Regardless of company size, workforce management (WFM) has become increasingly complicated in modern times. Recent events have brought ongoing uncertainty, with organizations now anticipating disruption and planning accordingly.
Maintaining business continuity and promoting growth requires us to juggle a vast number of variables. Often, it comes down to crunching numbers and shoring up the bottom line.
When we focus on the numbers, we can be too quick to view our human capital as just that, a number that must be balanced in the equation. HR managers do their best to avoid this, but finding a compromise between employee needs and those of the business is difficult at the best of times.
In people management, we must remember that we manage human beings and not just numbers. We need to meet their needs, as well as those of the business, in areas like workforce management.
VoIP for enterprise and IVR (IVR meaning, Interactive Voice Response) have revolutionized the way businesses communicate. Likewise, workforce scheduling software is creating a revolution of its own.
What is workforce scheduling?
Workforce scheduling is not as simple as it sounds. Sure, it involves the scheduling of your hourly and salaried employees weeks or months in advance. But HR management must do much more than pop names into a calendar or spreadsheet.
Image sourced from timify.com
Scheduling managers must ensure that every shift is staffed appropriately to meet demand. And they also make certain that scheduled team members possess the required skill sets. At the same time, they must avoid scheduling conflicts, over-scheduling or under-scheduling, as well as accounting for paid time off, sick leave, and other absences
In its own way, optimal workforce scheduling is an art form and balancing act. Achieving this balance can be difficult for SMBs, but imagine the daunting task at hand for large enterprises.
How do you create an optimized workforce schedule?
There are several tactics that scheduling managers can employ when creating a workforce schedule. Many of these include utilizing specific tools aimed at workforce scheduling. These can bring huge benefits to your team by increasing transparency, flexibility, and communication.
One of the first steps is getting to know your people. Your organization is all about the people that run it. It’s your job to be cognizant of each individual and what they bring to the table. This includes their experience and skills as well as their ideal working conditions.
Knowing your team members and when they prefer to work will help dictate when, how many hours, and in what roles or shifts you schedule employees–it also guides you to set up team members for success.
The next step is to use WFM tools and workforce scheduling software to help guide schedule creation and bring business efficiency and productivity to new heights.
The benefits of workforce scheduling software
Workforce scheduling software helps in the employee planning process of WFM. It provides a template for HR managers to create schedules. These planning tools can also collect and analyze data, automate manual tasks, and much more.
The following are some of the key benefits of a scheduling solution:
Analyzes past data
When it comes to workforce scheduling, historical data is our friend. How else can we know when to staff higher or lower numbers for a shift? ‘
Image sourced from gartner.com
According to Gartner, only 33% of workforce planning leaders believe their organization is effective at using data in workforce planning.
Sure, you can manually glean data from spreadsheets and scheduling books. But there are much better tools available for making workforce demand predictions.
When used effectively, past data should help guide you to optimize staffing levels. This will help keep understaffing and overstaffing to a minimum.
Build in flexibility
We can do our best to predict the future, but if the past few years of disruption taught us anything, it’s that you need to have an emergency plan in place. This may include rotating staff into on-call positions or having an established emergency protocol in place that is disseminated to all team members.
Image sourced from Timify.com
Another way to boost flexibility with scheduling software is to allow employees to swap shifts or find cover on their own. This schedule change option doesn’t work for every role or company. But when it does fit, it will give your team many more options for their work schedule, while also saving managers from scrambling to find short-notice substitutes.
Image sourced from timify.com
Paper forms and spreadsheets may have worked up to this point. But just how much time gets wasted due to out-of-date tools that make it all too easy for human error to creep in?.
For example, in manufacturing, a team member may work both in assembly and the warehouse. It’s a common error for that employee to end up scheduled for both roles at the same time.
With workforce scheduling software, this would never happen. When a manager goes to schedule the conflicting shift, the management app would alert them to the issue and prevent it from happening.
Likewise, the software will alert the user if an employee is scheduled in the wrong role, shift, or given too many hours. This avoids employees from becoming disgruntled or mismanaged – staving off needless constructive dismissal claims.
Many of the best workforce scheduling solutions come with built-in automation. This can eliminate manual and repetitive tasks, saving your teams a great deal of time. For instance, as soon as a schedule is created, it is automatically sent to every team member.
TIMIFY, for example, can digitize customer and internal booking to improve efficiency as well as automate invoicing and confirmations/reminders for customer and internal appointments. All of which goes a long way to saving you time.
Additionally, the aforementioned reduction of human error saves everyone the time-consuming task of fixing and amending schedules. And with an API integration platform, you can connect your scheduling software to your other business tools.
Such integrations will unlock even more time-saving features!
More transparent and improved communication
Any time a schedule comes out, there will likely be minor issues or changes that some employees would like made. To begin with, you need to give every team member access to the schedule as soon as it’s published.
As many scheduling tools are cloud-based this could not be easier. Employees can access schedule updates at any time, from anywhere. From a user dashboard, they will be able to keep track of things like total hours, overtime, and holiday, everything synced into an online calendar.
Create and maintain communication channels that are specifically schedule related. Again, email is okay for this; however, team chat and messaging channels are a much better way to go.
You can further boost transparency by configuring VoIP or CPaaS tools to support workforce scheduling channels. (What is CPaaS?). By combining transparency and communication you’ll be able to bring your teams real-time updates, even if they work on the same schedule from different locations.
Workforce solutions streamline the scheduling process so your managers can spend their time in other areas of the business. This means they will get more done in less time!
Free to use image sourced from Unsplash
Additionally, a WFM tool allows teams to more easily adopt a hybrid work model from home and the office, which could help them adopt a better work-life balance. It also helps automate time-consuming manual tasks so employees will work more efficiently and effectively, even when working across complex workflows and organizations.
Increases compliance and data protection
In previous decades, work schedules were often posted up on bulletin boards. Today they are more likely published online among a plethora of online calendars and scheduling tools.
Both of these options can work; in many cases, they are technically illegal. An employee’s confidential information falls under international and regional data protection laws like the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Workforce scheduling software helps you stay compliant with data protection laws and also protects the privacy of your employees. This will help you avoid any future data breaches and associated legislation being brought against your organization.
Your employees will also greatly appreciate the higher level of security around personal information.
Workforce scheduling–new and improved!
Gone are the days of juggling workforce schedules with pencil and paper or excel spreadsheets. Thanks to workforce scheduling software, you no longer have to dread “scheduling day” and the usual aftermath.
Find a scheduling app that works for you and your business and get ready to put most of the repetitive elements on autopilot. Your employees will be happier with the new system and you will be able to spend more time on managerial tasks.