedule. This can have a huge impact on their lives outside of work. It makes it highly challenging for them to plan their lives, with everything from family commitments to leisure time affected.

For part time workers, or people working in the gig economy, this also greatly increases the challenge of working multiple jobs and makes it incredibly difficult for them to calculate their income, as their hours can fluctuate wildly. By creating better schedules, you’ll make your staff planning and management much easier.


6. Communicate effectively

To rehash a well worn quote, the biggest problem with communication is the illusion it’s taken place. Find what works for you and your teams. Don’t be afraid to use modern solutions either. Sure, it could be a WhatsApp group or a Slack channel but, remember, if you’re using a modern workforce management solution then it can also become your communications hub and the primary channel you use to communicate easily and effectively with your staff.


7. Know what to measure

What metrics are you going to use to power your decisions and what information is crucial to you? Start with asking yourself what drives your staffing levels. Every business is different but, as a rule of thumb, you should be looking at:

Productivity
Sales
Customer flow
Footfall
Customer satisfaction

Of these, customer satisfaction is key. Happy customers and happy employees make for a happy and successful business. And highly satisfied customers are more likely to return to you again and recommend you to others. Customer satisfaction is notoriously difficult to measure, one simple way is using touch buttons with happy, neutral and sad buttons asking the customer how they feel about their experience.

Understanding the patterns of your customers will help you make sure you have the right number of people in your store, restaurant, hotel or office - this is why customer satisfaction is the most important metric.

And by putting customer satisfaction first, who can ensure your schedules are optimised to deliver the most value to your customers and, as a result, drive your sales forward.


8. Be flexible

With the right tools and technology in place, flexible working can allow businesses to improve productivity, save time, reduce costs, improve employee retention and boost employee happiness. While flexible working is by no means a silver bullet, offering employees the opportunity to work when and how they choose could see businesses rewarded with benefits to boost their bottom lines – as well as happy, motivated staff.


9. Hire well

You’re workforce planning will become exponentially easier if you hire well (and improve your staff retention). A great starting point here is to define your purpose and build a strong culture - then make sure your team and any potential new recruits buy into this purpose and culture.


10. Don’t neglect employee engagement

And finally, don’t compromise on your employee engagement. According to a study from Gallup, businesses with engaged employees see a 22% increase in profitability. This is because engaged employees are more productive. They go the extra mile, they work harder and they deliver more for you and your customers. There are countless ways you can improve employee engagement and we’ve put some of our favorite together for you here.

Download our free guide on strategic workforce management below to find out more.



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Johanna Fagerstedt, CMO at Quinyx

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