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The Gap Between HR and Operations

Oct 19 John Webster Wellbeing, Workplace Management, Workforce Planning, HR Software

pexels-photo-221310.jpegHuman Resources at large organisations strain under the lack of accurate information when it comes to short-term planning and the results can be catastrophic for the business and its employees. Ryan Air's COO stood down amidst ongoing controversy with the airline's struggle to manage rosters, leading to the cancellation of flights for over 700,000 travellers. In December last year, a 150 driver shortage at Queensland Rail saw people stranded all over the rail network on Christmas day, ultimately costing the minister in charge his portfolio. Why does this happen, and what's the solution?

Juggling the planning focus

HR won a seat at the big table in corporates many years ago, and for good reason.  People and culture are critical to maintaining a competitive edge. It's a function of HR to achieve a happy workforce where possible, just as much as it is to find the right mix of people to begin with. In fact, it's often argued that HR's function boils down to 2 simple things. To attract and retain talent. LinkedIn studies support this view with 39% of HR leaders identifying the quality of hire and 32% employee retention as the best measurement metrics tracking performance. No wonder then as a part of the C-suite, HR has developed reporting and management programmes that are in line with answering those needs and to report back to the Executive on success.

The Aberdeen group found in its 2014 survey on core HR practices, that workforce planning was the number one concern of HR departments. But what workforce planning is, depends on who you ask in the business. At the C-level, workforce planning is a process looking out a year or more to understand what skills the business needs to have to meet the challenges of the future. We argue that HR has 'inherited' this lopsided view of planning horizons, and work scheduling software doesn't account for all the scenarios HR are responsible for. 

In reality, Workforce Planning has at least 3 phases which have different focuses and call on different skills to manage.

  • Long term - (12 months plus) looking at types of work expected and the skill mix needed to drive that work. Allows business to undertake skills gap analysis and build training programmes & plan for budget.
  • Medium term - (3-12 months) Recruitment and training of new staff.
  • Short term - (now to 3 months) Who will manage the work.

wwwwh.jpgIn part because of their department focus on reporting to Executive, HR teams concentrate on the strategic view and leave the tactical or short-term planning to operations teams. On one level that makes sense because Operation's teams have domain knowledge of the shifts (eg who works well together, which shifts require better-skilled staff etc.). 

To put it another way, using the 6W's framework HR manage Why, What, When, Where and How, but it's up to a different team to manage Who. Because it's not the responsibility of HR to look any closer to the planning horizon, traditional HR solution developers (who service that market) don't do it either. And that's become a problem for HR. Why? Well, there's nothing to close the loop. In handing over the day to day management, HR has also handed over responsibility for a key factor in retaining talent.

Caught in a Spreadsheet Trap?

Operations teams often have to fend for themselves to build scheduling solutions. Our experience shows, even in very large organisations, this is typically managed with spreadsheets. Imagine for a moment that all the forward planning for your business for the next 4 weeks sits in a couple of dozen slightly different spreadsheets dotted across your network. None of them is the same format, they are released on different schedules, they don't report back to anything central and heaven help you if the person who built all the calculations in the background goes on holiday or leaves. 

HR's ability to see trends and exceptions is challenged by such a separation of duty. Added to this, you are further exposed from data "escaping" planning tools. Back to Ryan Air, The Irish News said,

" A flurry of flight cancellations in recent weeks due to rostering issues at the airline has sparked a chain of events  ...  which has seen a grassroots movement among Ryanair pilots to unionise in order to seek better employment conditions and pay."

At Queensland Rail, limited rostering flexibility combined with the need for manual intervention meant the organisation was unaware of the impending shortage and without tools to deal with the issue until it was too late to act. 

Highly manual processes are not only a time waster for teams to manage, they create a barrier for reporting which has ultimately caused the blowups at RyanAir and Queensland Rail. These, in turn, create issues with customer service and resentment amongst staff impacting retention.

Staff scheduling needs to feedback to HR so that issues that impact on a corporate level are understood. Employee scheduling software can resolve both these issues, automating the roster build and manage exception reporting highlighting potential shortages

Manage the planning last mile

Shiftiez is designed to fill in these gaps left by HR solutions. We flip the rostering process on its head by co-planning shifts with staff to understand their availability. Shiftiez highlights planning issues for reporting and can be run by anyone, creating a standardised, repeatable roster that gives staff a say in the planning process and creating a more engaged workforce. Studies show that giving staff a say in work-life balance, reduces sick leave, increases retention and creates a more positive workforce. Interested in learning more? Contact us for more details.

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John Webster

Written by John Webster

John is the Founder and CEO of CoRoster. With a background in running IT teams, he founded CoRoster to look for ways to improve people's work/life balance through technology.