In any organization that relies on hourly workers, a workforce scheduling solution forms the very foundation of smooth business functioning.
One of the main reasons for loss of profits can be linked to ineffective workforce scheduling. On any given day, managers are faced with a host of scheduling problems. These include overstaffing, understaffing, and the inability to meet a high workload on time. They are also expected to look under every rock to reduce overheads carefully.
In any business organization, effective workforce scheduling is evident in its operations, employee satisfaction, as well as profit generation.
Inefficient scheduling and understaffing results in the assignment of the wrong number of workers who don’t possess the right skills for the job, employees’ burnout, and reduced efficiency. All the above scenarios have a negative impact on an organization. Sadly, business owners overlook the importance of efficient workforce scheduling. This results in huge losses, increased absenteeism, a lack of collaboration, and poor retention of employees.
Workforce scheduling is not an option, but a necessary workforce management strategy that must be used by any organization that relies on hourly workers for smooth business functioning. It helps take care of all scheduling problems within an organization, accurately forecast labor requirements, and manage daily staff schedules on a day-to-day and hour-to-hour basis. Workforce scheduling needs to be efficient to take care of the needs of the entire organization, as well as take care of last-minute changes or delays that break the flow of a smooth-running day.
Today, workforce scheduling has become an automated process making it much simpler to forecast faster and solve scheduling problems that an organization faces.
In this article, we will take a detailed look at what workforce scheduling is, its benefits, the type of organizations that can make optimum use of it, and more. But first, let’s start at the very beginning.
What is Workforce Scheduling?
Workforce scheduling is an art and a science. It is defined as “The process of establishing the schedules of hourly workers to meet the current and future demands in a workplace, such as a restaurant, a hospital, or a retail store. It also involves defining schedules so that the transition from one shift to the other is seamless and work remains uninterrupted.”
In dynamic industries, workload changes frequently. Managers are faced with a variety of problems such as:
- Overstaffing employees when work demand is low.
- Understaffing of employees when work demand is high.
- Employees feeling overburdened when the organization is understaffed, and they must complete the overwhelmingly high burden.
- Employees calling in sick or not reporting for duty on time due to unforeseen emergencies.
- Management requiring to hire last-minute that ends up costly.
Scheduling helps in all the above scenarios by taking two main factors into account:
- Predicted workloads
- Number of resources that are required to complete the job
Today, managers do not have to spend countless hours employing last-minute solutions to ensure work is completed on time. Thanks to new technology, workforce scheduling has become automated. Workforce scheduling software helps organizations seamlessly manage their planning schedules, freeing their work hours to be utilized productively in other important managerial tasks.
Key Features of Workforce Scheduling
A successful workforce schedule is one that keeps your employees happy and, at the same time, maximizes efficiency and profits.
An effective and efficient workforce schedule includes the following key features:
- The schedule must ensure that every shift is properly and appropriately staffed for each position. For example, a bar might require only one bartender on a weeknight but three bartenders on weekends. Ensure you get the numbers right. For that, you must be aware of the hours when there will be unusual spikes or dips in business/customers. Keep an eye out for local and national events that will affect your business.
- Ensure the schedule is completely error-free. Although this might sound like stating the obvious, it is critical that managers realize that creating a workforce schedule solution is not simple. It is always easier to make mistakes than to get a workforce schedule solution free of errors. Some common errors to look out for and avoid are:
- Double-scheduling, an employee. This happens a lot when employees work two different types of jobs within the same company. In our example of a bar, an employee could work as a barman on some days and a waiter on other days. Ensure that an employee is not scheduled twice during the same time slot.
- Scheduling staff for the wrong position. Another common mistake that is often made is scheduling an employee for a job that he does not have the skills to complete. This could lead to a slowdown in the production line or a complete failure.
- Under/over-scheduling employees. Ensure that you do not give a single employee too many shifts. This is especially true of part-time employees who might have other commitments besides the job they do for you. Full-time staff might require additional or enough shifts to fulfill financial obligations.
Who is Suitable for Workforce Scheduling?
Any industry that hires hourly workers and has a constant change in workload will benefit from workforce scheduling. Some of these industries include:
- Contact centers
- Transportation and Logistics
Organizations that reside in these industries are responsible for completing critically time-sensitive tasks on time. Most of these organizations also pay their employees hourly wages and use workforce scheduling to augment their overall business productivity.
Benefits of using workforce scheduling
All organizations have one goal, and that is to succeed. This success can only be achieved when projects are completed on time, with as little expenditure as possible.
When it comes to timely project completion, the process of efficient workforce scheduling cannot be overstated. With efficient schedules in places, organizations can capably forecast labor costs and also plan their budgets efficiently.
As we have seen, ineffective workforce scheduling can have severe implications for a company. Here is a list of the key benefits of ensuring precise and effective workforce scheduling in an organization.
1. Balance workflow supply and demand
Assign the right number of employees that you will need for a particular job. Assign anticipated demand by planning for the right number of employees an advance. Historical data can give accurate insights into the number of employees required for specific days, specific situations, on holidays, or when a new product is rolled out.
2. Boost productivity at each shift
Proper workforce scheduling ensures you have an eye on when workers are available, the types of skills they possess, the level of the skills they possess, and how they are performing. With all this information available to an organization, managers can ensure that the necessary skills are available at each shift and boost productivity
3. Complements flexible work environments
An effective workforce schedule ensures that managers keep track of flexible work schedules seamlessly. Managing changing schedules and reducing workforce management hassles that are often associated with keeping track of flex time. This, in turn, ensures the advantages of flexible work hours are fully absorbed by the organization –
- Better retention
- Increased productivity
- Increased bottom line
- Credibility as a good place to work
4. Manage employee attendance issues and overtime
Stay compliant with the law about overtime and prevent issues related to overtime. Prevent violations of employees’ overtime policy and protect the company from the violation of such laws.
