Adapt | Welcome to the Never Normal

Welcome to the Never Normal

Having previously written about and discussed “the new normal” in many posts over the last couple of years we can now start to remove this terminology from our phrase book.

It was purportedly originated in 2010 by the Dutch entrepreneur and author, Peter Hinssen, who used it with respect to digital transformation. His view now, and ours, is that it could be outdated and perhaps replaced with the term, “the never normal”.

Things it seems are in a continuous state of change these days

Many of us will have had first-hand experience of current issues triggered by reduced labour and skills available, predominantly in the hospitality, health and travel sectors. Returning from holidays abroad we see competing arguments from airlines and airport ground staff as to who is to blame for delays, cancellations, and rescheduling of flights. Too few employees, with reduced skills, working excessive hours has the knock-on effect to other areas of the business, and continues the escalation of the issues in a never-ending cycle – meaning that no matter where it started, ground staff and airline staff become increasing infuriated, exhausted and demotivated.

This eventually will no doubt lead to poor retention and increased recruitment difficulties. Throw in the fact that the unique issues of this industry in the pandemic were widely ignored, this has meant cost pressures initially led to wide-ranging layoffs. It has continued with businesses taking the opportunity to rehire or engage new employees on far less favourable terms and conditions.

At some point this cycle will have to be brought under control. Supply and demand could mean that the power will eventually fall into the hands of the prospective employees as customers will not take this upheaval of their holiday plans forever, but who knows in the never normal era of people and skill shortages!

Meanwhile in another area, which may impact some travel industry employees, the UK Supreme Court has ruled that employees that only work for part of the year, such as term-time workers, are entitled to the same holiday pay as colleagues working all year.

The judgment from the Supreme Court in the Harpur Trust v Brazel case could have significant financial repercussions for employers whose employees work part of the year on permanent contracts. Most probably this will have most consequence in the education sector and local government.

The case involved Mrs Brazel, a music teacher who works at a school during term time, who believed her holiday pay should by calculated using her average earnings over a 12-week period and not pro-rated.

Mrs Brazel argued that her holiday pay should be calculated by using her average earnings over a 12-week period and not using the standard (and previously approved by ACAS) 12.07% of that figure of her annual wages for holiday pay (12.07 being a simplified method of calculating the legal requirement for holidays in the working time regulations i.e., 5.6/(52-5.6) ).

This case was originally brought in 2015, which eventually led to several employment tribunal losses and appeals and has finally been decided last week in favour of Mrs Brazel. Irrespective of whether it follows the initial intention of the Working Time Regulations, this has now been clarified. It means workers employed for part of the year on permanent contracts should receive proportionately more annual leave and pay than their full-year counterparts. i.e., employers cannot pro-rata the 5.6 weeks statutory holiday allowance to reflect the number of weeks they actually work. So, in practice it doesn’t now matter whether this seems illogical and inequitable, it is now the accepted opinion. In hindsight a sensible approach to this problem would have been to employ Mrs Brazel on an annualised hours contract with a salaried income all year round, in Peter Hinssen’s terminology “preparing for the day after tomorrow” or “preparing for the unpreparable”. In failing to prepare organisations may have considerable liabilities from past years of using this now deemed inappropriate methodology.

These recent change events, although at different levels, play into the philosophy of the never normal with its expectations of multiple shocks, the theory expects more, whether technological, biological, economical or geopolitical.

It defines the future with the acronym

VUCA - Volatility, Uncertainity, Complexity, and Ambiguity 

It also defines how organisations will have to adapt to survive using another acronym.

VACINE - Velocity, Agility, Creativity, Innovation, Network, and Experimentation

To understand not only the past but to help meet evolving challenges and issues means that you need accurate data and methodologies to react.

From a Workforce Management perspective, in the never normal it’s vital that organisations still plan for the future; however, they need to do this in conjunction with the ability to respond with speed and dexterity to evolving and changing circumstances. This might include:

  • A core roster that supports flexible and adaptive shift working

  • A range of different rosters and working patterns that can be deployed to meet specific scenarios – i.e., an approach to delivering a resilient service in the face of substantial abstractions from the workforce

  • Contractual arrangements to allow this agile response to changing circumstances

  • A truly dynamic WFM system that supports effective, agile working processes and allows both longer term and extremely short-term changes to working arrangements

In our environment of work and people this is what we refer to as the Workforce Planning and Management cycle… it encompasses longer-term strategic planning, shorter-term/on the day change and ongoing analysis… it’s an ongoing journey; a cycle of continuous improvement and we can help you wherever you are on your journey.

Workforce planning and management is a virtuous circle. In this new VUCA world of work, businesses need to stay on top of their workforce activity to remain productive and effective…

Smart businesses must look at how they manage their workforces in a smarter way. It requires continuous attention and focus, supported by business systems that provide accurate, insightful information, ensuring their workforces are working to its optimum potential, benefitting both the business and its people.

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