Proposed Recruitment Forecasting System for UK’s Network Rail – Foresight

Introduction

            One of the most prevalent problems in organizations today concerns Human Resources (HR) Forecasting. Many modern organizations face hurdles when matching HR needs with present and future organizational activities as a result of various reasons including inflexibility in the HR department, unyielding managerial teams, rigid organizational cultures, and centralized managerial mechanisms, among others. The inflexibility of the HR department is perhaps one of the most significant factors as it affects Forecasting both in terms of development and operations. In a typical scenario, it takes a significant amount of time to recruit, pick, enlist, and train the average member of the workforce. The process may take even more time where upper echelons of organizational hierarchy are concerned. A case in point of a company that has been facing stumbling blocks in the area of Forecasting is UK’s Network Rail. The company is in charge of almost all of England’s railway infrastructure and has remained successful in the recent years. Yet, it adopts a decade’s old HR Forecasting system that relies on conventional methods of Forecasting, often involving last minute notifications and a manually-driven recruitment programs that require hefty costs and long periods of time to run effectively. Decisions on recruitment are instrumental to an organization’s success and normally have a long-lasting effect on organizational performance. Therefore, every organization needs to design and implement an effective Forecasting model that saves on costs and time, as well as one that guarantees successful matching of human resources with both present and planned activities of the business. This business report makes a case for a new cloud-hosted, web based recruitment Forecasting application, dubbed “Foresight,” for Network Rail. The application will process requests, systematize data, and analyze information pertaining to the company’s recruitment needs in a forthcoming 12-month period. The system will be operated via multiple user accounts, allowing users to share data remotely, at their convenience. The first part of the report covers the context of the project, including the profile of the organization, the central department, and essentials of Forecasting. The second part presents the project and its justification while the second and the third parts highlight the impacts and direction for further research on the project respectively.

Context

            The management of any organization needs to plan the supply and demand of its HR as part of the normal planning process so that promotion policies, recruitment possibilities, and long-term business requirements correspond with accessibility estimates from both external and internal viewpoints. Markedly, long-term HR resources are directly associated with the strategic plans of relevant business (Snell, Morris, & Bohlander). Hence, a majority of companies normally indicate the minimum base of information upon which the HR can be built in their business plans. This is necessary as stakeholders need to assess the size and type of team that is required in the capitalization of a specific business opportunity. The selection of a predictor is very important in the projection of workforce requirements (Rothwell & Kazanas). The projector should be directly related to the nature of the business and changes in the chosen factor should be comparative to changes in the required workforce. Small organizations may formulate a workforce plan to cover all levels, but larger organizations must put individual workforce planning procedures for each units, such as cluster levels and departments (Rothwell & Kazanas). The next steps in the process should then necessitate the organization to perform workload analysis and job analyses, and come up with job descriptions and job specification before undertaking the task of HR Forecasting.            

Human resource Forecasting attempts to project the labor needs and the influences they are likely to exact on a business. As a rule, the responsibility of Forecasting is conducted by the HR department; it projects short-term and long-term labor needs according to the level of growth, projected sales, attrition, and other factors that influence the workforce within and out of the firm. Apart from assessing the size of the workforce, the HR department also analyzes the degree of administrative costs and costs required in expanding or downsizing the workforce (Rothwell & Kazanas). Although there is no single approach to developing a Human Resource Management System (HRMS) that performs Forecasting tasks effectively , an excellent model of creating operational strategy involves selection of a strategic direction, the design of a HRMS, workforce planning, generation of required HR, investment in HR development and performance, and assessment and sustenance of organizational performance and competence. These should be the central components at the core of HRM at Network Rail.

One of the most essential Forecasting tasks for the HR department at Network Rail involves creating and maintaining a firm’s organization chart. The company uses a flat organizational structure that consists of employees who work under a specific manager. Each manager must constantly update a chart that shows how their department is organized as well as how it will be organized in the next 12-month period. They can also add new segments and indicate how their department is linked to other departments such as marketing, sales, and accounting in terms of human resources. The organization chart is important to Network Rail’s effective functioning as it helps managers to hire proactively and pursue employees with the right set of skills.

