Compensating unforeseeable staff shortages with strategic management concepts

Whether it’s attending to patients in healthcare, operating machines in the manufacturing sector or advising customers in stationary trade: The uninterrupted provision of personnel resources is indispensable in many sectors in order to ensure productivity and guarantee economic efficiency. Systematic downtime management helps to react adequately and cost-efficiently to short-term staff shortfalls or additional personnel requirements.

A specific concept for staff absence management is called for

A thorough problem analysis helps to uncover the weak points in managing staff shortfalls. The most frequent error sources include incorrect calculation of "staff buffers" as well as low cross-departmental flexibility. In addition, there is often a lack of transparency about required and existing qualifications when suitable replacements have to be found.

There is no generally applicable formula for compensating shortfalls that can be implemented uniformly in every company. All the solution approaches and instruments have their own advantages and disadvantages. A well-founded and individually tailored process analysis helps to find an intelligent combination of measures that will optimally meet all requirements.

Measures to optimize downtime management

In connection with sound and demand-oriented workforce scheduling, there is always a need for compensation when employees are unexpectedly absent. The reasons for this are mainly short-term illnesses, which were not factored in by the personnel requirement prognosis. Companies should set themselves the goal of reducing the sickness rates of the workforce. Illness-related absences due to stress, lack of sleep or overwork can often be prevented by reducing overtime, minimizing night shifts or compensating for excessive physical work with sufficient rest periods. By including the sickness rate in the personnel requirement prognosis, potential absences can be compensated for.

Unplanned additional personnel requirements, however, may also lead to a deviation between personnel required and workforce deployed. Preventive measures such as improving the personnel requirement prognosis, taking the sickness rate into account and improving working conditions are already minimizing the number of absences and improving the management of absences and staff shortfall.

Flexible response options in practice

The required substitution capacities should match the shortfall requirements as closely as possible and be integrated into the duty roster. Appropriate measures are required for this. On the one hand, the tasks of the employees should be standardized as far as possible to ensure flexible employee deployment. In this way, absences can ideally be compensated for even without substitution. On the other hand, the employees should be qualified for different jobs. This enables the use of cross-divisional floater pools and so-called joker services. Such stand-by resources support workforce management at different times. In this way, staff shortfalls can be compensated for in the best possible way.

A combination of these measures geared to increasing the flexibility of tasks, working hours and deployment has proved to be particularly effective in practice. Thanks to the more flexible deployment of personnel, staff availability and required personnel can be synchronized. This avoids additional costs for personnel buffers, while reducing administrative input.

Three steps to managing staff shortfalls successfully

  1. Analysis of the reasons and frequency of staff absences: Here, both the causes of various absences must be found and their frequency determined.
  2. Based on the results, preventive measures are developed to reduce the number and frequency of staff absences.
  3. Concrete measures for managing staff absences are defined and implemented in accordance with the business model and the corporate culture.


We would be more than happy to discuss improving staff absence management in your company.

About the author

Leif Abraham

A graduate in industrial engineering drawing on many years of consulting experience, the project manager focusses on the corporate culture, organization and processes – in order to tap the software’s full potential After all, Leif is well aware that only a holistic view will generate the full, inherent added value.

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