5. Employee job satisfaction and retention
With efficient workforce scheduling in time, employees can work out their own personal schedules around their tasks, know when they can ask for days off depending on the demand and ensures employees are not overburdened. Happy workers are willing to work for the organization, and this increases the retention of good workers.
How to Optimize Workforce Scheduling?
Any organization that wants to improve its workforce scheduling can follow these tips:
1. Know the staff who work for your organization
Create a staff list of all your current employees, including their:
- The department they work in
- Relevant skills
- Preference for full-time or part-time or contractual work.
- Over-time restriction
- Personality type
Information about overtime restrictions, cross-training, and their preferred work hours are useful as well – especially when you need to determine when and where is the best place/time for individual employees to work.
2. Keep communication lines open at all hours
It’s only human for your employees to be bogged down with non-related work issues from time to time. At those times, even the most efficient of employees might require some hours off. With proper ‘requesting availability’ in place, managers can avoid scheduling conflicts.
- Set up a clear line of communication with your employees and a standard procedure that allows managers to be alerted when a particular shift is understaffed.
- Set up advanced scheduling in place, so employees can review their shifts, ensure they complete non-work-related issues when they are off duty, or even swap shifts with their colleagues. This way, work can continue undisturbed, and critical deadlines can be met.
- Ensure schedules are easily accessible by employees. Sending email notifications to employees whenever a new schedule is posted is a great way to keep them informed of their respective schedules.
To manage all your schedules easily, ensure you have them all stored in one place.
3. Develop a process for employees to submit their preferred work schedule
Allowing employees to voice their preferred working schedule and ensuring they get their preferred schedule leads to:
- Goodwill between employer and employees
- Better work
- Happiness of employees
- Higher retention of employees
- Willingness to give the best to the organization
Also, in the event of a sudden emergency, these workers will be willing to put in extra work for you.
4. Have an emergency plan in place
No matter how efficient the organization and your work schedule, there are bound to be emergencies that arise. With an emergency plan in place well in advance, managers will not find themselves scrambling for extra employees to complete deadlines.
5. Schedule employees, according to their individual talents and skills.
In an understaffed environment, managers are often forced to fill shift positions with employees who might not be the best fit. This can:
- Affect the quality of work
- Affect the morale of your employees
- Lead to increased turnover
Ensure shifts are covered with the most skilled employees while providing them with some amount of flexibility at the same time.
Building shifts around good workers do two things:
- First, you ensure that the most suited employees are available for each shift.
- Second, you can be sure that you have a core of experience that other employees can rely on. Experienced employees can quickly improve the quality of work in their shift.
TalenX uses people’s data to enable organizations to understand each individual’s qualities and soft skills to create successful groups and teams. Click here to find out how TalenX can help you create successful teams.
6. Analyze past data
Historical data can provide an organization with valuable data, such as when there will be increases and decreases in the demand for work. Historical data is key to ensuring you have the right number of employees and the right skills in times of high demand and low demand. This prevents your organization from overstaffing and understaffing.
7. Ensure a balanced allocation of skills
While it is necessary to have the right skills available at each shift, it’s also necessary to ensure that the right skills are available across all shifts. With employee data available with you, you can see who is scheduled for what shift and the skills they possess. Any skill gaps can be filled in.
8. Track overtime
If your data shows that you are consistently putting a certain employee on overtime or scheduling overtime on a regular basis, it means that your organization is too lean. In the long run, overtime is not good for business. Not only does it work out more costly, but it also tires your workers. If you are consistently scheduling overtime, it is probably time to hire more employees. At TalenX, we incorporate both psychological science and people analytics to ensure a great job fit.
9. Allow employees to create schedules and find their own substitutes
Managers can reduce their workload by providing employees with an opportunity to help with creating a schedule. Use your best employees to create a schedule for their shift, to begin with. Next, give other employees a chance to fill in their schedule – when they want to work. Allow a fixed time for changes (a day or two) and then close the schedule to external alterations. Finally, go through the schedule and fill in the remaining blanks to your satisfaction and make the schedule available to the team.
Giving employees the responsibility to fill in their own substitutes when they are on leave can ensure your workload does not increase.
10. Make use of a workforce scheduling software solution
Scheduling is a necessity for managers and supervisors. However, scheduling is also a concern when the lack of an effective process leads to awry results. People in charge of scheduling staff make it worse when they are encumbered with manually taking care of:
- Employee requests
- Employee requests
- Availability calendars
- Large spreadsheets
An employee scheduling software solution can:
- Establish effective employee schedules
- Reduce the amount of paperwork
- Keep accurate records of employee attendance
- Manage holiday and vacation time
- Make the payment process efficient and easy
- Avail schedules to employees easily
- Drastically reduce human errors and other common scheduling mistakes
- Increase management/employee productivity
- Produce fair and accurate schedules
- Reduce employee conflicts
- Reduce employee turnover rates
There is no doubt that workforce scheduling is a key solution to a successful organization. Today, organizations are moving from manual workforce scheduling to automated workforce scheduling. No matter what type of industry you belong to – if you pay your employees by the hour, workforce scheduling can benefit your organization by increasing productivity, ensuring the right number of workers and skills for every shift, eliminating overscheduling, and under scheduling of employees. With order and a flow to your business, and with everyone sure of when they are supposed to work, you can ensure important tasks are completed on time – leading to more profits.
It’s never too late to start, and if you are not employing workforce scheduling in your organization, now is a good time to start.