            The profitability and productivity of Network Rail is based on the provision of services. The company owns and manages infrastructure of most rail networks in England, Wales, and Scotland. As a public organization with no specific shareholders, the firm reinvests its income in railways in order to provide its services and maintain profitability. The firm also monitors its HR needs according to the fall and rise of sales, although these needs do not fluctuate considerably given the nature of the industry. The human resource manager maintains close ties with the sales department in order to be aware of any increase or decrease that affects labor needs, as well as to prevent shortage or unwarranted surplus of labor within the organization. Sales at Network are primarily driven by services rather than products and the main customers include private train operating companies and freight operating companies that ferry passengers and cargo. The nature of these services renders them unsusceptible to fluctuation in sales as the level of competition is low and the services bear much significance to the transport sector and the economy. This, however, does not mean that sales do not fluctuate entirely. Indeed, the HR department keeps a record of past and projected sales in order to evaluate labor needs.

            In addition to production and scheduling functions, the avoidance of long-term holes is another function of HR forecasting within Network Rail. With the help of progressive reports from individual managers and supervisors, the HR department keeps a record of employees that might be retiring or leaving the company. The HR manager then seeks approval from the management and prepares to fill existing or expected vacancies with internal staff or new staff. Additionally, the HR manager coordinates promotion and career development where supervisors are prepared for managerial roles and managers are prepared for senior administrative roles. Employees in lower levels of the organizational hierarchy are also matched with roles that correspond with their skill sets. What is more, Network Rail emphasizes the role of training in development as it prepares key staff for future roles.

            Finally, Network Rail’s HR department contributes to budget planning by keeping track of staffing levels within the organization. For instance, demand forecasting exposes the need for seasonal workers or overtime work, and the total cost needed in acquiring extra labor. Even if the company does not require additional labor, it must account for additional costs based on annual propositions, salary raises, and benefit increases.  

Loopholes

Though the task of HR forecasting has remained aligned with Network Rails strategic objectives, there are a number of hurdles that plague its successful execution. Each role in forecasting is run against on or more barriers that impede effective forecasting in the long run. As mentioned above, HR forecasting plays four major roles at the company: updating the organizational structure, production and scheduling, HR demand planning, and budgeting (Noe, Hollenbeck, Gerhart, & Wright). The role of updating the organizational structure is highly compromised by imprecise updates resulting from late updates from managers. At present, the company relies on spreadsheets and notices from managers to know where gaps exist in the HR, but these mechanisms are susceptible to many errors and delays. Managers do not always submit notices on time, causing delays in the entire forecasting process. Production and scheduling faces the same challenge because the manual process makes it vulnerable to delays and duplication of data. Delays are perhaps more detrimental to demand planning as late notices often cause a series of issues and late stage surprises that bargain the quality and preciseness of planning. Notably, last minute notices from managers are not the height of the problem. Managers also have to go through approval processes, adhere to an advertising time window, conduct interviews, and wait for the onboarding process in order to fill in vacant spots.

This series of responsibilities not only demand significant input in terms of costs but also in terms of time and manpower. The cost of rehiring an employee at Network Rail is £30,000 on average. This cost is further amplified by other mechanisms, such as the LinkedIn Recruiter which costs approximately £45,000 a year and is not currently used to its maximum capacity. These challenges altogether strain the company’s forecasting function, rendering it ineffective and subject to failures.

Proposed System

            In order to resolve the current issues, the corporate resourcing team at Network Rail has procured and set up a cloud hosted, web based recruitment forecasting application, “Foresight”. Foresight is an online tool that requests, collates, and presents data pertaining to forecasting in a forthcoming 12-month period. As a standalone program, it will lessen the burden that resourcing teams experience when they offer forecast messages to individual managers in order to inquire information about recruitment needs. It is also expected to counter the aforementioned challenges that currently plague forecasting in the organization. Foresight resembles a workforce forecast manager that enables managers to evaluate labor needs and why they needs them. Managers can use the tool to accurately predict demand to a small interval, at a high precision than the former manual system. The application has multiple algorithms that can be utilized for various purposes depending on the amount of available historical data.

