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?

Staffing for early Independence – Avoiding Arthur causes labor management crisis

Unpredictable weather has always been a factor in the northeast US. More often than not, the winter months are when New England especially is susceptible to weather-related interruptions of plans, traffic, school and work cancellations, etc. So when an early July hurricane unexpectedly comes barreling up the east coast, it’s a big deal. When it is scheduled to arrive on July 4th in Boston, you get a July 3 & 4, 2009 Boston July Forth Fireworks Spectacular Images by Jay Connordifferent type of fireworks…

Yesterday the city of Boston decided not to postpone its annual Independence Day celebration, which includes the outdoor concert by the Boston Pops Orchestra and massive fireworks display. Instead, the city decided yesterday, July 2nd to move the festivities up to today, July 3rd. What a nightmare for scheduling all of the labor needed to support the change.

  • Public works, city workers and vendors setting up for the tens of thousands of visitors for the fireworks lose an entire day of work, likely requiring overtime and additional staff
  • The police and transportation workers that are needed not only to support and provide security for the event but the logistics of managing the traffic. Most businesses are open in the city today (whereas many are closed on the 4th). Many roads are planned to be closed at noon today, likely causing nightmare traffic scenarios
  • The retail, dining and hospitality businesses who must also make drastic last minute schedule changes for the tourists and visitors coming in today, vs. tomorrow.schedule1

Automated scheduling can be a huge time savings here. On the fly schedule adjustments, identifying employee availability & potential restrictions, managing pending overtime costs efficiently with projected hours features are all benefits of a workforce management system with advanced labor scheduling. Even sending an “all hands on deck” text message to employees that can help fill shifts via a mobile phone is now a reality with these systems.

4th-of-july-in-boston-4So while Arthur may bring some rain tomorrow, Boston will celebrate our independence as usual. The Pops will play at the esplanade and the fireworks will light up the sky over the Charles River, thanks to the many workers scheduled to work extra hard to make it happen.

Happy 4th of July!