Collaborative SchedulingBy Scott Price, Celayix Software
Level of Scheduling AwarenessDespite its undeniable value proposition, Scheduling Software is a relatively young component to the HR management process in which formalized Time and Attendance, Payroll, and other HR applications have been well-established for decades. For example, according to a study on workforce scheduling conducted by the Aberdeen Group in 2009, 43 percent of executives surveyed still indicate that their company has no formal scheduling process in place. Disconcertingly, the report went on to highlight that executives’ unawareness of the business value of scheduling is one of the top three reasons for the lagging adoption of this crucial workforce management component (see Figure 1).
BenefitsRegardless of its delayed acceptance into the HR consciousness, automated scheduling processes offer multiple monetary and qualitative rewards. For example, at its most basic level, Advanced Scheduling minimizes operational costs through more efficient workforce deployments and improves customer retention through an improved allocation of labor resources. If that’s not enough, Collaborative Scheduling applications take businesses one step further while both increasing management productivity through increased delegation of HR responsibilities, and positively affecting employee satisfaction through augmented employee involvement. In light of this list of significant benefits, the importance of understanding the value of concepts such as Collaborative Scheduling quickly becomes apparent (see Figure 2).
Collaborative Scheduling PrinciplesFrom a high level perspective, Collaborative Scheduling encompasses 4 important tenets. First of all, it entails shifting the responsibility of collecting employee scheduling preferences, such as availability and time-off requests, into the hands of the employees. Employees are given the ability to electronically submit information through web-based or phone-based self-service software applications. One larger mid-western University for example, uses Celayix’s web-based collaborative tool, Web Xpress to schedule its roughly 750 student staff. When a new semester kicks off, students access Web Xpress to enter their availability, and can indicate changes at any time as conflicts arise. As a result, supervisors have availability details as soon as students enter it – instead of waiting more than a day for manual entries as they previously had been doing – and they receive fewer calls from students regarding changes. In turn, departments lessen the workload during the busiest times and throughout the semester.
Collaborative Scheduling also automates the incorporation of these employee shift preferences in the schedule creation process. Employee submissions automatically feed into the business rules of associated Advanced Scheduling applications which alleviates data entry and error prone processes, as well as enables schedulers to more quickly and easily match labor resources with demand. At the same university for example, because Web Xpress empowers students to enter their availability, supervisors are able to begin scheduling without any manual entry. In the past, students submitted their availability on paper forms and student workers would enter that information into excel spreadsheets from there. Staff members then had to somehow keep this availability in mind while creating the schedule while ensuring each student received adequate hours. In total, the entire process could take up to one full week – just when supervisors were at their busiest. According to the assistant director of HR-Student Development, thanks to Web Xpress, “Over the course of a semester, department supervisors save 150 to 200 hours of scheduling time [which] frees them to focus on other areas of their jobs.”
In addition to automating the means in which employee information comes in, Collaborative Scheduling also automates the flow going out with both the schedule distribution and confirmation process. Using either Internet or phone-based collaboration tools, employees are able to access, view and confirm up-to-date schedules. For example, one Michigan based in-home care provider uses Celayix’s telephone-based collaborative tool, Voice Xpress to publish and distribute employee schedules. Previously, the organization had distributed schedules to employees via mail, leaving little time between when they received schedules and when schedules began. And when clients’ appointments changed, administrative staff had to resend affected schedules, which was incredibly inefficient. Schedule confusion created frequent staff calls to the office, as well as calls from clients when staff were late or did not show up. However now, instead of mailing schedules out, employees use an automated line to call in each Thursday to the Celayix system so they can hear their schedules for the coming week. There’s never any confusion or worry whether an employee has received a schedule on time. Plus, the organization estimates that eliminating mailed weekly schedules saves the business about $10,000 in postage and colored paper every year.
Finally, in its fullest capacity, collaborative scheduling can even mean giving employees the ability to create most of the schedule themselves. Self Scheduling, the latest paradigm in the scheduling world, gives employees the freedom to choose from a list of available shifts by programming a scheduling application to maintain and incorporate all the required business parameters behind the scenes. At the end of the day, management is therefore only responsible for filling in the few shifts that remain unclaimed. The largest provider of staffing and security services for events in the Houston area uses the Celayix Self Scheduling solution to manage its employees. Previously, all of their employees had to call the office to provide availability and request shifts – at times requiring them to wait 15 – 20 min before talking to someone. However now, with the self scheduling workflow in place, employees can view all available shifts in a calendar or list view, and drill down further for complete event details. They then simply check the boxes of the events they would like to work and the Celayix system automatically schedules them in. This frees office staff from the tedious work once required to get employees slotted into shifts and effortlessly elevates employee satisfaction in the process with a fair and empowering process. According to the manager, “Celayix has dramatically changed scheduling. It’s alleviated a lot of phone traffic with employees calling about shifts, which helps us retain our good employees.”
The FutureCollaborative scheduling is gaining ground in all industries right now. With today’s HR doctrines preaching workforce empowerment and with the efficiency benefits of these shared processes becoming more important in a lagging economy, collaborative scheduling is becoming an increasingly important trend. At the forefront of this movement is the Self Scheduling paradigm, which is transforming the very core of our scheduling processes. In fact, the Celayix CEO and President has been quoted as saying, “Self scheduling is no longer a visionary idea. More and more companies are benefiting from its drastic cost-saving efficiencies and significant effect on employee morale. If you aren’t one of them, you need to be asking why and whether your competitors have an unwarranted advantage because of it.”
About the AuthorScott R. Price is a veteran of the workforce management and human capital management industry, having spent the past 17 years working in various capacities with industry leading software providers such as Kronos and Lawson Software. Currently the vice president of Sales and Alliances with Celayix Software, (www.celayix.com) a pioneer in the advanced scheduling and workforce management arena, Price is helping Celayix educate the marketplace on the effectiveness of advanced scheduling and its ability to drastically reduce labor costs and operational inefficiencies. Throughout his career, Price has been involved in the introduction and growth of new industry-leading concepts, and has helped to educate businesses on the efficiencies achieved through the automation of labor-intensive practices with workforce management software solutions. He is a current member of SHRM, IHRIM and APA.
ReferencesMartin, Kevin and Kimberly Madden, “Workforce Sched uling: Managerial Strategies for Driving Down Costs While Escalating Customer Satisfaction,” Aberdeen Group, pp. 5 and 8, 2009.
Celayix Case Studies: 5 Star Event Services, 2009; Midwestern University, 2009 and InHome Health Care Serv ices Inc., 2008.