Leveraging Flex Pools to Address Shifts in Labor Demand

In the last several weeks, companies have faced challenges that call for an all hands on deck approach as they continue to care for their communities and employees. In this dynamic environment, having the ability to schedule employees strategically is critical. This one factor impacts many aspects of operations, including labor costs, productivity, legal compliance, employee satisfaction, and worker retention. However, when faced with a sudden surge in demand, the task can seem insurmountable unless automated processes are in place.

The Necessity of Flex Pools During COVID-19

As many industries are responding to changes in labor demand, leveraging a flex pool is becoming a vital part of their scheduling process. The meaning of flex pools can vary by company but is typically a group of workers that can cover shifts quickly during a surge in labor demand, or backfill shifts when regularly scheduled employees call off at the last minute.

Nationwide, medical facilities and other essential businesses are facing unprecedented demand, and maintaining staff levels is a bigger challenge than usual. Adding to the complexities of scheduling and absenteeism are the facts that schools have closed – and many workers now face doing their jobs and caring for young children. Some front-line workers are at risk of contracting the virus while on the job. While no business could have accurately predicted the toll the pandemic would have on their business, enabling a flex pool strategy may help keep operations running smoothly.

How Flex Pools Help to Improve Shift Coverage

Although COVID-19 has driven many workers to the unemployment line, there are still some essential businesses, such as medical equipment manufacturers or food producers, that continue to struggle to find enough workers to meet production requirements. Implementing a flex pool is an effective strategy for improving shift coverage.

The best candidates for flex pools desire high flexibility in their work schedules. Ideally, these workers can serve more than one role. Because there are only so many candidates that fit these requirements, you may need to get creative about attracting them. Look at untapped labor resources such as retirees or stay-at-home parents who are looking to earn supplemental income. The key is to find people who want to work but may not be able to work traditional shift lengths. Consider splitting shifts into shorter periods to attract these kinds of workers. The structure of your flex pool is dependent on your needs. Many companies have several flex pools that are organized by location or job function.

Once you’ve sourced and built your flex pool of workers, how can you leverage them to improve shift coverage? The first step is to know which roles need to be filled and then identify which workers are best qualified to work those roles. Once you have an idea of the open shifts, and the pool of candidates qualified and available to work those shifts, you will need a process for rapidly communicating the open shifts and confirming who can work them. Self-assignment is a great option if you are leveraging technology, but another method is the popular “call-down” approach. With this method, the scheduling manager will have several lists containing workers’ contact information. They’ll literally start at the top of the list and call down it to find available workers. The challenge is to not repeatedly contact the same employees by always starting at the top of the list, or you’ll risk burning them out. Have a plan in place for remembering who was last called so you can tap into the full capability of your flex pool.

How Shiftboard Can Help

Shiftboard provides managers with the agility needed to respond quickly to changing workplace conditions on the fly. This includes taking on significant numbers of new workers, tracking worker data, or shifting labor resources from one location to another. Intelligent technology helps to manage dynamic workforce scheduling with automated tools that, if done manually, would be impossible to achieve at scale and at the pace required, including:

  • Bottoms-up scheduling for workers – enables workers to pick up open shifts to fill their schedule.
  • Credential and qualification tracking – gives managers the ability to track important worker credentials from one central database and then automatically considers those data points when assigning qualified workers.
  • Real-time communication – provides workers with shift details and location information all in one place, which is especially important to workers who are filling shifts in multiple locations.

Though the current situation is throwing many curveballs to your business operations, you are not expected to catch them all on your own. If you are a Shiftboard customer or exploring technology to help, learn more about the functionalities that can help you best utilize your flex workforce.