Workforce Management Trends in 2018

by Dr. Jörg Herbers

Recognizing trends early and seizing opportunities is always an issue for all companies, especially at the start of a new year.

What will be the central topics of workforce management in 2018?

Some trends are very dynamic and short-lived. The workforce management trends in 2018 are certainly not among them. Instead, they are the consistent refinement of an emerging development over the last 2-3 years.

Some of the current topics have been the subject of controversial debate for a long time. The decisive difference in 2018 will be a shift in focus, resulting in new quality levels. In the past, the focus was often primarily concerned with the objectives and tasks of staff scheduling. The central question here was “what?”: What are the goals and tasks of staff scheduling within the respective company, and what do they contribute to the company's overall success?

Thanks to an intensive examination of the subject matter, many companies have made significant progress. For them, the focus is no longer on "what?", but on "how?". These companies have long known what workforce management contributes to the success of the company. They are looking for the best options how to implement their goals and tasks efficiently and sustainably.

Against the background of this development, the main focus in 2018 will be on the following areas:

Demands on working time flexibility will continue to increase - for all concerned!

For companies with continuous shift operation, the need for working time flexibilization will continue to increase. It will no longer just be a question of achieving higher productivity through demand-driven working time models. Rather, the planning process itself must be better attuned to respond more flexibly to employee needs. This applies in particular to the consideration of individual working time models.

For industries and regions affected by the shortage of skilled workers, the ability to meet this new challenge is crucial for competitiveness. The future Y and Z generations are far less interested in shift work than all previous generations. They consider shift work to be incompatible with the need for a work-life balance.

Combining working time design with work-life balance will be a central issue

The negative image of shift work can be turned into a positive one if employees are involved in scheduling their shifts. In this case, shift work no longer means having to work when dictated by the employer but also, ideally, when it best suits the individual schedule.

Employee participation can take many forms. The goal is the demand-driven assignment of employees with the maximum possible consideration of individual employee needs.

Where this succeeds, the result is a particularly high level of employee loyalty and satisfaction. This has a positive effect on both the quality of work as well as appeal on the job market.

However, this cannot be achieved with simple IT tools. The trend towards the use of specialized software will continue to increase in the future. On the one hand, it will be a matter of optimizing staff scheduling to meet working time demands and on the other hand, a matter of optimally integrating all employee-specific preferences, availabilities, agreements and qualifications.

In this way, attractive working time models can also be implemented for shift work, to ensure a proper work-life balance.

Centralized or decentralized scheduling - which trend will prevail?

Centralized or decentralized workforce management; which approach is better? This discussion is nothing new. The conclusion that both methods are justified and that the best approach in each individual case should be chosen, remains valid.

What will be new in 2018, however, are the aspects under which the topic will be discussed, which will undoubtedly continue to be polarizing.  The reason for this is the availability of modern workforce management software. It overcomes limitations that have had a strong influence on past discussions and opinions.

On the one hand, modern software makes it possible to process employee-specific information in such a way as to optimally influence the design of the roster with a central planning approach. The planner knows all planning-relevant employee data, including individual agreements and preferences, even if he is not on site. The disadvantages of spatial distance weigh less heavily than in the past.

On the other hand, it is economically more attractive today than in the past to optimize scheduling by using specialized workforce management software, even in comparatively small organizational units. In the past, this was often not economically viable because specialized software required cost-intensive specialist training at each individual location. As a result, smaller decentralized locations usually had to make do with simple IT tools, which only met the requirements to a limited extent.

These days, the dilemma can be solved with intuitive software that supports the planner's tasks in a targeted manner, even for smaller organizational units. However, the need to weigh up the strengths and weaknesses of both planning approaches in individual cases will remain.

What are your workforce management topics for 2018?



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About the author

  • Dr. Jörg Herbers

    Jörg Herbers is Senior Vice President Workforce Management at Inform GmbH. He specializes in all topics related to staff planning and optimization.

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