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Organizational Productivity: Staffing and Scheduling Must Work Together

McLendonToday’s guest post is courtesy of our board member, Sharlyn Lauby.  Sharlyn is author of the blog HR Bartender and president of ITM Group Inc.

We keep hearing about the challenges of finding qualified talent. According to a report from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) titled “The New Talent Landscape: Recruiting Difficulty and Skills Shortages”, sixty-eight percent (68%) of human resources professionals report recruiting challenges in today’s talent market. This means that, once organizations find talent, they need to make sure they retain them. It’s estimated that the average cost per hire is $4,129 and the average time to fill an open position is 42 days. Companies spend too many resources to bring talent into the organization just to let their investment walk out the door.

As a result, organizations use a variety of strategies to retain employees, including unlimited vacation time, flexible scheduling and wellness programs to reduce burnout. But one area that might be overlooked is scheduling. Let me share a story to illustrate:

Years ago, I was brought in to an organization to evaluate their onboarding program. Their challenge was that customers were very unhappy with their service. The company was losing huge amounts of money in the form of customer refunds. Employees were frustrated. I understand that handling upset customers is part of our jobs but dealing with angry customers all the time is hard.

The company was convinced that the answer to their problems was to hire more people to keep up with customer demand. My assignment was to make sure new employees were onboarded effectively and efficiently. After spending a little time in their operation, I suggested to senior management that the company had plenty of people. And they had a good onboarding program. The problem? They weren’t scheduling people correctly.

Organizations must 1) hire the right people, 2) hire the right numbers of people, and 3) schedule people to be there at the right times. When these three pieces are working together, the work is distributed properly, employees feel engaged and not overwhelmed, customers are taken care of, and the business succeeds.

The good news is that organizations don’t need a tight rein over scheduling for it to be effective. Companies can give employees the ability to have a say into their work schedule. And it doing so, they’re not creating complete anarchy. Here’s how it works:

  • Employees can take their preferences and availabilities into consideration when they select their schedule. Scheduling is an emotional issue for employees. They want to know they can attend their kid’s school events, family gatherings, and even stay home to watch the Super Bowl. When employees are in control of their schedule, it can increase engagement, improve productivity, and reduce burnout.
  • Today’s technology allows employees to view their schedules in advance, sign up for extra shifts, and swap shifts using their smart devices. The technology has built-in intelligence that ensures employees who swap shifts have the right skills, certifications, qualifications, etc. Of course, this means that managers and employees need to provide relevant information about jobs such as skills and certification requirements so when swapping shifts, those important things are taken into consideration.
  • Finally, managers can stay informed of operational coverage by using their smart devices as well. This reduces the amount of scheduling administration being handled by management and allows them to focus on what’s really important – coaching and developing employees. A positive cycle is created with managers focused on employees and employees focused on customers.

If you’re looking for a real-life case study to illustrate, check out this article in STORES magazine featuring McLendon Hardware. Nathaniel Polky, director of information technology, shares their results. “Employees love seeing their schedules. It’s a small thing, but very important for them to know when and where they are working at any point in time. It gives them choice and flexibility, and it’s been very well received.

Staffing and scheduling are two different things. Many organizations have already aligned staffing with other human resources functions like compensation, benefits, training, etc. Scheduling shouldn’t be considered a stand-alone activity. It works very well with staffing and has a huge impact on the business. It’s time to align the staffing and scheduling functions for maximum productivity and employee engagement.

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