By the time you’re reading this we’re either enjoying a typical English summer wash-out or bathing in glorious summer sun, either way where would the summer be without ice-cream?

For this Figure It Out we are going to look at what the ice cream vans need to do to supply us with our all important ice cream but for this issue we have teamed up with our Employee Transformation colleagues to look at it from a people angle and how we plan for the company to deliver with the right people profile.


We will use the example of I-Scream the mobile ice cream company based in the UK who wants to understand how many employees they need to satisfy summer demand using 100 I-Scream vans.

The supply and demand model for ice cream is based on the amount of sunshine and warmth in the UK with the highest demand likely to be on weekends. To predict demand we need to know the likelihood of a hot summer and it is precisely the British weather that we can be certain of not relying on. At the risk of Gloucestershire flooding we have taken the Met Office average level of sunshine during the summer months and estimated 60% of weekends (about 13) during May to September having fine weather and 30% of weekends (about 6.5) are hot. I-Scream will want to have all ice cream sellers available for those precious 6.5 weekends but how do they achieve this?

The availability of ice cream sellers is dependent on them not being sick, on holiday or having to care for dependants. The draconian view maybe that during this period all annual leave requests are refused, there is no non-statutory sick pay and no leave granted to care for dependents. This is a high risk strategy that impacts on recruitment and retention. The workforce plan at its simplest level would be to have all I-Scream vans on the road during daylight (circa 14 hours) during the summer months. If staff work 37.5 hours a week then 2.6 whole time equivalents are needed per van and accounting for high turnover and backfill an additional 20% has been added.

An alternative approach is to propose a range of flexible working policies which increases staff retention and will be a cost benefit to the organisation. Employee surveys across multiple sectors suggests that people value an employer that is willing to be flexible to accommodate their personal life constraints, and so are more willing to stay in a company. In addition, a loyal temperament creates higher employee productivity. To develop a flexible approach that increases retention I-Scream needs to communicate the flexible working approach and apply workforce planning to existing staff needs. The following is a view of I-Scream’s staff requests in the South of England:

Using this information we can develop a workforce model that provides everyone with a fair share of weekends, evening and daytime work and allows for individual preferences.

Using this information we can use the South of England model to predict the rest of I-Scream’s workforce in the UK. This starts to highlight that I-Scream need to be able to cover the unsociable hours, but with summer working, they are only needed on a temporary basis.

The recruitment and retention strategy for I-Scream could then be as follows:

– Maximum headcount should be June – August with reduced levels during May and September

– Geographical recruitment should be based on where the most ice cream is sold such as the seaside, parks and festival areas

– Recruit a combination of part time and temporary staff to make up to 63% of the workforce, although to retain skills this should be closer to 50%

– Focus on students, school leavers and those who are returning to the labour market. This can then be developed with the use of government unemployment support (Job Centre Plus)and not for profit employment agencies as well as traditional recruitment sources

The recruitment of this part of the workforce would need to happen quickly and should really have happened in April-May to account for training and for recruiting students and school leavers.

What I-Scream are now able to do is to have a flexible workforce that can respond to peaks, according to the British weather and summer events, while catering to the core workforce’s flexible needs.

The Operational Research team are working alongside the Employee Transformation team to deliver HR-related business problems with the appropriate analytics required to deliver really differentiated solutions, where workforce planning is just one example.

All we now need is some sunshine to enjoy our ice creams!