Upon using the new feature, Network Rail will carry out short-term and long-term planning, both across various cost centers and at the employee level while accessing all necessary function for HR management including data reporting, analysis, modelling, product planning, and authorization control. Adjustments to standard parameters like pay scales, resource utilization, social expenses, and special payments will be recorded automatically. The application can also analyze predictive scenarios based on wage development, employee turnover, age structure, and employees resuming from parenthood. Foresight’s ability to provide a range of standardized reports that can be altered according to queries of interest will also be beneficial to the human resourcing team. What is more, the system can perform individual analyses using a few clicks such as phone expense management, recruiting process performance, personnel requirement planning, and calculation of provision for holiday leave among others. The main parties that will interact with Foresight are the HR department, management, Information Technology (IT) department and client managers. The system has most of its users incorporated, particularly the client managers who are required to fill in data concerning their HR needs in the next 12 month period. The management will set the strategic direction for the HR department and review the outcomes of Foresight as need be. The primary role of the managerial tem, nevertheless, will be the alignment of human resource policies to support the accomplishment of the firm’s mission, vision and goals. Notably, the business goals lie at the heart of every HR strategy and must therefore align with the rest of the organization. The management will collaborate with the HR team in structuring work, designing training, managing performance, setting pay scales, and formulating reward policies.

The HR department will manage Foresight by maintaining its structure and rolling out a plan for each area in line with dates for delivering forecasts. The managers will receive requests to submit data and comply within the allocated time. They can also communicate through the system with the HR team for clarification or in case of forthcoming meetings. The application will not only link the HR and client managers but also provide auxiliary services, including calendars, timetables, and a suite of instructions and guides. After all data has been submitted, the application will perform and analysis and reveal findings and recommendations, which will then be shared in meetings and other communication mechanisms. Since the system will record data over a long period, it will give an insight into how the company has been performing with regard to forecasting, as well as indicate necessary recommendations.             The core of Foresight’s functionality follows a standard forecasting process with compulsory steps needed in predicting future labor demands. It classifies the workforce into distinct and unambiguous categories, including race, age, sex, present position, and length of tenure; classifies positions into categories, including experience required, educational preparation, placement of job within organizational structure; equates historical relationships between staffing levels and input such as the number of people required to perform a certain level of task; forecasts demand by conducting analysis of current HR requirements and projecting future requirement; forecasting supply through analysis of current HR inventories and comparison of expected internal and external availability of HR supplies (Rothwell & Kazanas); and forecasts HR needs in general.

In addition, foresight follows the proper sequence of steps for the HR forecasting process. The process of HR forecasting normally involves the establishment of the jobs that affirm needs to fill, the skillsets employees must have in order to fill roles, and the expected challenges. Thus, the evaluation of organizational needs lies at the heart of forecasting. Foresight seeks to help the HR evaluate human resource needs depending on the size of the organization in a given point in time. This starts with collection of data from different department through managers, then proceeds to the assessment of existing job positions. The application takes account of the number of employees and type of jobs that perform in each class. After assessing the knowledge requirements, the HR evaluates the current skills to determine whether they have attained the expertise and qualification that satisfy the company’s future needs (Snell, Morris, & Bohlander). The HR needs to comprehend present and future objectives of the organization so as to forecast labor demands successfully. It must also anticipate the need for creation and adjustment of positions in accordance with organizational needs. Foresight simplifies this process by ensuring that the needed data is keyed in by relevant managers, including turnover rates, available labor, vacant positions, retirement dates, promotions, and leaves.

