Time for change

28 February 2012

Accurately forecasting the peaks and troughs of supply and demand in business is difficult at the best of times. In the current volatile economic climate, many are finding it almost impossible. For instance, in the latest survey by the institute of directors, 38.5 per cent of businesses believe that the UK is at ‘high or very high’ risk of slipping back into recession, while the latest figures from the manufacturing sector show stronger than predicted growth.

However, for those willing and able to adapt, turbulent times can be a great impetus for change – an opportunity to think differently about how the business is operating and staffed. And it does not have to spell redundancies. For example, there are lessons to be learned from seasonal businesses, such as the hotel and leisure industry, or manufacturing companies with fluctuating demand, such as architectural coatings and certain food producers. Accurate shift and roster planning for these businesses is crucial, as is the ability to rely on skilled staff whether it is low or high season. Many have turned to working time change strategies and lean employee resourcing as a solution. Changing the way staffing levels are regulated has helped many businesses through the last recession, in a variety of industry sectors. In fact, in many cases it has overhauled how they operate, helping them not only to improve efficiencies, but also boost employee morale, secure jobs – and keep customers happy. So what are the key considerations before embarking on a working time change programme?
  1. Get expert help – This is a complex process, which requires careful planning and execution to succeed. It is also important to fully understand the implications of working time regulations and the impact of shift working on health and safety, for instance.
  2. Identify the team – Decide who is best driving the project internally. Make it a small but effective team, ensuring there are representatives from a cross section of affected business areas to ensure people get behind it.
  3. Define the problem – Map out the situation to understand the key issues. This includes a thorough evaluation of demand changes through the day, weeks, months and year.
  4. Communicate and educate throughout – It’s essential to keep everyone updated to ensure they stay engaged and willing to embrace the change at the end of the process.
  5. Continuous evaluation and improvement – The business landscape is constantly changing and it is essential to stay tuned in to stay ahead.
☛ Kevin White is the managing director at Working Time Solutions, organisers of the Working Time Forum 14-15 March 2012
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