In my previous article (Pattern-based planning of working time), I wrote about the support of the working time planning process by an IT system based on patterns (calendars, shift schedules). In online mode, it indicates the mistakes that were made during the planning, so that they can be corrected on a regular basis. In this part, I will try to explain the automatic planning of working time schedules, which can be simply called planning of the appropriate staffing. The entire process happens in one place, basing on a demand for a certain number of employees.
Automatic employee management instead of scheduling patterns
What if you reverse the way of thinking about preparing a work schedule and let the IT system prepare the first version of it in a completely automatic way? Does this type of planning make sense for every organisational unit? What will be needed for this? I will try to answer these questions one by one.
If the work is done in a basic working time system, with a one-month settlement period, and if there is no need to provide a sufficiently numerous staff which has specific competencies / qualifications, it is enough to automate planning on the basis of patterns (see the previous article: Pattern-based planning of working time).
However, if we are dealing with:
- variable demand for a certain number of employees depending on the seasonality or stock of orders,
- an equivalent working time system,
- settling periods longer than one month,
- variable competence / qualification needs resulting from the backlog of orderseach time there is a need to plan the right cast. What if it was possible to order the preparation of a plan to an IT system and only to control or slightly correct the result of the automatic operation?
The system module will automatically create the first version of the work plan and present it as a schedule. Such a schedule will then be approved by the superior of a given unit.
Creation of automatic plans – criteria
What data and type of information should be provided for the system to generate such a plan? These are for sure:
- conditions of employment (types of employment, day jobs, determination of the degree of disability or other limitations of a given employee),
- a list of the Labour Code rules, which the planning algorithm allows to verify on an ongoing basis,
- competencies / qualifications, training, eligibility,
- number of needed employees with a given competence / qualification or occupying a given position in the period of time we are interested in (e.g. needed at a given time of the day, on a specific shift, etc.); this amount results from the production / sales plan or other activity appropriate for the organisational unit,
- information on absences – about ongoing absences, specifying the type of absences and their duration,
- information on planned absences (e.g. due to holiday) or other schedule requests that may be important for the correct preparation of the plan.
System – parameters and operation of the algorithm
It should be remembered that we are dealing here with a kind of simulation, therefore the parameters controlling a given algorithm may also be important. This is about considering or ignoring a specific planning criterion, such as unaccepted holiday requests, using overtime or other employee schedule requests. It is also necessary to forecast the transmission of other parameters for the algorithm – for example the level of competences / qualifications required from the company’s employees.
As a result of the operation of such an algorithm, we will receive a proposition of a plan or a list of errors about why such a work schedule cannot be correctly arranged.
Analysis of errors basing on data
The analysis of such a list of errors must be carried out by the unit’s superior or a person from HR. Its results can lead to different conclusions. Some will be relatively easy to implement, for example:
- to train a greater number of employees in a given scope,
- to hire employees from the Temporary Employment Agencyand others more complex and expensive:
- to change the system when it comes to working time or the settlement period,
- to start recruiting for specific positions.
At the same time we should not forget that our goal was to ensure the appropriate staffing for the proper implementation of production / sales or other tasks that a given organisational unit deals with. Therefore, information about the impossibility to plan the staffing should return to the production / sales planning system. What for? To take appropriate actions, e.g. to change and correct the plan, resulting in a reduction in the number of employees needed or the spreading of the demand for them in a longer term. Such a feedback loop is shown in the diagram below.
Automatic schedule – benefits for companies
Since planning is fully automated, it can be repeated many times – after receiving new data on the demand for employees or after changing the planning parameters (even if the work is done remotely). Thanks to this, the work of direct superiors on the work schedules of their employees is minimised. They no longer need to spend hours or days scheduling for their subordinates, taking into account their holiday plans, overtime, or other factors that affect their work. At the same time, the system gives the provision of appropriate staffing for production / sales / service or other processes that are characteristic for particular organisational units.
In the next articles about work time management processes, I will try to suggest another ideas to relieve middle-level employees from the administrative activities related to managing their team.
expert in the eq system business analysis department
Have you got any comments or questions? Contact Tomasz Jeleń.