How Do I Schedule Employees Strategically?
In this guide, you will learn the five key tips and best practices of employee scheduling:
- Understand your resource needs and then create the employee schedule according to them.
- Assign shifts to workers based on skill and availability.
- Manage schedule changes by communicating with workers and making adjustments quickly.
- Measure your schedule’s effectiveness, learn from the scheduling data, and adjust the scheduling process as you go.
- Use technology to automate your employee scheduling where possible.
Hourly Employee Scheduling Is a Strategic Process
Complex. Fast moving. Highly skilled employees. This is a modern shift-based workplace. In these environments, knowing how to schedule employees effectively is critical because it ensures the right resources are in the right place at the right time. It also impacts labor costs, productivity, and even legal compliance. Scheduling serves as a key connection point to hourly workers. Effective shift planning helps build a great employee experience and improve retention. The quality with which the time schedule is planned, published, and communicated impacts worker satisfaction, “no-shows”, and turnover.
Employee turnover is 174% more likely without real-time shift work scheduling capabilities. -Bersin by Deloitte
That’s a lot riding on your staff schedule, and this guide is here to help. You’ll get strategic scheduling tips and learn how to make an effective work schedule. The guide also covers how technology can help you develop a smooth scheduling process, saving you and your organization significant time.
These strategies apply to most work environments. That said, not every proposed strategy fits every circumstance, so incorporate what best fits your staff scheduling workflow. You can take these strategies and apply them to your specific needs.
The employee schedule defines what resources are needed, when, and where. Though a published employee schedule is specific to a particular scheduling period, proper planning requires looking well ahead to assess demand and resource supply. Advance planning is especially crucial when needs vary across scheduling periods. Effective employee scheduling lowers labor costs by matching resources to demand. It will also help reduce the need for shift changes downstream.
These three steps will help you create the best employee schedule for your organization.
Tip 1: Determine Resource Needs
First, clearly understand what resources you need. Since everything is based on the master schedule, resource needs are especially important to get right. You’ll want to:
Determine the resources needed for each role by location and shift duration. For example, a hospital may need four nurses and two CNAs in Pediatrics from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. There are countless ways to define a location (e.g., hospital floors or event booths), so make sure you categorize locations clearly and consistently. You can organize resources for each role in many ways, such as a grid on a whiteboard, in a spreadsheet, or using online scheduling software.
Identify trends you can apply to current planning efforts. For instance, there may be a pattern of under-scheduling a particular role or shift. Reviewing data from past scheduling periods can help you anticipate needs and schedule employees fairly.
Plan for future events ahead of time. While you can’t always predict future work schedules based on past schedules, you can often consider other factors. For example, an approaching summer holiday might require more lifeguards on duty.
Define any required qualifications for each shift. For example, if you need four nurses total for a shift, it might be that at least one needs to be fluent in Spanish. If you have a plan qualifying people for shifts, you’ll get the right employees scheduled at the right time.
Integrated Time and AttendanceUsing technology to track time and attendance is helpful in creating an employee schedule. If your workplace does not use a time and attendance software application, then make sure your scheduling software service allows for time and attendance functionality as an add-on.
Tip 2: Assess Resource Pool
Once you understand exactly what you need, you can assess whether your current resources are a match. Your hourly workers are the primary resource to consider, but there may also be non-personnel resources to schedule. Here are a few important factors to consider as you assess your resources:
If resource demand is fairly static, look ahead to identify upcoming events that may impact employee availability. For example, if a three-day weekend is fast approaching, your labor pool may be smaller than usual.
If you forecast a significant increase in resource needs, then you will probably want additional analysis. In this case, assess what you will need by role, location, and availability. Give yourself some extra room beyond expected demand to make sure you can allocate enough resources.
Let’s say you estimate for 20% beyond expected needs and plan accordingly with additional staff recruitment and on-boarding. Even if volume was higher than expected, you’d rest easy knowing that you have the staff you need.
If non-personnel resources are in the mix, they should be on the schedule, too. For example, if a security firm provides vehicles for their guards to make rounds, the vehicles should be added to the shifts on the master work schedule.
Accurately predicting resource needs is essential. Tools such as Shiftboard’s Demand Planner use sophisticated algorithms to forecast resources based on historical patterns.
Tip 3: Define Scheduling Rules
Regulations, policies, and processes all drive how you make the work schedule. And it can get complicated quickly. Seniority, overtime status, location, and certifications are common factors that can trigger special rules that need to be reflected in the hourly schedule. Rules can vary depending on the situation. They may also be unique to your organization, so clear guidelines are extremely important. To avoid confusion, make sure that all managers understand these guidelines before shifts are assigned.