Workforce Scheduling: Definition, Benefits, And Optimization

workforce scheduling

Do you want to optimize and maximize the way your employees, your teams, and your business work? Incorporate workforce scheduling into the mix.

In this article, the workforce-management experts at Inch discuss how perfecting who works when and what they work on can make your business run smoother than ever before.

Table Of Contents

What Is Workforce Scheduling?

Workforce scheduling is the term used to describe two very important aspects of team management:

  1. The days and shifts your employees work
  2. The tasks your employees focus on while at work

In the past, creating weekly and monthly schedules was done largely via computer programs that were not designed with group organization in mind (e.g., MS Word and Excel). Some businesses even continued to rely on the pen-and-paper method for their scheduling needs.

Task management wasn’t much better. The important job of assigning certain team members to specific tasks and keeping track of their progress was largely done via face-to-face conversations.

While such workforce scheduling methods were effective at one time, the advent of a more mobile and remote workforce has made them less efficient, less productive, and less useful than ever before.

The gold standard for workforce scheduling now involves business-specific apps — such as Inch and Sling — that incorporate powerful features, including cloud-based distribution, geofencing, automation, artificial intelligence, push notifications, and other forms of instant communication.

These programs provide many benefits for your business and streamline the way your team works and your business operates.

The Benefits Of Workforce Scheduling Software

workforce scheduling app

1) Boosts Team And Employee Productivity

Keeping your team’s productivity and efficiency high is a challenge for even the most successful businesses.

The Inch app simplifies that task with analytics and insights into the way your business and your employees operate on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis.

It also gives you unprecedented control over what needs to be done and provides clarity of work for your entire team.

With Inch as part of your workflow, you can boost team and employee productivity in all departments and in all corners of our business.

2) Brings Automation Into The Workflow

Modern workforce scheduling introduces automation into the mix.

Inch, for example, uses data from your business, user-defined parameters, and artificial intelligence to select the best employee for a particular task. Similarly, Sling uses the same features to select the best employee for a particular shift or day.

You can instruct the artificial intelligence to consider any number of variables when setting up the schedule or divvying up the task assignments, including:

In some cases, you can incorporate such information as absenteeism rates and even past weather data to help plan for the future.

That’s power and productivity you can’t get anywhere else.

3) Decreases Labor Costs

Labor is one of the largest expenses your business has to deal with. By optimizing your workforce scheduling, you can gain more control over both the way your employees work and the costs associated with this activity.

That can have a profound effect on your business’s bottom line and the ultimate success of your company.

4) Improves Customer Service

Within business, there’s a direct relationship between keeping your customers happy and the success you’ll enjoy. If one goes up, so does the other.

When you tailor your workforce scheduling to the demands of your client base, your customer satisfaction will increase and your business will excel.

The Sling app, for example, makes it easy to schedule the right number of team members to handle the volume of contacts on any given day, while the Inch app helps those employees focus their attention on the tasks that are more important than others.

Such unprecedented control over all aspects of your workforce scheduling gives your business an edge over the competition and helps your team provide the highest levels of customer service possible.

5) Saves Time

up-close of a clock

One of the biggest benefits that workforce scheduling software has to offer is that it saves time — time that can be better spent making your business run better.

It doesn’t matter if you run a small cleaning business with a handful of employees or a large manufacturing business with 100 or more employees, software will dramatically reduce the time it takes to put together your team’s schedule.

With the right app, you don’t have to spend time preparing for the process; you can just get right to it.

First and foremost, you don’t have to recreate the wheel — fiddling with margins, field sizes, color schemes, and other formatting issues — every time you sit down to build a schedule.

Everything is already set up just the way you like it. If you do need to alter something for some reason, it’s usually no more difficult than click and drag.

Workforce scheduling software also contains all the information you’ll need to make informed decisions about who works when.

No more going back and forth to the filing cabinet — be it hard copy or digital — for employee documents. All the data you need is available from the software with just a few clicks or taps.

In addition, assigning team members to a shift is little more than drag-and-drop or choosing from a drop-down list. What used to take a minute or more now takes only a few seconds.

And these are just a few of the ways that workforce scheduling software can free up time that you can then spend making your business more successful.

6) Makes Employee Self-Scheduling Possible

For busy managers, another benefit of workforce scheduling software is that it makes employee self-scheduling possible.

Self-scheduling is the practice of giving your team members access to a rough draft of the work schedule so they can choose the shifts they want to work.

