Lessons learned from customizing scheduling software
It’s a given. When it comes to workforce scheduling, we can all agree we want to have the right people working in the right jobs at the right time. But the challenge is a bit more complex than many people realize – a one-size fits all solution simply does not exist. Whether in the public or private sectors, it is important to think beyond automation of the here-and-now needs of time and attendance to focus on the events of tomorrow. The former is pedestrian and limiting, the latter predictive and empowering.
While there are many software solutions promising to ensure this, many neglect to take factors into account that ensure legality and accountability, in addition to professionalism and efficiency. The devil truly is in the details, and solutions must be tailored accordingly.
I believe my story is an informative one, as I was faced with the formidable challenge of creating a workforce management system that could accomplish these goals in an environment whose stakes can, literally, be life and death: policing. Specifically, my potential customer was the police department of Princeton, New Jersey.
The responsibility loomed large. With public safety at stake, a variety of additional factors, such as union laws, were piled atop traditional considerations. In policing, the availability and placement of properly trained, seasoned and rested officers is imperative. This software needed to be an extension of the common sense tactics and methods accrued over decades of best practice implementation. Simply put, the police don’t play around when it comes to scheduling.
Compounding the challenge was the need to develop a solution that would not only efficiently schedule legally certified employees, but one that would also fairly and wisely distribute overtime, sick leave and vacation days. I assembled a team, and we challenged ourselves to think beyond time and attendance, to venture into the more sophisticated realm of creating a proactive, predictive solution responsive to the myriad scenarios police departments face when allocating manpower.
We worked closely with the Princeton PD to determine how to best ensure all union and labor laws would be followed. We wanted to make sure that only the right staff, with the proper training and qualifications, would be placed in open slots. Gone were the days when pen and paper, or even Excel spreadsheets, would suffice. Too many mistakes had been made, too many grievances filed.
A fairer, more equitable system needed to be devised – one that combines centralized scheduling, time and attendance, electronic time cards, and payroll functionality into a single, powerful database. In a field with so many variables, it was also important to incorporate predictive analytics that provided rules-driven broadcast notification and daily activity features, allowing for officer allocation and management both cost-effectively and in compliance with local policies and union protocols.
Certification and training also are an important piece of the puzzle. Highly regulated, police work requires considerable amounts of training and certification (who can carry a gun, for instance), and it’s important that only properly trained officers are selected to fill vacant spots. As such, to be effective, a police workforce management system needs to generate proactive alerts regarding training that is due, flag vacancies that are created when officers are in training, and make sure vacant positions are filled with appropriately trained and certified officers. This lowers the risk for police departments when it comes to liability, while simultaneously improving public safety.
User-friendliness also is paramount. A solution such as this needs to be workable for personnel with limited tech savvy, mandating simplified dashboards showing real-time pertinent information. In this fashion, schedule rotations, overtime reasons, extra-duty rules, security levels, shift-bidding, and post names can all be constructed to fit an agency’s requirements, and users can design hundreds of reports by selecting the specific information they need. A cloud-based, system such as this allows remote access by multiple parties for viewing and changing schedules, as needed. This increases productivity, allowing precincts to focus their time and energy on more important endeavors.
If it Works for Police…
The lessons learned in designing the policing software are highly relevant to developing cloud-based workforce management software solutions capable of serving a variety of additional industries. Complex, sector-specific personnel management conditions exist in a variety of industries, including fire and emergency departments, correctional facilities, and healthcare organizations.
But so long as the management system’s baseline principles are solid, it can be customized to satisfy the particular needs of nearly any industry. An example: the training and certification process developed for police departments can be augmented to suit an oil refinery, where it could be configured to ensure that only qualified persons are allowed to monitor a meter that helps prevent emergencies.
Food & Beverage
Similarly, consider a restaurant operation. Ensuring the right mix of staff to meet customer demand determines success. High employee turnover rates and staffing miscues such as having too many cooks in the kitchen and not enough waiters on the floor can prove costly. With a proactive scheduling solution, management can design staffing to better ensure profitability and customer satisfaction, while accommodating staff so employee turnover can be significantly reduced.
In today’s increasingly competitive healthcare environment, positive patient experience is shown to have a direct correlation to timely provider payment, increased efficiency and a happy and productive healthcare workforce. A proactive workforce scheduling solution bridges the connection between making sure the right mix of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals are on staff at the right times and providing excellent patient care. And ultimately, a more productive and engaged workforce goes a long way to ensuring your organization’s efficiency and productivity.
The Bottom Line
Utilization of a dynamic, proactive staff scheduling system allows employers to maximize productivity while remaining in compliance with rules – whether they be legal/regulatory requirements, or applicable corporate rules. What’s more, with the multitude of data that can now be generated and analyzed, clients have access to information that can help them make continuous improvements and step up their game, ultimately strengthening both productivity and profits.