Manager, are you planning for the long-run or a short term career

Artist: Boris Mikhailov
Artist: Boris Mikhailov

As organizations embrace a renewed focus on customer retention in light of today’s economic climate, their operations staffing capacity models — designed to meet volume and demand — may be at risk of falling further down the priority list of the board and/or the top management.

However, what most executives don’t realize is, it can actually help manage costs and improve operational efficiencies in these hard, depressing, uncontrollable times.

Strategic planning supports enterprise-wide forecasting by projecting staffing needs down to the activity or position level. It looks out over longer horizons, taking into consideration activity levels spanning quarters or even years into the future. Even more important, it can make the difference between deciding how many more staff members are required to handle seasonal spikes or determining if you need staff  at all.

In companies where operations are the top priority, strategic planning can support corporate objectives as they adjust through tightened labor markets and service dominated economies.

Following are five key tips to keep in mind as you look to leverage strategic planning in your operations.

  1. Recognize the difference between long-term strategic planning and short-term tactical planning.

    Understanding the basic differences between strategic and tactical planning can make a dramatic difference in the tools you select to help you with either task. Strategic planning tends to be longer term and focused on meeting business goals without the noise and detail of tactical planning, which places more emphasis on deploying daily and weekly schedules.

  2. Understand the link between strategic planning and weekly forecasting and scheduling.

    It’s a mistake to think of weekly forecasting and scheduling as an isolated process, divorced from strategic planning. Short-term planning often suffers when you don’t consider alternatives in the longer term.

    For example, strategic planning, properly executed, can reveal when new employees need to be hired so they are productive when they are actually required.

  3. Go beyond budget planning and full-time employee (FTE) calculations.

    Strategic planning involves running multiple scenarios to define a fairly detailed roadmap for the future. For example: which outputs will be handled by staff members and what kinds of transactions will be handled through self-service?

    By comparing the strategic model with actual results every month, the assumptions and operating dynamics can be verified and refined, leading to better daily operational results.

  4. Plan for contingencies.

    No matter how well you forecast in the long or short term, there will be deviations between your planning and reality.

    At times, these differences may be so significant that they dictate changes to staffing plans — right now!

    Strategic planning helps you compile lists of employees who are willing to work overtime, or those who are willing to cut their shifts short — and consequently, their paychecks — when activity in the operations is low.

  5. Determine the right staffing mix.

    A key part of strategic planning is determining the right staffing mix between full- and part-time employees, and then deciding whether overtime is a useful substitute for additional headcount or cross-training initiatives in your operation.

    Many operational managerss often make the mistake in thinking that overtime is vastly more expensive than straight time.

    It’s actually not — particularly when you analyze the cost of unproductive, full-time employees.

    Managers  have found that maintaining a 60/40 or 70/30 ratio between full-time and part-time employees permits them to better match resources with transaction demand, while avoiding idle time during non-peak periods.

The intent of strategic planning is to anticipate future events by examining current trends.

Trends should be considered at two levels — those that directly affect your industry and business, and those that directly affect your operations.  By aligning resources with projected customer demand, changing market conditions and corporate objectives, strategic planning can enable you to develop “what if” scenarios. Armed with these, optimum trade-offs among costs, service levels, revenue and staffing can be determined.

So, get planning!

Artist: Boris Mikhailov
Artist: Boris Mikhailov
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