Allowing your employees to self-schedule is a great way to:

  • Get everyone involved in the process
  • Keep your employees engaged in their work
  • Give your team insight into all the work that goes on behind the scenes
  • Lighten your load so you no longer have to do all the heavy lifting by yourself

If you’re unsure how to implement self-scheduling into your workflow, follow these simple steps.

First, schedule one or two employees for each shift. As you do, make sure those team members have the right skills and experience to anchor the shift in success.

Second, make the incomplete schedule available to all your team members and encourage them to choose the shifts they want to work.

Third, after a few days of self-scheduling, close the sign-up, review the results, and make any changes to ensure strong shifts across the board.

Fourth, finalize and distribute the schedule to your entire team.

It might take a bit of advanced planning to accommodate these extra steps, but modern workforce scheduling software makes it even easier than you might think.

Inch, for example, leverages the power of the cloud so employees can access the schedule — both the rough draft and the finalized version — anywhere, anytime, from any device, and on any operating system.

With Inch, you can create a rough draft of the schedule online and then give your entire team access to the template for a few days so they can sign up for any open shifts.

After a few days, you simply lock the document so no one but you can open it, make any necessary changes, and then reopen — or “publish” — it as the final schedule.

Using a shared document like this is a great way to streamline the workforce scheduling process and make your job much easier.

7) Ensures Compliance

Compliance is a broad topic that all businesses need to be concerned about. Why?

Because the laws and regulations that govern how you do business differ from city to city, county to county, and state to state. And, if you don’t abide by these statutes — even accidentally — your business can suffer from serious fines and legal issues.

The right workforce scheduling software can help you stay on top of all your compliance issues, including:

Some apps can even notify you when your workforce scheduling strays into noncompliance for your business.

With a comprehensive software solution in place, you won’t have to worry about running afoul of local, state, and federal compliance laws during the scheduling process.

How To Optimize Workforce Scheduling

workforce scheduling app

1) Get Everyone Involved

One of the best ways to optimize your workforce scheduling is to get everyone in your organization involved — employees, managers, and owners alike.

This process takes many forms and depends on the unique ways your business works.

The solutions you execute directly affect your team, so you don’t want to make a choice at the higher levels only to have it upset, confuse, or disrupt your employees.

2) Choose The Best Workforce Scheduling Tools

The best thing you can do for your business, hands down, is incorporate tools such as Inch and Sling into the workflow.

Inch was designed to help your team get aligned on their to-dos, ensure all tasks get completed on time, and simplify communication for both on-site and remote teams.

For managers, Inch goes even further in helping you analyze and understand your labor data by creating reports for a day, week, month, or even customizable periods. Analysis and data access of this type makes invoicing a breeze and drives your business forward.

That helps you manage everyone’s work better — even your own.

3) Help Team Members Focus

Optimizing your workforce is all about streamlining the way your team works in order to help them stay focused on their assignments.

Inch, for example, features a master to-do list that managers and employees alike can access to see what needs to be done next.

Once an employee completes a task, they can mark it off so that everyone working from and referencing that list sees what needs to be done next.

Inch’s task list even allows you to set due dates, get reminders as deadlines approach, and follow the overall progress of tasks.

4) Track Time-On-Task

Gone are the days of paper timesheets, time theft, and even fixed clock-in/clock-out terminals. Modern time and attendance software is now available in the cloud for all your team members to access wherever and whenever they need them.

Apps can transform any computer, tablet, or smartphone into a time clock so your employees can clock in and out for a shift and for a specific task wherever they may be working.

With some, you can even set up restrictions (e.g., how many minutes before and after their shift employees can clock in or out) and geofences so that your employees can’t clock in unless they’re where they should be.

5) Start Workforce Scheduling With A Template

Start Workforce Scheduling With A Template

We discussed this briefly in the Saves Time section earlier in the article, but it’s worth repeating and elaborating on because it is such an important aspect of workforce scheduling.

Always start your scheduling activities with a template.

Taking the time to set up margins, color codes, shift times, and anything else that will stay the same from one draft to another can save you hours when it’s time to schedule again.

With a template ready and waiting, you can get right to the hard part of the job — sorting through the variables to decide who works when.

You may choose to use a blank template as your base or an old copy of a successful schedule as the starting point.

Either way, the fine details (i.e., the formatting) should be set so that you don’t have to spend time adjusting things before you start assigning shifts.

