Written by Neil Pickering, Senior Manager, HR Innovation at UKG
Demand for workers is higher than ever before − one in three employers struggled with staff shortages at the end of 2022. As a result, businesses seeking to increase retention and boost engagement levels need to ensure they are delivering flexible schedules that meet the needs of all employees.
The high number of vacancies has empowered employees to demand more from their employer. According to the We Can Fix Work report from the Workforce Institute at UKG, 76% of employees have raised their expectations of how their company supports them. Responding to workers’ growing expectations begins by offering an agile work environment, which might include empowering staff to swap or pick up shifts at their own discretion.
In addition, employers should consider how they can increase the efficiency of schedules to cut down on unnecessary costs. UK companies are facing a ‘cost of doing business’ crisis, so exploring the possibilities of cost-shrinking scheduling should be a key consideration.
Manual scheduling is a thing of the past
Labour scheduling can be a complex and time-consuming task – getting the right people, in the right place, at the right time takes a serious amount of planning, and there’s a lot that can go wrong along the way.
Businesses with shifts that extend beyond standard office hours, such as the hospitality, retail, logistics, manufacturing and healthcare sectors, should pay especially close attention to how shifts are scheduled, as employee hours often differ from week to week.
A successful labour scheduling strategy involves leveraging technology to strike a perfect balance of demand, labour budget and workers. For example, firms can analyse data to forecast customer demand on a given day, scheduling staff to accommodate for any increases or decreases and ensuring the business’ workforce is deployed efficiently.
In any industry, relying on manual scheduling methods and neglecting the technology available makes labour scheduling a time-consuming, error-prone, and downright frustrating task, so modernising practices is a worthwhile investment.
Why is labour scheduling so important?
Irrespective of an organisation’s size, its decision-makers need access to clear and actionable data points to help them manage their workforce effectively. Ensuring this information is available in real-time is pivotal, as it can prevent companies from rushing to solve under-staffing issues at the last possible second, instead giving them time to adapt at short notice and overcome any unforeseen roadblocks.
If vital information only arrives when it is too late to act upon, workers with the right skills will not be where they are most needed, with the overall satisfaction of employees or customers often the casualties of such oversights. Businesses need the ability to be proactive, not reactive.
Compliance should also be at the forefront of managers’ minds when compiling schedules, as compliance breaches are common when employees with specific skills or qualifications are not available to work when needed. Failure to adhere to regulations can lead to fines, legal challenges or reputational damage, so firms should structure rotas to provide maximum cover, even if an employee suddenly becomes unavailable.
Ultimately, inefficient scheduling equates to money down the drain, which businesses can ill-afford in the current economic climate. Under scheduling results in increased costs from overtime and decreased productivity, and over-scheduling leads to reduced margins, rising wage bills and not enough work to go around. Consequently, it’s essential companies get scheduling right to keep costs to a minimum and ensure employees are not stretched too far or left feeling surplus to requirements.
Employee welfare should be the number one priority when constructing and delivering schedules, and this begins with implementing a platform (accessible via a mobile device or desktop) where employees can view or share feedback on weekly rotas, and even self-service actions such as shift swapping or picking up overtime.
Offering on-demand visibility and granting employees the autonomy to change their own shift patterns is likely to boost engagement, as staff will feel empowered by a more flexible working environment.
Automated scheduling can also save valuable time for managers or business owners. Scheduling solutions make it easy to build, fill, and manage best-fit schedules that help businesses meet performance goals, with managers able to channel the time saved into customer-facing and revenue-driving activities.
Furthermore, through automated scheduling, businesses can respond more effectively to last-minute scheduling changes. For example, if an employee calls in sick, the system automatically generates a call list of viable replacements, based on availability, seniority and skill set, filling the shift with the right person at the right cost.
Finally, businesses should not move from schedule to schedule with no retrospective analysis. The reporting capabilities of a workforce management solution that includes automated scheduling allows organisations to review the effectiveness of past rotas and apply lessons learned to make better scheduling decisions.
Prioritising what matters
Overall, meeting employee expectations and building efficient rotas should be the top priorities for business leaders. Digitising practices and utilising the technology available are the keys to achieving these goals and designing disaster-proof schedules, boosting staff retention and reducing costs in the process.