Many organizations schedule employees to work 24-7, 365 days per year to meet work demands and to provide a higher level of service than competitors. Effectively scheduling staff members to cover these shifts requires balancing expected demand, desired service levels, employee availability and costs. Since wages and benefits are often the largest line items within a department budget, the accuracy of scheduling has a direct impact to the bottom line. Many businesses rely on scheduling software, also called workforce management packages, to assist with this important task.
How to Schedule Employees 24-7
Understand the business tasks that require staffing coverage such as answering inbound sales calls, responding to customer emails or entering fax orders. Recognize the business goals, metrics and customer service level expectations for each task. Determine the average time required to complete each task effectively. Identify any factors that can positively or negatively influence staff productivity.
Determine who will complete the work (e.g. representatives, managers) and at what business locations. If there are multiple work locations, find out whether there are time zone differences. Consider your mix of part-time and full-time staff members.
Become familiar with any company policies or legal regulations that could affect your scheduling decisions. Seek input from your human resources department.
Forecast business demand using data, reports and forecasting software. Analyze historical work volume for the same time periods. Consider future demand fluctuations for seasonality, product changes, advertising, market conditions, business growth or decline, and other relevant factors. Identify the total volume of work expected, broken down by time increments such as month, week, day and hour. By creating a very detailed, demand forecast you can more accurately forecast staffing needs.
Forecast staffing exceptions, which are the hours that employees will be unavailable to complete work tasks. Exceptions include sick time, vacation time, breaks, meetings and training. Review historical information and create assumptions about future exception time.
Create a staffing, “what if" model using workforce management (WFM) software or Microsoft Excel. Inputs should include tasks, productivity, expected workload and exception forecasts. Outputs will include the projected customer service levels, staffing and shift designs. Test different staffing models.
Finalize the staffing/demand model, and then create a plan to cover the required shifts. Schedule both front line employees and management personnel. Many businesses allow employees with the most seniority and the best job performance to choose their desired shifts.
Continually monitor and adjust schedules, based on changing business needs.
Many employers offer incentives for employees who work the less desirable shifts, paid within the hourly wage or as a bonus.
Since work volume fluctuates, it is common to schedule enough employees to handle the busiest or peak hours within a particular shift, then use less busy times for training or breaks.
Although constantly changing shifts and schedules may align with your business needs, too many changes can negatively affect employee morale. Most employees prefer consistent schedules.
Based in Boston, Marci Reynolds has been writing online, business-related articles since 2000. Her areas of expertise include operations, call centers, sales, customer service and process improvement. Reynolds has her Master of Business Administration from Bentley University, a Bachelor of Science in business from Northeastern University and a Six Sigma Greenbelt.