The goal of every executive and manager is to ensure that their organisation or department has the optimum number of the right people with the right skills at the right time performing the right tasks. All the executives need to ensure that product or service demand is properly met. This is achieved with their well-skilled hourly employees scheduled optimally to work at different shifts of the day. Workforce scheduling is the process of constructing work schedules or rosters for its workforce so that an organisation can satisfy the demand for its products or services.
Optimum Workforce scheduling also involves the distribution of employees with the right behaviors and capacities throughout the organisation. Effective workforce scheduling is the key determinant affecting the performance of many organisations in Zimbabwe especially those in mining, health care, retail, manufacturing, financial services, etc. It’s very essential to allocate the right job to the right person at the correct time.
A number of organisations around the globe are taking advantage of optimum workforce scheduling solutions to increase employee retention, revenue generation and reduce costs. Maximum benefit usually is obtained after workforce scheduling is well integrated with other components such as headcount analysis (the process of determining the optimum number of people need in an organisation or department), workload analysis, time utilisation within the organisation, payroll, etc.
Employee productivity can easily be measured if an organisation is using optimum workforce scheduling systems. The executives or managers will be able to know how many hours have been spent performing certain tasks. With a workforce scheduling system, managers will be able to know which and when are certain employees late or absent from work. Measures to fix these issues will be done effectively.
When team leaders are using automated workforce scheduling systems, they will be able to quickly react to sudden changes. Let’s say, at last minute they realise the employee is absent and certain machines are down, it will be hard to redo the schedule again. It is a few clicks to notify everyone and reschedule all operations if everything is automated.
One of the 5-star event services company in Houston grow their revenue by 66% without adding a new employee by applying workforce scheduling in their operations. Their main challenge was to improve employee relations and internal efficiency by moving beyond manual staffing practices. They needed a better way to manage constantly changing staffing requirements and employee schedules. To solve the problem they used an online system. This system allowed them to centralise employee scheduling, employee timesheets & attendance register and payroll in one place. This also allowed them to free up many office hours and quickly fill in slots in case where an employee is not available for that event
One of the greatest tasks that management can do is to assign the best employee for the task. Berglund and Karltun (2007) in their study of the effects of human factors in production scheduling discovered that all workforce schedulers need to consider workforce differences in their schedules. Individual employees’ capabilities differ. Therefore they need to be taken into consideration when scheduling employees.
With an automated system managers will be able to track their employee capabilities or competencies and personality. Managers will be able to see who is fit for the task and who needs training. With some advanced systems that automatically search for employees with certain competencies, the scheduling becomes easier to schedule an employee when the task requires certain competencies.
A police station in Zephyrhills, Florida, northeast of Tampa, used workforce scheduling to cut police shift scheduling time and overtime costs. The system they used reduced the Operation Division Command’s 12 hours per week of shift work scheduling down to three hours. It also reduced police overtime cost by 35 percent to 50 percent.
Although there are many benefits explored by existing systems, many scheduling systems still do not take into consideration some of the factors that affect workers' productivity. These factors include human aspects such as skills, training, workers’ personalities, workers’ breaks, and workers’ fatigue and recovery levels. They do not take into consideration the cost of hiring, firing, training, and overtime when scheduling employees. These are important factors that should be considered.
Companies that have employees that are on shifts need to invest in automated employee scheduling systems. As explain above, there are a number of benefits that are enjoyed by using these systems. They bring high returns on investment.
Benjamin Sombi is a Data Scientist, Entrepreneur, & Business Analytics Manager at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd a management and human resources consulting firm.