Scheduling is the act of assigning, or designating people for a fixed time in a schedule. It is a fundamental function that involves simple problems — usually lots of them. Too often employee scheduling is all about putting out fires, and never having time to be proactive.

Without the right tools, low-cost employee scheduling is almost impossible to achieve, even for the smallest companies. With an average of 70% of a company’s costs relating to the workforce in one way or another, managers come to realize that scheduling is more than a cost center: it is the most critical investment area of all.

Who is available? How do I pay less?
Am I giving people enough rest so the staff will do an adequate job the next day?
Am I carrying too many employees? Too few?
Am I paying out too much overtime?

These are the questions a schedule manager starts with. The list goes on. In fact, the benefits of a good employee scheduling solution reach far beyond the organization’s immediate task coverage problems.

New Scheduling Tools

Employee scheduling is intrinsically difficult to solve because of situational issues. There are new hires one week; senior people are away the next; there is a site closure or contract cancellation the next; scheduled staff are sick the next. Because there are potentially a large number of potential disruptions to the schedule, the practical difficulty at arriving at a cost-effective scheduling solution is easily explained away on a case-by-case basis. However, over time we see an obvious pattern. And we come to realize that this key function is impossible to effectively manage with rudimentary tools.

The Business Case

When the company incurs extra overtime charges because of limited employee scheduling tools, the financial consequences are obvious. In fact, a good employee scheduling solution is an investment that pays off in the short, mid and long term. Beyond reducing and controlling costs, it can increase productivity, improve employee retention, and enhance future revenue.

Employee scheduling is the mainstay of workforce management. In the 2013 Total Workforce Management Research Brief by the Aberdeen Group, it is stated that 58% of surveyed organizations use automation to drive their scheduling process. The report stated further that good workforce management is a “critical foundation for organizational performance”. Not surprisingly, it is predicted that the adoption of workforce management systems will increase.

The Ramifications of Flaws in Your Schedule

Inefficient scheduling can affect the entire organization from the employer to the employee, often resulting in lower profitability and lower productivity. From a financial standpoint, not only do you lose time and money by scheduling and re-scheduling manually, but also does inefficient scheduling increase the probability of inaccurate billing, avoidable overtime, high turnover, and many more business pains.

We asked customers which problems they struggled with that resulted from inefficient scheduling. The top four problem areas were Customer Satisfaction, Regulation Compliance, Cost of Operations, and Employee Retention.

Problem AreaSituation exampleAvoidable Results
Customer SatisfactionUnfilled, understaffed shifts, or unqualified employees
  • At best, lower productivity & loss of revenue from unfulfilled work
  • At worst, cancelled contracts & reputation damage resulting in loss of future business
Regulation ComplianceLack of Compliance with union, customer, or government regulations
  • At best, loss of profits, fines and penalties
  • At worst, forced shut down & loss off contract
Cost of OperationsAvoidable Overtime
  • At best, increase payroll costs without corresponding increase of billing ability
  • At worst, operating at a deficit
Employee RetentionLack of schedule flexibility and communication resulting in high turnover
  • At best, extra time and money spent seeking, hiring, and training new workforce
  • At worst, lack of available employees to fulfill need & loss of potential profitability

Types of Solutions on the Market

Because the scheduling problem is common to all companies, solution providers specialize. The problems of scheduling human resource coverage are fundamentally different from, say, hotel room usage, or factory processing. To reflect this, scheduling systems generally fall within Employee, Resource or Production categories. They are further specialized to suit specific vertical markets.
No two companies are alike; each company brings different system requirements to the table. Buyers shop for solutions designed to fit within their market category, opting for features that give them the visibility and functionality that matches their specific set of problems.

Prioritizing Features

Within their industry category, buyers need to consider the features they want, given their budgetary restrictions. The suitability of a system is also influenced by where the complexity lies in the schedule — be it the size of staff, the exacting nature of regulations, or how quickly the schedule may change.

As a basic starting point, here is a list of features commonly required in a scheduling system:

  • Flexible, configurable views into the problem that suit your line of work
  • Ease of use
  • Automated payroll data capture and cost forecasting
  • Ability to quickly adjust employee levels to reflect changes in demand
  • Ability to easily assign and remove shifts from rosters
  • Qualifications tracking & enforcement
  • Automated rule checking and alerts
  • Automation of routine communications
  • Allowance accrual tracking
  • Elimination of pay & compensation errors
  • Integration with external systems

The right scheduling system will enable a manageable solution that results in lower labor costs and better customer service. Providing familiar views onto relevant problems, user friendly tools that can solve them, and time-saving automation, it is a key investment in operational integrity.

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