Long-term human resource planning: boost flexibility and transparency

Why long-term human resource planning is growing in importance

The global COVID-19 pandemic has instilled a sense of unease in many companies, with survival often hanging in the balance. In this new reality, priorities have shifted abruptly, focusing on employee well-being, adapting to new regulations, and efficiently transitioning back to a post-lockdown "new normal." However, the uncertainty persists.

As the threat of a second wave looms and economic setbacks remain possible until the pandemic is under control, businesses must exhibit exceptional adaptability to sustain smooth operations, even during challenging times. But how can one plan flexibly when surrounded by constant uncertainty and unpredictability?

Shifting the focus of workforce planning

The solution lies in a fundamental shift in workforce scheduling. Rigid shift models and inflexible schedules are no longer suitable in today's ever-changing markets. This shift predates the pandemic and is a response to the evolving business landscape. Volatile order volumes, rapid economic fluctuations, and short product life cycles demand digitized, strategic planning.

This shift is essential across all sectors, whether in manufacturing, retail, logistics, services, or healthcare. Too often, companies concentrate solely on operational aspects, neglecting long-term personnel deployment planning. However, strategic planning in this regard can confer significant competitive advantages.

Fostering flexibility through capacity planning

Recent years have witnessed substantial changes, with paper records, pens, and blackboards giving way to digital solutions. But is this transition enough? Particularly in turbulent times, it's vital not to lose sight of the long-term perspective in personnel planning. While short-term planning for weeks or months may seem more immediate, it can sometimes overlook critical factors. Strategic capacity planning offers far greater flexibility.

By recognizing overstaffing and understaffing well in advance, proactive measures can be implemented, such as adjusting holiday quotas or deploying employees across departments. Peaks and troughs in demand can be cushioned, eliminating the need for costly last-minute responses like temporary staffing.

Aligning demand and capacity

Consider a concrete example of this entire process. How can you determine whether there's overstaffing or understaffing during your planning period? The first step is comparing your demand with your existing capacity. Demand can be extrapolated from historical data, imported from existing systems like production planning, inventory control, or order management, or actively calculated using software like the ATOSS Staff Efficiency Suite. Once you have your requirements, you match them against available capacity—specifically, your workforce. Strategic planning hinges on maximum data transparency. By examining these two datasets, discrepancies become evident. Additionally, employees may not always be available as needed, due to holidays, illness, training, etc. Accounting for absenteeism helps estimate a realistic capacity supply for the future, ideally using reliable figures such as historical sickness rates or training records.

With this transparency, you have a solid foundation for identifying overstaffing or understaffing. This clarity provides a platform for early strategic action, enabling cross-departmental deployment, early employee training, holiday quota adjustments, personnel structure changes, and flexible alignment of weekly hours with demand. As a result, demand, workforce deployment, and costs are harmonized over the long term, ultimately providing companies and employees with a crucial asset—maximum flexibility in working hours, regardless of economic conditions.