The realities of the employer-employee relationship are pretty clear. Unless you’re flying solo and handling the production, sales, accounting, distribution and marketing by yourself, you need employees to drive your business forward. And they need you. They need your compensation, benefits and your opportunities for advancement. By all accounts you need each other, which also means you need to balance your labor scheduling requirements to add convenience and transparency to the process.
Your employees, like yourself, have families, medical emergencies, conflicts that aren’t easily resolved, and commitments that sometimes just can’t be upheld without missing some work duties. Part of a balanced approach to scheduling, particularly in the manufacturing sector where shifts are the foundation of time and attendance, is convenience – both for you and the employee. However, according to Michael Lingat, spokesperson for the international workforce management company, Workloud, there’s little chance for convenience in a production environment if you’re using a manual or spreadsheet approach to labor scheduling. “Let’s say you have 200 or more employees,” said Lingat. “To imagine being able to balance the individual needs of each one of those workers, and by needs I’m saying vacation, sickness, shift swapping, no-shows and many other factors, with the needs of the company including demand, seasonality trends, inventory management and supplier behaviors, without some sort of automated scheduling software is like putting a jigsaw puzzle together in total darkness. There’s nothing easy or convenient about it.”
Rather, suggests Lingat, it’s wiser to look for scheduling solutions that make it convenient for your scheduling department and for the employee, too. Lingat recommends that manufacturers first identify if there’s any abuse in scheduling practices either from employees or from the scheduling department. Most of your employees aren’t looking to shortcut the system, but there might be a few who leave early, regularly call-in sick, ask for Friday and Monday shift changes, or repeat similar emergencies throughout the year. Conversely, employers might be creating scheduling hardships, knowingly or not, including on-call scheduling, canceling schedules at the last minute, changing schedules routinely, or extending shifts without notice.
Manufacturers can use labor scheduling software to document and track abuse while at the same time making certain the schedules are balanced, fair and in compliance with Federal, State and local laws. That’s a convenience factor that everyone will appreciate.
Also, know your employees and know your business. When you do, scheduling will be a lot easier and quite a bit more efficient. For instance, if your employees are college kids, take time to understand their class schedules, if you have employees with young children who need to be dropped-off at school, understand that as well. Generally, employees don’t like asking for scheduling changes, but with scheduling software, you can build attendance requirements in a balanced, or even customized manner. But it’s also important to know the demands of your business – when is it busiest by day, week or month? When do you need higher skill levels on a shift and when don’t you? As Lingat suggests, there’s virtually no way to accomplish this manually.
Finally, labor scheduling involves a strong communication component. Employees need to easily access their schedules in a convenient manner, typically from their phone or tablet. But the issue of communication goes deeper than access according to Lingat. “At Workloud, we recommend to our clients that employers explain to their employees the rationale behind scheduling either through team meetings or through corporate correspondence. It’s important they understand why schedules are drafted the way they are, how it impacts business, and what amount of flexibility they can expect from the scheduling department.”