How do unimaginable amounts of snow impact business outcomes?

The better question might be: How do they not? I sit hear writing as it snows outside, but it barely makes the local weather report today as we’re only getting an inch or two. Now local meteorologists say things like ‘we might get a blizzard this weekend’ or ‘there’s only 10 inches of snow coming Tuesday’. Working in the Boston area, I remember many winters past when 10 inches was a lot. This winter, I’ve experienced a foot or more the last 3 Mondays – not a great way to begin the work week.

My backyard: Yes - that is a fence.
My backyard:  Yes – that is a fence.

You’ve seen it on the national news. At this point, people are officially getting depressed. Feeling trapped – like they are “going crazy.” I choose to find the comical side of all of this. It’s not like we can change it. Let’s make the best of it. Laugh about the ridiculousness of it all. Enjoy the view. Share stories about the first time you saw a woman get out of her car to help push a stranger’s car out of a drift as he was getting onto a highway. I sat mesmerized thinking it would never work, but it did.

 

So what are a few of the ways bad weather impacts employers?

Unplanned Absences

Simply put, less work is getting done, especially if those absent are unable to work from home. There may not be enough staff available to meet business demand. The staff members that come in are probably more stressed as they are trying to pick up the slack. Production levels go down. Customer service and revenue can suffer. Labor budgets can quickly bust as contract workers are called in and full-timers go into overtime. SHRM and the Workforce Institute have found ways to help mitigate this impact.

Employee Housing Costs

For many businesses that operate around the clock, such as hospitals and hotels, working from home isn’t an option on a snowy day. The businesses typically put up employees in hotel rooms before and during a big storm to ensure they have enough staff on site to operate. Some local hospitals house employees at the hospital itself and cover meals. These expenses add up and influence the bottom-line.

Transportation

This is the first time I can remember Massachusetts’s mass transit system, the MBTA, being shut down for over an entire day. Employees without a car can’t even get to work if they want to, especially if they can’t afford a cab ride.

Image via MBTA

Over 1900 flights were canceled during the last storm. Think of all the canceled sales meetings and customer visits canceled due to Boston area employees unable to get to their destination. When the next big storm happens, because I know it will, I’ll focus more on the employee experience during this ridiculous weather pattern.

 

 

 

If you’re lucky enough to live in a warm climate, please enjoy. I promise – we’re not resentful – much. After all, we Bostonians have the autumn leaves, Fenway Park, and of course the Patriots. Those make up for it all.

Image via Patriot’s Facebook Page

 

 

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3 Ways to Optimize Employee Work Schedules

The term ‘optimized’ tends to get thrown around a lot, especially when talking about employee scheduling. But what does it really mean?

The basic dictionary definition – “to make as perfect, effective, or functional as possible” – is good, but a bit vague when it comes to workforce management. Perfection is an unrealistic goal since even the best planned schedules typically require some fine-tuning.

EmployeeScheduleRulesAndPreferencesHow do you make complex schedules, even close to perfect, when there are so many variables to consider? From taking skills and certifications into account, to avoiding excess overtime and meeting fluctuating demand, planning best-fit schedules is no easy task.

Here are 3 important ways to optimize employee schedules:

Align labor to meet fluctuating business demand.

Overstaffed? Employees are standing around on your dime. Understaffed? You’re losing sales, customers, and production volume.

By aligning labor to business demand, employees are much less likely to feel overworked. Assign more employees in busy times; less people in slower times. Sounds easy, right? But it’s not when you take company policies, legislation, overtime, skills, etc., into account. Some leading organizations balance workload even further by categorizing the level of difficulty of the task at hand – then balancing difficult tasks amongst the team.

Balance skills and experience to form highly effective teams.

Scheduling teams with a mix of skills and proficiency levels decreases stress, increases productivity, and minimizes labor cost waste. Who wants to be the only experienced person, working with a team of people who joined the company yesterday, at the busiest time of day? Not many. Conversely, it doesn’t normally make sense for all of your most experienced employees to work together, often at higher pay rates. Balancing experience levels can also balance labor expenses.

It’s not just about tracking skills to see who’s qualified to work a particular job. It’s about having a mix of employees with varying skills and experience that can collaborate by working together to achieve common goals.

Business VisibilityRequire the visibility to re-balance schedules when the unexpected arises.

Even the best planned schedules often require adjustments. Perhaps the flu has hit one department. Perhaps a customer order was canceled in another. Wouldn’t it be nice to have the visibility across the organization to move available and qualified employees between departments or job roles to manage over- and under-staffing? Providing staffing managers the tools to make this an easier process helps minimize the need to change employees’ hours and maintain business as usual.

Do you see a pattern here? Scheduling is a balancing act. Take the guesswork out of scheduling by automating the process of aligning labor to demand and gaining better visibility to employee attributes. More often than not, there is room to further optimize a schedule for better bottom-line results and better employee satisfaction.

What do you consider to be an optimized schedule?