Pin Me

Guidance for HR Managers: Demand Forecasting to Manage Work Schedules Effectively

written by: Suba Lakshminarasimhan•edited by: Ronda Bowen•updated: 7/26/2011

It is not easy to juggle multiple work schedules, but human resources managers have to undertake this task all the time. Once you learn key tips of the trade, it will be much easier for you to perform the scheduling dance in the future.

  • slide 1 of 6

    In order to increase productivity in any organization, it is important for HR managers to know how to manage work schedules. You can also achieve the benefits listed below by properly planning work schedules for your company.

    1. Optimize schedules and workforce
    2. Allocate resources as planned
    3. Forecast resource requirements for the upcoming and current projects
    4. Improve communications for better resource management
    5. Track workforce agenda and assist in emergencies

      The work scheduling process requires well designed plans, forecasting techniques and research methodologies. It's essential for HR managers to learn how demand forecasting help in scheduling work.

    • slide 2 of 6

      Demand Forecasting

      How will you determine whether you have enough workforce for each shift? Managing demand is the challenging task for any HR professional. Remember, without forecasting the demand appropriately, one cannot schedule work effectively. Demand forecasting requires a high level of coordination with the project and the operational teams across the organization. HR managers must gain 360˚ knowledge on what is happening in the organization. The communication need to be planned such that HR managers receive information regarding new projects acquired, new products developed, etc.,

      Consider the following key parameters before choosing the forecasting method.

      1. The base method for estimation - Is it a quantitative method or a qualitative one?
      2. Basic factors such as redundancy, labor turnover or absenteeism
      3. The frequency of forecasting exercises to occur
      4. What is the right method to forecast the demand in the given scenario?

      The unbiased judgement and the prediction methods are the traditional models used in demand forecasting. Nowadays, HR managers use various methodologies to forecast the workforce requirements. These forecasting methodologies allow you to design work schedules and get maximum benefits.

    • slide 3 of 6

      Schedule and Shift Management

      Which shift requires employees in high numbers? Does this particular shift have the adequate number of employees? Are there any additional resources in one shift which can be transferred to the other shift? Is there any workforce sitting idle in any of these shifts? Using the methods described below, you can gain answers to the questions raised. It is a responsibility of a HR manager to help the project and the operational teams to meet work deadlines and obtain customer satisfaction.

      Shift Management 

      Delphi Method: This is a structured method where a group of experts gather to forecast the workforce requirements. The study conducted by Milkovich et al in 1972 confirmed that Delphi estimates indicated a high level of approval with the actual numbers hired. HR managers meet up with the line managers to understand the demand and discuss on the mode of supplies. The line managers normally have a clear picture on the demand. They communicate how much of a workforce they require for each shift. HR managers then design a plan to fulfill the demand derived by the line managers. The forecasts and the reasoning are analyzed thoroughly until it reaches the most accurate result for determining how to satisfy the demand. The results normally include a new hire process or allocation of resources from other projects or utilizing those on bench.

      Judgmental Decomposition Method: This method allows HR managers to forecast the demand by splitting the situation into different components. This model helps in forecasting the demand when the numbers are really high. Let me explain how to use this model with an example. There are situations where a global project ramps up within a short span and HR managers are put in a situation to schedule workforce for different shifts and in various locations. The judgmental decomposition method will be handy here to allocate resources appropriately. The process can be divided according to the locations. Once the forecasting is done for different locations, it can be combined to get the full picture. HR managers then decide whether to hire people locally or transfer from other locations. The implementation of resource allocation process depends highly on the skill-set available in the company. Depending on the solution an HR manager chooses, the action plan is designed. When transferring the employee from one location to another, other aspects like obtaining a visa and travel are also considered within the work schedule plan. Accordingly, the HR manager works along with other departments to ensure a smooth work scheduling process.

