Getting the word out

Author: Jeff Morris

OK, so you’ve got a great scheduling system, a fantastic skilled, motivated workforce, and enough business to keep everyone busy for a long time. Now, how do you get the word out that a new schedule is ready? Or that shift times have changed? Or that a new shift is available, etc.?

A comprehensive workforce management system will anticipate your scheduling and time & attendance needs with respect to communication, and present tools for proactively sharing the relevant information to those employees and managers who need it in a convenient, timely manner.

Effective communication saves your company time and money, promotes employee satisfaction and retention, assists you in complying with federal, state/provincial, and union regulations, and helps provide a safe working environment.

Here are 10 examples where communications features within a workforce management system can provide great benefit to your organization:

1) Distribute schedules – When your schedule is finalized, it may be distributed in a number of ways. Besides the old-school way of printing and physically posting the schedule in an area where employees may read it, some systems will email schedules to employees. Many systems now provide employee web portals and/or mobile apps where they can view their schedules.

2) Publish available shifts for employees to self-schedule – Let’s say that an upcoming shift suddenly becomes open when an employee becomes sick. If you want to “push” that shift for other qualified employees to have the opportunity to schedule themselves into, your system may have the capacity for a mass-message to “publish” the shift, and a feature on the employee portal or app where they can select the shift to pick-up.

3) Notify employees of changes to their shifts – When an employee’s schedule must change, as a result of a shift that has been added, dropped, or changed (e.g., new start and/or end times), the scheduling system can automatically notify the employee through a text, email message, and/or portal/app notification. An acknowledgement feature will show that the employee saw, or didn’t see, those changes.

4) Let employees indicate they cannot work a shift – If an employee cannot work a shift they have been scheduled for, a notification feature can tell the supervisor, manager, or scheduler about the employee’s unavailability to work the shift so that they can find a replacement before it is too late.

5) Let employees find other staff to take a shift that they cannot work – Employee-to-employee messaging provides the opportunity for someone to find a fellow worker who can take their shift.

6) Alert managers if an employee is late, or early, or doesn’t check-in/out – If your workforce management system includes time & attendance, then automatic alerts (text, email, and/or in-app messages) can be sent to the employee, manager, and/or others when something unexpected occurs, and action must be taken.

7) Enable employees to confirm that they are safe, or starting/ending a break – For employees in remote locations, especially when they are working alone, it is important for them to be able to let others know that they are safe. A safety check feature in the system shows a time-stamp once the employee has checked in as “safe”, so that in the event that a regular safety check is missed, measures can be taken by the company to ensure that all is OK.

8) Provides employees an opportunity to review and confirm/dispute time card information approved by managers – Once check-in and check-out data has been entered via time clock, mobile app, interactive voice response (IVR), and/or manual time sheets, portal and app features allow employees to see the time recorded in the system for their worked shifts. If they disagree with any of the system time card records, then they can automatically notify their supervisor or manager to request a review of that shift.

9) Gives employees a method to enter availability and request time-off, and see how much time-off they have accrued – Advanced, rules-based scheduling systems often take into account employees’ availability (e.g., a student that is only available to work weekends and some evenings) and allow employees to enter time-off requests for review and approval by supervisors and/or HR, etc. Some systems also show the employee and the supervisor the amount of time-off accrued so that they will know how much time is available for a vacation or personal time-off, among others.

10) Provides person-to-person intra-company messaging without using the employees’ personal email or text messaging services – Often, it is necessary for one employee to quickly and easily message another employee or supervisor for a work-related issue of any kind. Advanced workforce management systems sometimes have built-in messaging features so that personal or work email/text messaging is not required. Having this within the employee portal or app makes this very easy and convenient.