Labor cost in most companies is undoubtedly the most significant variable cost and one that can be optimized. Having the right person at the right time in the right place is a desire that sometimes becomes a challenge. The goals are always the same: minimize labor cost without affecting the desired level of service to achieve the highest level of customer service.
In order to achieve them, it is essential to pay attention to the following variables that directly affect these objectives.
1. Accurately predict your sales volume or activity
Predicting the level of activity or sales is the first challenge and starting point in the chain of decisions that will affect labor cost. With the wrong sales forecast it will be difficult to estimate the amount of labor needed and easy to make planning mistakes.
The forecast must have the necessary level of granularity in order to be able to provide a correct dimensioning, without forgetting that this dimensioning must be transferable to schedules executable by the staff. It is important to also consider the labor regulations and contracts with workers.
There are advanced analytical techniques that can accurately predict the sales or activity using historical data. Having tools based on these techniques is crucial to achieving a high level of precision planning.
2. Define the level of professional training of your workers and the skills needed for each position to achieve the expected level of service
In order to achieve a high level of customer service, it is essential to define the specific requirements of each job and have the staff with the appropriate level of knowledge and experience at all times.
It is important to reflect and define what training, knowledge and experience the staff should have in order to guarantee this level of service and to take it into account later in the configuration and team planning.
3. Size the team for each service based on the expected activity forecast and their professional capabilities to ensure a high level of service
At all times, you must size the team according to the expected activity and the desired level of customer service, taking into account the skills and aptitudes that the team must have in order to guarantee this service and without forgetting that current regulations and agreements may limit you from creating the ideal team.
The dimensioning must be granular in time to allow its execution and compliance. It must aim to balance the needs of the company with regulation and labor agreement compliance.
There are techniques in the simulation field that help employers identify the appropriate team size required for the desired level of service.
4. Create each team with the aim of minimizing labor cost but ensuring defined sizing over time
Once the optimal configuration of the team has been defined over time, it is time to choose each team member and define a specific schedule for each of them, so that the defined sizing is met.
This is undoubtedly one of the most complex steps. The planning generated, besides minimizing labor cost and guaranteeing a certain level of service, must comply with an endless number of restrictions and rules that can make forming a team a real challenge.
Apart from taking into consideration the availability of each person and the particular characteristics of their contracts, the planning must comply with all the rules and restrictions contained in the agreements and regulations. Employees must also seek equity among employees, taking into account the preferences of workers and a host of other restrictions (overtime, sick leave, holidays) that continue to add complexity to the scheduling problem. In addition, the problem becomes more acute if there is large equipment involved or the frequency of planning is high.
Fortunately, there are advanced analytical techniques in the field of operational research that can greatly help employers meet this challenge. These techniques make it possible to consider all the variables of scheduling and automate the generation of time tables that guarantee compliance with all the defined restrictions, proposing the most appropriate solution for the objectives set, such as the minimization of labor cost.
5. Measure and compare the proposed theoretical planning with the real one.
Measuring is the basis for knowing and understanding the results of the planning generated and how it approaches or moves away from the real needs of the business and its day to day.
Identify the indicators that allow you to analyze the process and become familiar with the precision of these plans in order to evaluate the result of each and every one of the previous steps. Each of them has contributed a grain of sand to the decision-making process that has resulted in the planning of staff and defined schedules.
It is the day to day that will tell if this planning has been the most adequate, and we can only evaluate it by measuring it.
6. Analyze the results of each day to identify the areas you need to improve and establish a process of continuous improvement.
Analyzing is the last step to understanding and identifying the areas of improvement and pinpointing which decisions have been wrong. This will also help us understand why we have not achieved the desired result.
The analysis should be based on all the information generated during the planning and the measures and indicators of productivity calculated in the previous step. It is therefore important that all relevant information is generated and stored throughout the planning process to support this analysis.
As a result of this analysis, actions and measures should be identified and carried out in some of the steps of the planning process, with the aim of improving the indicators that bring us closer to the ideal team and schedule.
This measurement and analysis should be continuous and frequent, as it is the basis for continuous improvement in the process of workforce management.
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