Guest blog post by Jennifer Ardery, Product Marketing Manager, Kronos, Inc.
Begin with an accurate forecast. You can’t use guesswork to align labor to demand. At a minimum, you should look for historical trends. Seasonality may be the biggest variable at your organization or day of the week, or maybe the same local event affects your business year after year. There are typically patterns that drive fluctuating demand, but they are difficult to find manually. Having the flexibility to re-forecast when unexpected occurrences arise is important too.
An accurate forecast is the foundation for creating a best-fit schedule – requiring less staffing changes once the schedule has been posted. Forecasting demand to come up with an equitable workload plan is important in all industries, although the benefits can be experienced differently. I’ll cover a couple of examples.
Traditionally, hospitals use the static, budgeted census, to determine how many nurses are needed to satisfy patient demand. However, it is common that on one day, a unit will have a staffing shortage, but need to send staff home the next day due to over-coverage. This practice often results in generating inadequate schedules that require numerous daily staffing changes as it does not take predictable, fluctuating demand and historical data into account.
Leading organizations require more intelligent volume forecasts to plan best-fit schedules that align staffing to demand. By predicting future patient volumes, staffing managers:
- Gain confidence that resources are properly scheduled to meet fluctuating demand by day, month, and shift;
- Experience reduced reliance on overtime and expensive agency resources by minimizing over- and under-staffing; and
- Increase employee and patient satisfaction as resources are scheduled when and where they need to be.
Today’s leading retailers typically require forecasted demand down to 15-minute increments. Store managers may be able to manually estimate the number of employees needed to cover an average week or month, but most likely not for a particular shift on a particular day. Typically, automated forecasting solutions use algorithms behind the scenes to allow store managers to create accurate forecasts based on a wide range of definable metrics, including sales, transactions, customers served, units sold, etc.
By aligning labor with anticipated customer demand, you can help ensure that both employee and customer needs are fully met. An accurate forecast will help:
- Schedule the right person, in the right place, at the right time
- Keep your budget in line with expectations by reducing overstaffing
- Improve productivity, customer service, and sales conversion by avoiding understaffing
How do you forecast at your organization? Does it help build better schedules?