            Foresight’s operation is heavily reliant on data input and analytics. Today, many organizations use data and analytics to gain insights on performance and progress. Foresight will enable Network Rail to perform these and more tasks while relying on different mathematical models to establish viable improvements and directions while tracking the gains of fact-based decision-making. While many business areas within the company, including customer services, operations, and marketing & sales, have used analytics for a considerable time, the HR has lagged behind. The new application will, thus, bring the department to par with the rest of the organization. In particular, the new feature will allow the HR to use different forecasting techniques, such as forecasting basics, trend analysis, ratio analysis, supply forecasting, managerial judgment, scatter plot, computerized forecast, Delphi technique, work study forecast, regression analysis, nominal group technique, econometric models and scenario forecasting among others. Specific outputs to be achieved by the application include:

  • A roll-out plan for each area in line with dates for the systems team to deliver the forecasts
  • The org structures on the system will need to be updated to reflect new/moving employees and new user accounts created.
  • A suite of “how to” guides including but not limited to for managers to complete, for resourcing to update structures and users and how to keep track of new and moving users
  • Workshops and also coaching session both individually and in team meetings to help engage teams
  • Exporting the completed date and deliver a report of the findings and recommendations for recruitment over the next 12 months
  • Review of the system usage and set up to propose future improvements to develop the product and how the team can make this BAU activity

Impacts

In order to effectively provide a layout that underlines the significance of adopting the system, a review of the implications of Foresight is necessary. The introduction of a recruitment forecasting system presents both positive and negative impacts to the company, particularly the human resources team, managers, and internal and external stakeholders.

Positive Impacts

Effective Forecasting

Companies engage in recruitment Forecasting with the aim of improving their recruitment strategies, creating a diverse and equitable hiring experience, attracting the best and most qualified workforce, operating in set timelines, planning for budget considerations and ultimately aligning recruitment efforts with organizational goals and objectives. Network rail is set on improving the afore-mentioned areas, by objectively integrating a system that would ensure these goals are met. The main objective of the company is to reduce recruitment cost and improve the ease and systematic process of recruiting and filling vacant positions within the company. As a result, Foresight should be considered as an effective means of improving the recruitment Forecasting.

Foresight is set to meet these objectives by providing a means for managers and human resources officials to access a seamless Forecasting system at their convenience, assess recruitment needs and plan for future recruitment capacities within a frame of 12 months. The program will not only improve the recruitment Forecasting process but also enhance accountability since viable users of the Foresight system will be inclined to individually maximize the system’s resources to plan, schedule, and budget and comply with recruitment needs.  The system is, thus, important in providing effective HR forecasting since its resources and capacity will help contribute to enhancing company goals and objectives.

Time and Cost Savings

            The initial recruitment Forecasting system used by the company was not only costly but also time consuming and ineffective. Network Rail is focused on integrating an improved system that is cost effective and takes a short time to fulfil the recruitment needs of the company. Foresight will meet these goals because it offers a structured system that works on a twelve-month timeline to ensure that managers and human resources officials work on a scheduled platform that guarantees effective time management with regards to Forecasting and planning the fulfilment of recruitment needs (Kim & O’Connor). To achieve this, managers and other human resources officials using the system will be required to enter necessary data, organize departmental calendars to identify the stratification of labor as well as well as any future recruitment needs, budget for the recruitment process, plan for a new recruitment or replacement, structure equitable promotions and also organize necessary downsizing programs where necessary. The cost of performing these tasks was high and disadvantageous for Network Rail. Nonetheless, these costs will be eliminated by the website function given that they would be automated and require little input from users of the Foresight System and any other labor requirement.

Additionally, the Forecasting system will save time as it is an automated program that operates on an easy communication platform, thus reducing the time it takes to send, receive and manage information (Malinowski, Keim, & Weitzel). Managers and human resources officials can work systematically by collecting data in their respective departments and sharing all the data instantaneously through their computers rather than engage in paper work and third party messengers or even organize time consuming meetings to share information that reflects on the recruitment needs of the company.

Reduction of Administrative Work Load

Recruitment Forecasting is a hectic task that requires the input of many members of the Human resources department (Kerrin & Kettley). This equates to more work and an increase on the budget for facilitating the entire process. Foresight provides a solution by accomplishing most of the tasks automatically hence reducing the amount of work as well as number of people required to perform these tasks. The hiring process as a whole is a tedious process that adds on to other human resources functions, and places an administrative burden in the HR department. Integrating an automated Forecasting system is therefore necessary to reduce the workload and the labor required to effectively collect and analyze data regarding the company’s recruitment needs. Foresight will not only offer adequate automated service but also improve the recruitment Forecasting by cutting down the cost and time needed to complete the task (Malinowski, Keim, & Weitzel).

