Workforce planning

by The Times 100 on Monday 27th June, 2011

Perhaps unsurprisingly, people attending Glastonbury Festival have been faced with muddy conditions again this year. Despite the weather and mud, 137,000 people were expected to attend the event in Somerset, which has 60 official stages hosting more than 2,200 performances. Speakers and poetry readings were included amongst these performances as well as the many music acts. One might assume that organising the staffing for such an event would be a mammoth task. There has been a 300 strong team of workers cleaning the 3,200 toilets on site, for instance. (BBC News 23rd June 2011)

However, the number of people employed by the festival is actually relatively small. Most of the services provided for the festival, and hence the workers delivering these services, are subcontracted to other organisations and charities, such as event management and traffic management companies. The charity Oxfam provides the entrance gate stewards, and other carnival trusts provide the tent stewards and campsite wardens.

For many organisations, like British Gas, workforce planning is carried out in-house. Workforce planning is the process of assessing a company's current and future labour needs. British Gas employs more than 9,000 trained gas engineers. The organisation has to consider the overall numbers of workers it needs but also the skills that will be required within the business. Therefore, workforce planning involves managing both the training and recruitment processes to ensure the organisation has the right staff in place. The energy market is very competitive, so British Gas has to ensure its workforce planning procedures allow it to maintain a competitive position against its rivals. By planning for the future needs of the business and its workers British Gas can develop its people through dynamic and exciting career paths so that both the employees and the company can benefit.

Questions
1.Define workforce planning.
2.Using the case study, explain the training routes provided by British Gas.
3.How does British Gas ensure it has a diverse workforce?
4.To what extent can effective workforce planning safeguard the future success of an organisation like British Gas?

Answers to questions
1.Define workforce planning.
Workforce planning looks ahead at the factors outside and inside a business to plan human resource needs.
2.Using the case study, explain the training routes provided by British GasThe training routes include:

  • apprenticeships – these are delivered in training centres. Trainees expect to quality by the fifth year
  • traineeships – these provide a way for new recruits to learn about the gas industry and gain relevant skills and qualifications
  • technical training – all engineers are provided with technical training throughout their careers at British Gas to ensure they are up-to-date with new technologies and information.

3.Why does British Gas aim to ensure it has a diverse workforce?
British Gas aims to recruit a workforce that reflects its customer base so therefore it tries to attract employees from different nationalities and backgrounds, as well as both male and female engineers. This means that workers are more able to communicate with all of its customers.
4.To what extent can effective workforce planning safeguard the future success of an organisation like British Gas?
On one hand:

  • workforce planning ensures that the right numbers of workers with the right skills are recruited
  • by looking ahead, the business can plan for any skills gaps and put in place any necessary intervention to fill these gaps
  • a highly skilled and effective workforce can provide competitive advantage
  • technology changes all the time, so workforce planning can help businesses like British Gas to cope with and embrace new technologies in order to move the organisation forward
  • effective workforce planning can reduce labour turnover, thereby resulting in more a more loyal, motivated and experienced workforce.

However on the other hand:

  • factors outside the organisation will affect businesses when recruiting staff, such as the supply of available labour and the actions of competitors
  • factors inside the business can also affect the future success of an organisation, such as leadership styles adopted and levels of finance.

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