Thursday, June 20, 2024

What is Workforce Scheduling? Definition, Process, Benefits, and Optimization Tips

Workforce scheduling is the key to streamline business operations. Unexpected medical leave or last-minute callouts are common in workforces and require proper handling to avoid productivity loss. Secondly, industries that rely on hourly workers depend highly on proper workforce schedules for smooth operations. This makes workforce scheduling a central component of effective business management.

You need a solid workforce scheduling framework to have a well-organized workforce and set up a winning team. Therefore, we have designed this guide to uncover everything about workforce scheduling, including its process, benefits, and optimization tips.

  1. What is Workforce Scheduling?
  2. Industries That Need Workforce Scheduling
  3. Why is Workforce Scheduling Important?
  4. The Process of Workforce Scheduling
  5. 7 Benefits of Workforce Scheduling
  6. 4 Challenges of Workforce Scheduling
  7. 6 Optimization Tips for Workforce Scheduling
  8. Wrapping Up – Lift Up Your Business Management with Workforce Scheduling

What is Workforce Scheduling?

Workforce scheduling is the process of establishing where, when, and how long your employees will work in the coming days, weeks, and months. It is about creating a full-fledged operational model for the entire staff to ensure business continuity from one shift to another.

Workforce scheduling is the key component of workforce management, which considers predicted workloads and required resources to complete the job. The workforce schedule not only factors the current demand but also plans the schedule for future demands. It will analyze historical data, forecasting records, employee skill levels, and seasonality to create schedules that do not overwork or underutilize individuals.

Industries That Need Workforce Scheduling

Workforce scheduling is in demand in all those industries that involve hourly workers. According to Indeed, there are about four million shift workers in the UK, which makes up 14% of the total workforce. Similarly, there are about 25 million shift workers in the USA. This means that workforce scheduling has significant importance across various sectors.

The key industries that need workforce scheduling include:

  1. Retail
  2. Warehousing
  3. Construction
  4. Food service
  5. Call centers
  6. Healthcare
  7. Transportation
  8. Manufacturing
  9. Hospitality
  10. Customer service

Simply put, almost all hour-based and customer-centric industries need workforce scheduling to ensure smooth business operations.

Why is Workforce Scheduling Important?

Workforce scheduling is more than just scheduling shifts. It also involves tackling unexpected situations adeptly, such as supply chain delays, last-minute absences, etc. The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us how abruptly situations can change and the critical importance of a responsive/flexible scheduling system. In addition, workforce management has also become more complex than before due to workload fluctuations, seasonal demands, new regulations, and much more.

When a business has set up an efficient workforce scheduling, it leads to operational continuity, fulfillment of customer expectations, and compliance with safety/legal requirements. Besides that, it also leads to enhanced employee satisfaction, as they get predictable/fair work hours. Therefore, it is important for businesses to work on workforce scheduling to create effective schedules.

The Process of Workforce Scheduling

Workforce scheduling requires more management and tactical expertise to ensure that the right people are available at the right place and time. However, it is more difficult than it seems. It is best to take use of workforce management software to reduce some of the manual efforts.

The typical workforce scheduling process involves the following steps:

1. Understanding Supply and Demand

Businesses have different staffing demands at different times. Therefore, the first step is to understand your supply and demand. For that, you must look into your historical data, current demands, future expectations, and other factors. Based on that, you can estimate staffing and resource needs.

2. List Out Employees’ Inventory

Different employees have different skills to offer. Besides that, there are employees that can only work on specific shifts. Therefore, it is important to create an inventory that lists all the employees and their skills, availability, and other elements. This will later help in better scheduling.

3. Draft Workforce Schedule

Now that you have the overview of supply/demand and comprehensive employee inventory, you can craft the workforce schedule. You can use workforce management software or any other method to draft the schedule.

4. Incorporate a Backup Plan in the Schedule

Things can change abruptly. You may encounter unforeseen surges, a supply chain disruption, or a key employee asking for sick leave. In such situations, you need to create a backup plan to keep things going. So, building flexibility into your schedule is essential by having on-call staff, cross-training employees, and maintaining a list of part-time or temporary workers who can fill in when needed.

5. Communicate the Workforce Schedule

Once the workforce schedule is finalized, communicate it to all the employees and stakeholders. You can use any platform of your choice to communicate the schedule.

6. Continuous Improvement

Workforce scheduling requires continuous checks and updates. After every cycle, review the schedule as per the current and future forecasts and readjust things accordingly.

