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29 (124) 2017
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Interviews

The Déhora Consultancy Group: A Full-Service Workforce Planning Expert

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2017 marks the year of the Déhora Consultancy Group’s 30th anniversary. To celebrate this milestone, we look back at the last 30 years together with the company’s CEO Ben Jansen.

We want to know how he feels the field of workforce planning and optimisation has changed since the company was founded in 1987. What he believes the future holds for his company that is specialised in workforce planning and optimisation and that, after the Netherlands, Belgium and Poland, is soon opening its first office in the Czech Republic.

How did it all start? What inspired you to set up your own company?

Before I set up my own company in 1987, I worked as a lecturer and researcher at the University of Amsterdam. I worked as an occupational psychologist and was responsible for managing the shift-work research team. We were often asked to carry out research and advise many different types of companies operating in the public and private sector. At some point, however, the requests from these companies started to conflict with the topics we studied within the Shift Work research team. This, combined with my growing desire to become an entrepreneur, led me to set up the Déhora Consultancy Group. I started my company on 1 September 1987, a couple of months later I received my doctorate in research about working hours.

What do you consider to be the most prominent changes in workforce planning and optimisation when you look back at the past 30 years?

Even though change did not always come fast, over time workforce planning has developed into a serious business. Not so long ago in many companies a person responsible for workforce planning  might have had some planning skills and experience, but very little to no workforce planning education. Now the job of a workforce planner or planning manager is considered to be a serious profession. Highly skilled and educated planners play a crucial part in running a successful business. These planners and planning managers are therefore properly educated to do their jobs effectively. For us, as a company that also offers many workforce planning courses and training sessions, this means that we’re now seeing a growing number of students applying for courses at the Déhora Academy. This demonstrates how the profession of planner or planning manager is looked upon by employers and that employees in turn are now also able to educate themselves in the field of planning up to even university levels. Unfortunately, in many companies, people are still unaware of the impact that efficient workforce planning has on the success of a business. Successful workforce planning can boost your company results and determine and secure a strong (international) position.

What are your ambitions for Déhora for the coming years?

The consultancy landscape has changed quite a bit over the past 30 years. Clients and potential clients have become more demanding and critical when hiring our trainers, consultants and planners. More than ever before there is an explicit need for clearly visible added value by our interim-planners, consultants, the planning outsourcing that we facilitate and the courses that we offer. To me that is a very good development. Equally so, I find it positive that the market is asking for a shared responsibility with regard to the company results. One of my goals is therefore to show that Déhora embraces these developments and does offer practical solutions and clearly visible results. For example the Planning Service Centre concept that we’ve developed is a great example of our full-service and result-driven approach to workforce planning and optimisation. By using our Planning Service Centre,  you place your workforce planning into our hands. We take care of your entire planning and the positive impact on your bottom line will speak for itself.

To add to that, my ambition does not stop with the current size of our company and the fact that we now operate all over Europe. Even though we are the largest full-service bureau specialised in the field of workforce planning worldwide, I still believe we have great potential to grow even more. Especially when organisations come to realise that strategic workforce planning and optimisation can offer companies so much, the demand for our services will grow tremendously. Specifically right now in the Czech Republic where the economy is booming and many companies are unaware of how much more successful they could be with our help.

Why do you think workforce planning optimisation is important for companies operating on the Polish market?

Poland is a country that has shown solid economic growth over the last few years, outperforming many other EU member states. This has increasingly led to labour shortages and an influx of foreign workers, in particular in the production and manufacturing sector where Poland holds a relatively strong position. But also the public sector – healthcare in particular – is facing the problem of labour shortages. In response, companies have started to raise salaries to attract workers and in doing so are creating an upward wage spiral, that eventually is unsustainable. At least if Poland wants to remain competitive and avoid the social problems associated with mass migration. The only real solution is effective workforce planning and optimisation.

What do exactly do you mean with workforce planning and optimisation?

In practice, companies for many years have been using the same work schedules and routinely find themselves understaffed or overstaffed. This leads to work stress and extra costs in terms of lower productivity, higher illness rates, higher staff turnover and higher error margins. Why not think about schedules that for instance match the seasonality of your workload? Or a system of combined schedules that caters to various segments of the labour market, so that you can tap into a greater reservoir?  Think about, for instance, having on top of your full-time roster,  part-time rosters for working mothers or older workers.

We also see that there are still companies that have 12-hour (night) shifts. This makes your company unattractive for new workers, in particular for those over 45 years old. Productivity is also much lower during these long shifts, in particular during the last hours of a 12-hour night shift. Why not change this for a more employee-friendly solution? Ever thought of self scheduling? Where employees book, up to a certain point, their own shifts and thus have much more control over their work-life balance. And thus are happier.

But besides reconsidering the work schedules, it can also mean that our researchers and consultants investigate the planning processes in a company.  How does the sales department communicate with the factory? What are the responsibilities of HR? How flexible is your organisation in relation to  its external suppliers (agencies)? What KPIs do you have in place to measure the effectively of your workforce?

Who are your clients, which companies will you target?

We have experience in practically every sector you can think of. Production, manufacturing, healthcare, governmental organisations, security, and logistics. Wherever workload changes within a certain time frame, and where it can be a challenge to manage this workload in an effective and efficient way, our full-service workforce planning and optimisation bureau offers support. Whether you need advice from our consultants or the best planning software, whether you need highly skilled and trained interim-planners, or you require training and support for your planning professionals, or would like to outsource your planning with us, we are there to help support and grow your business!

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