      Extrapolation Method: This method is suitable when the environment is stable. The experience from the past is considered to forecast the demand. However, these methods lead to overestimation if the environment is not stable enough for HR planning. If the situation is not stable, but rather has similar features to past experiences, then the structured analogies method can be implemented to forecast demand.

    • slide 4 of 6

      Scheduling Conflict Management

      Do you deal with virtual teams across different geographical locations? Managing virtual teams and stakeholders is not an easy task. It is common for conflicts to occur when you are planning work schedules for people in different shifts.

      Structured Analogies Method: This method helps to forecast the workforce demand by analysing the processes used in similar situations earlier. The structured analogies method helps to avoid errors that normally occur in the traditional forecast models. The structured analogies method helps in solving the conflicts by comparing the results of similar past occurrences. This formal method works in four steps.

      1. Explaining the current situation
      2. Pinpointing and analyzing the analogies - current as well the past situation
      3. Rating the analogies by comparing the current and past situations
      4. Deriving the forecasts

      Do these steps seem familiar? This method works similar to the experimental method that we discussed earlier. The difference we see in this method is that it can be used in unstable conditions as well. However, this method works well only if the HR manager is able to derive atleast two to three analogies from the past situation to forecast the demand.

      Intentions and Expectations Survey Method: The vacation requests from employees can create conflicts in work schedules. The intentions and expectations survey method helps individuals to analyze certain behavioral patterns exhibited by the employees to manage these types of conflicts. Remember, expectations are different from intentions. Understanding this difference is important while managing vacation requests. For example, it is easier for an employee who is pregnant to plan her vacation. This is an expected incident. It is not as easy to decide when the employee is intending to go for a dental visit. How can you identify this intention? By using the intentions and expectations survey method, you can also predict whether the employee is intended to take vacation during a critical time. Responses are obtained from employees for a particular period. Employees also need give assurance that they will not change their plans for a particular timeframe. This method is normally used in short term work schedules.

      Conflict Management Game Theory Method: It is important to identify the behavioral pattern of employees to solve scheduling conflicts. A non-cooperative attitude of employees creates conflicts in teams. There are times where a non communicative employee create conflicts among project teams. For example, a person who is unwilling to work night shifts but not communicating it to his manager can create a big hole in work schedules. Frustrated, he may go on vacation during the important phase of a project. HR managers use tactics to identify this specific attitude in that employee. The study conducted by Keser and Gardner in 1999 concluded that game theory is the best model in forecasting the outcomes of conflicts among common pool resources. Even though this model is beneficial to HR managers, it works better when the scheduling conflict is due to the personal attitude of the employee.

      Conjoint Analysis Method: If the employee is not happy with the timing or the location of work, it can create conflicts in the work schedule. In this method, a survey with a questionnaire is used to understand the employee’s satisfaction levels.

      Analyzing the results of the survey helps to:

      1. Gain insights on employees' psychological traits
      2. Understand individuals' preferences
      3. Reveal the issues causing conflicts
      4. Make realistic choices for scheduling the workforce

      Does this model look similar to Intentions and expectations survey or game theory methods? The errors in the intentions and expectations survey or game theory method are possible when the number of employees involved is too high or the time frame is very long. The conjoint analysis method can be used in larger groups and with long term projects. However, it is very important to utilize this method carefully. If the study is not designed properly, it may give the wrong picture or overestimate the psychological aspects or preferences of the employees.

    • slide 5 of 6

      Developing Your System

      Using a HR management system to manage vacation requests and work schedules is beneficial. There are various software programs available to small businesses and startups. These systems can be implemented with your organization’s HR system. Global organizations use such systems developed by their own technical experts. They incorporate the important aspects on how to manage work schedules.

    • slide 6 of 6


      Demand Forecasting Methods retrieved at

      Delphi method in HR forecasting retrieved at

      The use of game theory in predicting conflicts retrieved at (page 3)

      Image Credit:

      Shift Management, rizeli53,

      Conflict Management, Col6085,