7 Benefits of Workforce Scheduling

Workforce scheduling is not a choice, especially for businesses that work under an hourly system. So, what benefits businesses can get with workforce scheduling are as follows:

1. Better Decision Making

Workforce scheduling empowers managers to make decisions about complex shifts, workers’ well-being, skill gaps, etc. The business is able to know its labor and resource needs and can plan things accordingly.

2. Optimized Schedules

Workforce scheduling helps to create optimized schedules that are aligned with business needs and employees’ expectations. Employees are able to ask for scheduling their work as per their skills and availability. Moreover, it becomes easier to readjust the schedule when required.

Read more: Manage your global workforce in one place

3. Better Handling of Uncertainties

A planned workforce schedule is flexible and incorporates a backup plan, which means you are in a better position to handle uncertainties. For example, if an employee asks for sick leave suddenly, you can quickly identify available substitutes and ensure minimal disruption to operations.

4. Boost Productivity

Another key benefit of workforce scheduling is a productivity boost. The schedule is made based on historical data, forecasts, and other elements. This means that you have ensured that the right person is available at the right place and time. This practice drives productivity. Secondly, it is also an indirect way to look into team activity and collaboration between employees to make future decisions accordingly.

5. Cost Reduction

Workforce scheduling also leads to cost reduction. Everything is decided based on analytics, which means you won’t be overscheduling during slow periods. Furthermore, you can lower disruptions and downtimes in emergency situations with the pre-designed backup plan.

6. Improve Employee Satisfaction and Retention

Employees like when their work schedule is organized and aligned with their availability. When drafting the workforce schedule, you have to consider each employee’s skill and availability. This means that most employees are getting shifts that suit their preferences and strengths, which leads to improved job satisfaction, reduced stress, and higher retention rates.

7. Ensure Compliance

Laws and regulations are becoming strict over workforce wellbeing. Secondly, there are different regulations in different states and countries. Workforce scheduling can consider the relevant laws when creating the schedule and ensure compliance with them effectively.

4 Challenges of Workforce Scheduling

Although workforce scheduling has its benefits, it also comes with challenges, especially for beginners. Two of the key challenges you will face when starting with workforce scheduling are as follows:

1. Crafting the Complete List of Workers

Workforce scheduling requires a complete list of workers. This includes the total number of workers, availability of workers, project location, each shift’s requirements, and much more. Failing to create an accurate list means either overstaffing or understaffing shifts or increased chances of conflicts.

2. Scheduling Hard-To-Fill Shifts

Some shift timings are hard to fill, especially night shifts. Only a few employees are willing to work back-to-back late-night shifts. Therefore, another challenge in workforce scheduling is to schedule hard-to-fill shifts.

3. Handling Sudden Changes

What if an employee calls for a sick leave just an hour before the shift starts? Similarly, what if the employees are stuck in a traffic jam or a protest has blocked the roads? These types of situations require abrupt changes in the workforce schedule to find a replacement and keep the business operations. This will be a major challenge in the workforce schedule unless a backup plan is also prepared beforehand.

4. High Employee Turnover

You can experience unexpected high employee turnover due to burnout or overwhelming workloads. This can seriously impact business operations and also requires rescheduling the workforce.

6 Optimization Tips for Workforce Scheduling

If the above challenges have made you terrified, then get relaxed. Most of them are fixable with the right strategies. So, let’s now uncover a few of the best optimization tips for workforce scheduling to optimize its outcomes:

  1. Collaborate While Scheduling: Try to engage with the employees when creating the workforce schedule to have a consensus-based schedule.
  2. Set Schedule as Per Business Demands: Your business may have busy phases and off-peak periods. So, make sure your workforce schedule effectively addresses these demands.
  3. Create a Backup Plan: To handle emergencies, make sure to create a backup plan with workforce scheduling. It could include substitutes, cross-training employees, a list of temporary/part-time workers, and more.
  4. Use Technology: Try to create workforce scheduling using workforce management software and other latest technological advancements.
  5. Update Schedule Regularly: Review and update the workforce schedule regularly based on changing business dynamics.
  6. Finalize Schedule Early: Try to finalize and communicate the schedule well in advance to give employees enough time to prepare for the shifts.

Workforce scheduling is all about creating the perfect schedule that aligns with business and employee needs. Therefore, keep optimizing it with different test practices until you master the art of creating a perfect workforce schedule.

Wrapping Up – Lift Up Your Business Management with Workforce Scheduling

Workforce scheduling is an excellent way to handle hour-based shifts and streamline business operations. It leads to optimized schedules, cost savings, employee satisfaction, and a boost in productivity. Therefore, we will wrap up by recommending businesses to consider workforce scheduling to have a well-organized workforce and lower disruptions.