Decentralization of Human Resources Activities

The recruitment Forecasting system will help the human resources department to break down its hierarchy through decentralization. Earlier interactions required members of the human resources team to constantly seek personal encounters with the head management for approval purposes. The latter was a tedious process that required officers in the company to observe a specific chain of command where a low-level human resources clerk would go through a supervisor to seek clarification or request approval for a specific recruitment function. With the use of the Foresight system, the human resources workforce will become decentralized in the sense that a low-level employee may communicate directly with a head manager through the communication channels enabled by features of the Foresight system. The system will also ensure that exchange of information is fast, reliable and easy for all users to manage. This open communication system will also accrue human resources employees the liberty to discuss and clarify arising or urgent matters openly with managers without necessarily booking meetings to address these concerns.

A shift in Technology

The creation and adaptation of innovative technologies should be highly regarded by companies aiming to attain a competitive advantage in their respective markets. Foresight is a technological innovation that helps companies perform recruitment Forecasting tasks with ease, accuracy and efficiently over a short period of time. The system also provides an added advantage of cutting cost that would otherwise be incurred during the conventional Forecasting process. By integrating this technology, Network Rail Company will experience a technological curve that offers a competitive advantage over its competitors and also manage cost while consuming the least possible time. This can be achieved by managers and HR officials through the collection, management and analysis of recruitment needs data to identify employee gaps over a period of unfolding time, to understand the nature of the vacant positions as well as the nature and required characteristics of the candidates.

Further, the Foresight system has many features and characteristics that would make the recruitment process effective and easy to perform through task automation. This technology also reduces the workload of employees by performing most of the tasks through a computerized process. If integrated by both the internal and external stakeholders of the company, the recruitment Forecasting process would be effective and would allow human resources officials and managers to plan for recruitment exercises in time as well as ultimately hire the most competent candidates to fill vacancies and meet the recruitment needs of the company. 

Negative Impacts

 Although Foresight would positively impact the company, there are certain challenges that need to be addressed in order to ensure successful integration of the application into the company.

Resistance to Change

The introduction of a new forecasting system is highly dependent on the ability of employees to accept the technology rather than view it as a threat. Managers and human resources officials should readily accept the change by embracing the system as well as engaging in the due processes like training. The department and personnel expected to use the system need to understand the significance of Foresight and how it would impact their recruitment forecasting operations. Failure to embrace the new technology is in part resistance to change and may arise due to fears of job loss, lack of trust between the employees and leadership, poor communication, fear of the unknown and the timing. The aforementioned challenges have to be addressed before implementing the system. Most of the workforce may be driven to resist change for fear of losing their jobs to the technology. Other factors that may contribute to change resistance include lack of trust and fear of the unknown. The aforementioned scenarios pose a barrier that needs to be addressed before implementing the new Foresight system. To achieve this, the company needs to improve communication channels and engagement to ensure that the workforce understands the use and capacity with which the system will be used. Further, the company needs to assure employees that the system does not replace their capabilities but rather creates an easier and more efficient, time-saving approach to the recruitment forecasting process.

The introduction of Foresight will bring various changes to the company. These changes will not only affect the personnel but also the functioning of the company since the system will affect the organizational culture, through impacts like decentralizing the Human Resources Department.  The technology will also require training, a factor that demands the contribution of the company through provision of necessary recourses to facilitate the training programs (Kim & O’Connor). Further, Foresight will trigger cultural change within the organization since integration of new technology will create the need for employee development (Cappelli). This is because the employees may be unaware of the features and functions of the new software and may therefore need training and development to understand the basics of computerization.

With the aforementioned changes in mind, the company is highly susceptible to change resistance. Nonetheless, the company should invest more time on change management to equip employees with the right mindset and attitude that would enable acceptance rather than resistance to the change.