Workforce scheduling software is the perfect tool for this activity. You can tweak any number of variables to produce the best template possible.

And you can save different versions of the template to use on different occasions. This can help streamline your planning for team activities, special events, and any other workday or workweek that is outside the norm.

Once you’ve settled on a template, don’t be afraid to go back and tweak things to make it even better. Even small changes can make a world of difference in the final product.

6) Identify Successful Shifts

One surefire way to optimize workforce scheduling is to identify and make note of successful shifts. You can then reuse those shifts when it’s time to plan the schedule for the next pay period.

If you’re using software to manage your team, this is often as easy as tagging the shift with a grade or ranking of some sort.

First, create a way to rate each shift from successful to unsuccessful. Options include, but are not limited to:

  • Simple grade-based ranking (e.g., A, B, C, D, F)
  • Complex grade-based ranking (e.g., A+, A, A-, B+, B, B-, etc.)
  • Three-tier, star-based ranking (e.g., ***, **, *)
  • Five-tier, star-based ranking (e.g., *, ****, ***, **, *)
  • Word-based ranking (e.g., Excellent, Average, Poor)
  • Number-based ranking (e.g., 5, 4, 3, 2, 1)

After each shift, talk to the team lead to get their opinion — or use your own best judgment if you were there — and then create a tag in the software indicating the rating.

You may also want to make note of the reasons why a shift was successful or not.

When it’s time to build the next team schedule or task list, examine your rankings and use that information to make assignments so that the next round of work is equally as successful.

7) Set A Labor Budget And Stick To It

An effective workforce scheduling process does more than just tell your team who works when. It also helps you control labor costs and keep your business’s bottom line in the black.

Before you sit down to schedule your employees, set a labor budget to serve as a framework for your choices.

Sure, you want your highest-paid (and typically most experienced and skilled) employees to work every shift, but that may not be logistically or monetarily feasible.

The best way to approach it is to arrange who works when so that your labor costs stay within the budget you’ve created.

That may mean that you have a mix of experienced and inexperienced employees working the same shift, but you can look at it as an opportunity for the former to train the latter and for the inexperienced employees to learn from the experienced employees.

If you’re unsure how to get started building a labor budget, try one of these simple structures:

  • Percentage (e.g., some percentage of payroll for the day)
  • Flat rate (e.g., X dollars each day)

Whichever method you choose, and whatever your budget looks like, do your best to stick to those numbers each and every time you build a schedule.

Workforce Scheduling Done Right

Workforce Scheduling Done Right

If you still rely on face-to-face instructions, programs like Microsoft Word, Excel, or their online counterparts for your scheduling needs, it’s time to upgrade.

Business-focused apps such as Inch and Sling offer a wide range of tools that simplify and streamline the workforce scheduling process so you can create the best workflow possible and still have time to focus on tasks that drive your business forward.

And upgrading won’t cost an arm and a leg over the programs and processes that you’re used to. Sling gives you free access to everything you need to schedule employees and handle internal communication for unlimited users and locations.

Sling also offers other powerful features, including:

In addition, Inch — a voice-operated workforce schedule and management app — incorporates task management and time tracking in one powerful solution.

Inch is designed to make it easier for managers and employees to get aligned on their to-dos, ensuring that all tasks get completed on time.

Inch also simplifies communication. Employees are able to perform a wide variety of tasks from their tablet or phone, including:

  • Work from a shared task list
  • Get clarity on work that needs to be done
  • Receive voice-assisted reminder notifications
  • Clock in and out of tasks at different locations
  • Complete work assigned to them
  • Communicate with managers and each other

All of that and more without having to touch a mobile screen or report back to the office.

For managers, Inch makes it easy to distribute tasks manually across their teams or populate tasks automatically based on preset conditions. This feature ensures that all work is covered and keeps employees accountable for their responsibilities, expected outcomes, and deadlines.

Managers can assign work to the employees that are closest to the job site or have tasks generate automatically as the need arises and follow work progress and task completion in real time.

Inch helps eliminate frustration for employees, headaches for managers, and inefficiencies for the business.

So, whether you need help setting up when each team member will work during the week or what tasks they will perform when they do, Inch and Sling give you unprecedented control over an inherently complicated and chaotic process and make it easier than ever to create the best workforce scheduling for your team and your business.

For more free resources to help you manage your business better, organize and schedule your team, and track and calculate labor costs, visit today.

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