Even the best schedules represent a compromise. In order to create workable shifts in the time available, managers have to make choices. When a seasonal rush, a special project or a tight payroll budget places limits on available options, factors like employee preferences may fall by the wayside.
The truth is all business experience conflicts between staffing needs, labor costs, legal requirements, staff availability and staff work preferences. To even come up with a workable schedule, most managers are forced to ignore factors like staff work preferences — even though they would like to factor those preferences in.
Ultimately, that means there are inefficiencies created when a scheduling manager’s work represents the nexus of so many competing priorities. To ask a single person to map those out by hand or on a spreadsheet is to ask for trouble.
With the right scheduling tools, however, managers can optimize shifts to align business priorities and staff needs. As a result, the organization as a whole should realize some important benefits.
The Business Case for Optimized Scheduling
A recent study authored by Heather Boushey and Bridget Ansel at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth found that unpredictable, just-in-time schedules led to decreased profits, as well as higher absenteeism and higher turnover.
Being able to call in staff at the last minute can be helpful in a crunch, but too many businesses rely on last-minute availability to hold their schedules together. If managers didn’t have to spend so much time balancing priorities, they could get their schedules out faster, and everyone would be happier.
This is where data collection comes in. Managers who have staffing needs, time-off requests, availability, employee skills and all the other factors that go into building a schedule at their fingertips can create schedules much more quickly. That lays the groundwork for scheduling predictability that leaves both employers and workers better able to focus on their work.
Our software allows schedulers to set the relative importance of different priorities (such as overtime, employee skill sets, employee preferences, etc.) when scheduling. It then can weigh those priorities according to the needs of the business itself.
For example, schedulers facing tight payroll budget constraints can prioritize a schedule that optimizes labor costs and minimizes the amount of overtime scheduled. For shifts that demand specialized skill sets, schedulers can use our system to identify and choose only those staff members whose skills are equal to or greater than the demands of a particular shift. Parameters can also be set to minimize instances in which a worker is scheduled during times they’ve requested to be away from work.
Importantly, our application can help managers optimize schedules for several factors at once — calculations that would be impossible to do by hand or on a spreadsheet. That capability empowers managers to make better decisions on behalf of staff and on behalf of the company.
What’s more, it eliminates one of the more mind-numbing aspects of management, freeing them up to focus on the parts of their jobs where they can add even more value. This includes planning for future staffing needs, optimizing labor costs by reducing overtime expenses and building agility into schedules to anticipate setbacks like employee no-shows.
Schedulers have extraordinary power to address a business’s challenges and opportunities. That’s why we’re passionate about providing the tools they need to reach that goal.
Embrace Employees’ Preferences to Meet Business Needs
When schedules are done by hand, schedulers often have to sacrifice employee preferences in order to ensure shifts are covered by the people best able to do the work well. Over time, these sacrifices lead to greater employee turnover, decreased sales and similar losses.
Flexibility and Choice in Scheduling
The National Retail Federation has an important, thoughtful piece of research on scheduling flexibility. While the NRF understands that employees prefer fixed schedules, an unavoidable aspect of the retail sector is variability. These are businesses that must respond to customers’ shopping preferences, which vary week to week and season to season. Rigid scheduling is therefore not possible in retail.
At the same time, the NRF notes that many retail employees favor the flexibility of their schedules. This lets them respond to the variability in their work-life balance so they can make time to attend night classes, take care of family members or pursue any other priorities they might have while still getting hours at work.
Optimized scheduling is crucial to ensure both retailer and employee can strike the balances they need to thrive. For example, imagine a retail manager with a shift leader who needs to pick up 30 hours per week, but that employee is also taking classes two days per week. It might make sense for both retailer and employee to schedule three 10-hour shifts per week.
Being able to accommodate staff with compromises such as compressed schedules, like this employee’s 3×10 schedule, helps businesses retain talent. In fact, a study published in Personnel Review by Edward Hyatt and Erica Coslor, members of the Department of Management and Marketing at the University of Melbourne, found that employees reported greater satisfaction with their work schedules when the employee could choose to take a compressed schedule. For some people, three long work days afford them the time and money they need to balance the other priorities in their lives.
Of course, striking those balances on a per-employee basis requires lots of calculations. That’s why we sought to create a platform that would help schedulers track and account for employee preferences. Schedulers can use our tools to build effective schedules that account for employee needs as well as business needs.
Protecting the Talent You Have
When schedulers can account for changing work and employee factors more quickly, they can provide notice of upcoming schedules more promptly, which has positive effects on employees’ work. According to Joan Williams, a professor at the University of California Hastings College of Law, uncertain or just-in-time schedules “[lead] to a pattern of serial quitting because [employees] can’t plan ahead” or because the schedule forces them to choose between their job and another crucial event, like childcare or illness.
The knowledge a company’s schedulers bring to the table is essential for business success. By providing schedulers with the right tools, companies can maximize these professionals’ ability to ensure that the right people are ready for every business challenge. By offering a platform that allows schedulers to customize priorities, identify opportunities and meet employee needs, we seek to help businesses reach and exceed their goals.
Key Takeaways For Businesses
- Collect staff data. You need a database of your staff members’ skills, availability and scheduling preferences. That data can then help you align your schedules to business priorities, even when those priorities change.
- Try not to sacrifice staff scheduling needs. You retain top talent, keep your team engaged and ultimately save money when you accommodate their own scheduling priorities.
- Smart scheduling creates business value. A tool that manages and builds schedules around your staff data gives you the ability to instantly optimize schedules for different business priorities. That saves time, frees managers from monotonous work, and lets managers focus on solving problems and adding value to other parts of the business.
business priorities. That saves time, frees managers from monotonous work, and lets managers focus on solving problems and adding value to other parts of the business.
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