The aim of workforce management is to optimally staff operations. The planning process is divided into strategic (long-term), tactical (medium-term) and operational (short-term) phases.
The task of the tactical phase is the preparation and publication of schedules for the next planning period, in accordance with:
- Predicted working time demand
- Applicable personnel capacity
- Employee working time preferences (if applicable)
The working time capacity is to be distributed between employees and shifts. There are numerous legal requirements, trade union, company and individual agreements that have to be taken into account. Employer care responsibilities and health protection have to be considered.
Research recommendations for shift ergonomics have to be observed: the schedule should be designed in such a way as to soften the impact of fluctuating working times on health and social life as much as possible.
There are also numerous objectives to meet, concerning different business, employee and customer interests.
Typical target criteria are:
- Compliance with the working time demand (quantitatively and qualitatively)
- Working time productivity
- Personnel costs and profit
- Service level and customer satisfaction
- Employee satisfaction and motivation
- Robustness with respect to forecast errors
- Room for flexibility
- Reliability and stability
The planner's task - in compliance with the requirements - is to find the best possible balance between the objectives. There are changing requirements to handle, e.g. low working time required in periods of low demand, strong spikes in the main season, short-term high sickness levels, unbalanced time accounts, budget cuts, bottlenecks in external staff etc.
The complexity of schedule creation quickly exceeds the problem solving skills of people. With a repertoire of tried and tested strategies, a good and experienced planner manages to try out only a few alternatives - if he has the time. He cannot determine if a schedule is optimal.