The 9 greatest benefits of a workforce planning tool designed for higher education institutions
As a manager at a higher education institution, there is a lot to keep track of, from utilisation rates to course planning and working hours agreements. This is where a workforce planning tool can be the solution that makes all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place. It can provide you with a complete view of the situation that allows you to keep a close eye on everything relating to your workforce planning – all combined in the same electronic systems updated with the latest information at all times. In this article, we will review the top 9 benefits of a workforce planning tool for higher education institutions.
Complex activities require a workforce planning system that is designed for higher education institutions
One major challenge for higher education institutions is the fact that the activities to be planned and staffed are highly complex. Those activities consist of a number of courses, project and non-project work carried out by staff employed for different numbers of hours and with different periods of absence. Added to this, you need to keep track of staff on loan from and loaned out to other departments and calculations of continuous professional development time for staff. Planning and staffing also involve many different roles in the organisation such as course coordinators, planners, finance administrators, managers and trade-union representatives.
A workforce planning system designed for higher education institutions supports the entire workforce planning process and simplifies planning and monitoring. In addition, the work is made more efficient by providing the various roles – course coordinators, planners, finance administrators, managers and trade-union representatives – with specific views in the system that display relevant information based on their specific role.
1. Simplified decision-making procedures with a joint workforce planning process
The various departments within a higher education institution may often use different processes for workforce planning. For example, planning can take place by term or by year, it may take place at different times of the year, it may or may not be integrated with the budget process and monitoring may take place monthly, quarterly, each term or annually.
Implementing a joint process throughout a higher education institution simplifies the management’s decision-making process and establishes a solid foundation for the institution’s development and its work on continuous improvement. Communication within the organisation is also simplified.
A joint workforce planning system provides effective support when introducing a joint process. A workforce planning system provides the features, views and reports required for efficient work on the selected process.
2.Support for different staffing methods
Even if the higher education institution has the same workforce planning process, small departments’ staffing work often differs from that of large departments. Large departments have several people involved and it is not unusual for them to work on delegated course planning.
A professional workforce planning system provides support for all staffing methods – from staffing carried out by a small number of planners to fully delegated planning that involves everything from course coordinators, directors of studies, finance administrators and managers.
3. An accurate view of the situation is a prerequisite for management
An updated, accurate work task plan that provides an up-to-date view of who is doing what in the organisation and how the courses are planned is required in order to allow the departmental management to manage its activities efficiently. An accurate view of the status of the activities is a prerequisite for making well-judged decisions about the way forward.
This is precisely one of the advantages of a workforce planning system: It provides the same view of the situation because everyone is working in the same system. All changes will be made available immediately and a workforce planning tool also provides a number of different reports on the activities. Examples of reports include staff allocation levels on a monthly basis, summaries according to type of activity (first-cycle courses, second-cycle courses, projects, regular work), individual work task plans, course planning per course and which staff are on loan from and to other departments. This allows activities to be monitored and managed in a consistent way.
4. The financial perspective is important
The financial perspective is an important aspect of decision-making at higher education institutions. It is important to be able to see a breakdown of income, costs and results by course. For example, the results by course may serve as an indication that the course needs to be staffed differently or perhaps planned in a different way.
A workforce planning tool automatically calculates income for courses based on number of students, throughput and government compensation per area of study. The costs are also calculated automatically based on monthly salary, salary cost increases and increases in overheads. In this way, decision-makers automatically obtain accurate financial supporting data for decision-making.
5. Transparency in the organisation increases efficiency
One important aspect of all management work is clarity and transparency with regard to workforce planning. And it must also be disseminated in such a way that all employees gain a solid understanding of what must be done and by whom. This in turn leads to efficient activities with fewer ambiguities and less friction between employees and between departments.
A workforce planning tool provides this clarity and transparency with regard to workforce planning and facilitates communication about what must be done and by whom. The information on workforce planning is presented in a number of views and reports specifically tailored to the various roles and permissions.
A workforce planning system also ensures that employees have access to the latest version of the plan at all times. There is no risk of employees working on outdated workforce planning that could lead to misunderstandings. Up-to-date, easily accessible information at all levels of the organisation increases efficiency. Everyone has the same view of the situation and friction in the organisation is thus minimised.
6. A challenge to obtain information on all staff and course changes
One major challenge in workforce planning is to gain regular access to and knowledge of all kinds of changes in personnel that occur continuously in the organisation – everything from illness, holidays and leave of absence to new employees, employees leaving the organisation and changes in full-time equivalents.
A workforce planning system automatically captures all changes in personnel through integration with the human resources systems of the higher education institution. The system presents the changes to the planner who can then directly revise the plans as necessary in order to guarantee the activities.
A workforce planning system is also integrated with the organisation’s course system. Changes to courses and course times, such as number of students registered and graduated, are automatically transferred.
7. A workforce planning system makes it easier to comply with the working hours agreement
Compliance with the working hours agreement throughout the higher education institution is important for the employer and the staff. However, it is very common for aspects such as continuous professional development time, administration time, overtime and additional time to be interpreted and managed differently within a higher education institution.
This is where a workforce planning system helps to introduce uniform compliance and monitoring of the working hours agreement. A workforce planning system also automatically calculates continuous professional development time for staff based on the institution’s working hours agreement, which in some cases can be a complex task when a person’s duties vary over the year and when different types of absences have occurred during the year.
One common requirement is for the work task plan to be signed by the employee and for the trade union to have access to the plan. With a workforce planning system, the work task plan is signed and filed completely electronically in the system. The employee always has access to his or her signed work task plans and the trade union can also access work task plans if necessary.
8. It is easier to fulfill working environment responsibilities with a workforce planning system
As an employer, the higher education institution also has considerable responsibility for the staff working environment. One important component of this work is to ensure that staff are not over-allocated for long periods, with the associated risk of developing fatigue syndrome. This requires continuous monitoring of staff allocation levels. A workforce planning system reports current allocation levels at all times, on a monthly basis and continuously as changes occur. It is easy for staff, managers and trade unions to access allocation levels and associated work task plans.
9. The security of using a standard system for workforce planning
By using a professional workforce planning system that has been specifically developed for the needs of higher education institutions and that is already being used by other higher education institutions, you can feel confident that the available features are the ones that are required and that the tool fully supports higher education institutions’ staffing procedures. Choosing a system that is being used at several higher education institutions means that user meetings are also available for higher education institutions to exchange experiences of workforce planning and the system and for joint further development of the system.
A workforce planning system provides many benefits for higher education institutions. If you would like to learn more about how the workforce planning process can be organised at a higher education institution, we have also produced an article on that topic. If you currently use proprietary workforce planning solutions such as Excel in some parts of your organisation, you may want to learn about the limitations of workforce planning solutions in Excel.
About the author
Jens Apelgren has over ten years’ experience in workforce planning at higher education institutions and has personally introduced workforce planning systems at 18 different institutions. Jens is CEO of Retendo AB, which offers systems to streamline administration for both higher education institutions and project-oriented companies. Jens is closely involved in the development of Retendo’s workforce planning system.