Neglecting Personal Interaction

Foresight is a computerized program that would require users to engage and operate online and offline through their computers. The system therefore limits personal interaction between the employees. While the recruitment forecasting operation will be made easier, the ability to improve social capacities within the Human resources department and other employees will be minimal. Personal interaction is key to improving the relationships of employees within the company. Companies that lack adequate operational strategies where employees interact on a personal level risk the creation of a tense work environment. Neglect of personal interaction affects productivity by minimizing the efficiency of team work. Employees therefore need often one-on-one interactions to socialize, familiarize with each other and develop social skills that will enhance their ability to cooperate with others on assigned tasks. Lack of personal interaction will foster an organizational culture that neglects social interactions amongst employees. This issue will not only affect personnel who would use the system but the entire workforce since each employee who initially contributed to the recruitment forecasting process will be limited to computerized communication methods.

Data Security and Confidentiality

The use of technology raises security concerns with regards to data and confidentiality. Using Forecast, managers and human resources personnel will be exposed to information on their colleagues that may range from private aspects like promotional interests to discipline issues, private financial issues and more. All information is necessary to determine placement factors, replacement, promotions, and vacancy considerations. The data may also include information on employee vacation schedules as well as monthly leaves and planned off days. Network Rail employees may raise concerns regarding the availability of information they deem private in a computerized program that is susceptible to security threats. Additionally, ethical concerns may be raised if employees from the Human resources department or managers who will use the system disclose private information about their colleagues.  The company is, thus, tasked with the responsibility to ensure that employee as well as eternal stakeholder data is handled with utmost care. All employees with access to foresight require adamant training on confidentiality as well as necessary security measures. Network Rail is also expected to reinforce surveillance and other security measures like encrypting office computers to prevent threats like viruses and hacking.

Direction of Further Research

            With the rise of globalization and advent of technology in business, Network Rail needs to build effective organizational and employee agility instead of relying on periodic change initiatives, as well as enabling employees work virtually through technology tools. There is need to develop capacities to attract, create, and retain top-notch talent in upcoming markets. Moreover, the company needs to explore new approaches to employee management and development as traditional approaches are giving way to more systematic and decentralized approaches in the modern world. Above all, there is an urgent need to research more about the most effective trends of focusing in a globalized and technology-driven world.

Conclusion

This business report has introduced a recruitment forecasting application for UK’s Network Rail. The company has been facing stumbling blocks in the area of Forecasting mostly as a result of using a manual procedure that necessitates each manager to submit information to the HR department. Network Rail is in charge of almost all of England’s railway infrastructure and has remained successful in the recent years. However, it adopts a decade’s old HR Forecasting system that relies on conventional methods of Forecasting, often involving last minute notifications and a manually-driven recruitment programs that require hefty costs and long periods of time to run effectively. Decisions on recruitment are instrumental to an organization’s success and normally have a long-lasting effect on organizational performance. Therefore, every organization needs to design and implement an effective Forecasting model that saves on costs and time, as well as one that guarantees successful matching of human resources with both present and planned activities of the business. This business report has made a case for a new cloud-hosted, web based recruitment Forecasting application, dubbed “Foresight,” for Network Rail. Foresight is an online tool that requests, collates, and presents data pertaining to forecasting in a forthcoming 12-month period. As a standalone program, it will lessen the burden that resourcing teams experience when they offer forecast messages to individual managers in order to inquire information about recruitment needs. It is also expected to counter the aforementioned challenges that currently plague forecasting in the organization. Foresight resembles a workforce forecast manager that enables managers to evaluate labor needs and why they needs them. Managers can use the tool to accurately predict demand to a small interval, at a high precision than the former manual system. The application has multiple algorithms that can be utilized for various purposes depending on the amount of available historical data. The application will process requests, systematize data, and analyze information pertaining to the company’s recruitment needs in a forthcoming 12-month period. The system will be operated via multiple user accounts, allowing users to share data remotely, at their convenience. Potential positive impacts of the system include effective forecasting, time and cost savings, reduction of administrative work load, decentralization of human resources activities, and a shift in technology while negative impacts comprise resistance to change, neglect of personal interaction, and data security and confidentiality.

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