“Viewpoint” is a series of opinion posts from WorkSync that …
Employee scheduling is a critical issue in the world of shift-based work. A joint university study revealed that stable scheduling increases both sales and labor productivity for employers, and, according to a recent survey by Quinyx, flexible scheduling is the second-most important job factor for today’s workers.
Scheduling, however, presents a range of challenges for organizations. Managers must balance shift needs, employee availability, communication hurdles, last-minute changes, and an array of other complex demands. Let’s take a closer look at what some of the biggest difficulties are.
1. Keeping Track of Needs and Resources
No matter what industry you’re in, it can be very hard to keep track of all your scheduling needs: how many and what kinds of employees are required for given shifts at various times and locations, and, in areas like health care, mandated government regulations for staffing.
In additions to your needs, you must also have a solid command of your resources: the current pool of employees you have to draw from; their availability, job preferences, qualifications, overtime status, etc.; and backup or substitute workers you can count on in case of emergencies.
All of these factors can be overwhelming to manage manually — particularly given that your needs and resources will inevitably ebb and flow based on unanticipated events like employee absences and turnover.
2. Successful Communication
Creating a schedule is one obstacle, but communicating it well is another. Managers grapple with finding efficient ways to communicate so that all employees are made aware of schedules at the same time, schedules are presented clearly and accurately, and staff are able to respond easily with any questions or concerns.
Indeed, successful communication goes both ways. It’s not just about managers making workers aware of their schedules; it’s also about ensuring that workers have a convenient way to get in touch with managers. What if a team member’s availability or preferences shift? They must be able to let their employer know in a timely fashion.
3. Responding to Changes
Changes on short notice may be the largest stumbling block in shift-based scheduling. And they can pop up for any number of reasons, including absences because of illness or other circumstances, a sudden rise in staff needs due to unforeseen factors, and employee turnover without sufficient warning.
For instance, if a worker calls in sick the morning of a shift, their manager must hurry to find a replacement, which can be tricky. Or if the worker doesn’t call in and is simply a no-show, the problem gets worse — and there may not be enough time to fix it.
A cumbersome manual process driven by back-and-forth phone calls can lead to stress and leave an organization understaffed. In sectors like health care, this could greatly increase an employer’s risk of falling out of federal compliance.
4. Analyzing Data
When a scheduling period ends, you want the ability to analyze recent patterns, including which employees have been consistently available or unavailable; what times, locations, and areas have had the highest and lowest shift needs; and whether over- or under-scheduling has been a problem.
It can be a burden to manually sift through paperwork to identify the trends you wish to know about, and yet this information is essential. As you craft schedules going forward, you should have a sense of what your recent needs and resources have been, so that you can make smart, strategic decisions. Otherwise, you may run into the same roadblocks — like short-staffing or excessive overtime — on a repeated basis.
WorkSync offers leading workforce management solutions that employ technology to streamline employee scheduling at your organization. Learn more by downloading our scheduling toolkit today.