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Employee Centered Schedule Optimization

TWS23.600.pickupshiftToday's post is from our board member, David Creelman.  David is CEO of Creelman Research, and a frequently published expert on human capital management issues.  Following is his take on why organizations should balance the productivity benefits of scheduling software with the needs of the human beings whose schedules are being managed.

In Leslie Perlow's book Sleeping with your Smartphone she relates the tale of Boston Consulting Group consultants who recognized that one of the major drawbacks in their life was that they never knew when they'd have to work late. They decided to fix that by committing, as a team, to having Wednesday as a predictable night off.  Not only did they succeed in improving their work-life by sticking to this commitment, they became more productive as they figured out how to avoid the kind of crisis that might lead to a late night.

Hourly workers might have a good laugh about consultants complaining about unpredictable hours. Hourly workers would agree that it can be a real drag never knowing when you will have to work. Unfortunately, unlike the consultants, they can't just make their own rules about when they work.  Setting schedules is up to management.

Managers are often tempted to set up schedules that minimize visible costs without worrying about how it affects employees' lives. However, optimizing on visible costs while creating high hidden costs isn't really optimization at all. The hidden costs show up in fatigue, turnover, low morale, and unplanned absences. Ignoring these costs hurts the bottom line.

Technically, modern scheduling software has the power to optimize on both visible and hidden costs. If for example, you want to promise employees predictable time off, well that is easy enough to do. The only challenge is someone coming along and saying, “Hey you seem to be costing us money by pampering employees.”  To counter this there needs to be at least a back of the envelope calculation on how much value is created by setting employee-friendly schedules. For example, one doesn't have to improve much on turnover to pay for any sub-optimization of visible costs. It is also worth noting that customers like seeing the same faces, so employee-friendly scheduling is probably customer-friendly as well.

Managers need to recognize that intangibles like fatigue and morale have tangible costs.  Failing to include consideration of intangibles in scheduling is fiscally irresponsible. Let's do the right thing for employees and for the organization by making the extra effort to set up scheduling so that it really optimizes work.

What's your organization doing to balance worker rights and productivity?  



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