For businesses with a mobile workforce component, creating effective schedules can mean the difference between a proactive and reactive process, which in turn impacts overall workforce operations, productivity, and visibility.
Proper scheduling requires a deep, nuanced understanding of resources, organizational goals, and data. A strategic scheduling process takes into account much more than just worker availability, and focuses heavily on the individuals that make up a mobile workforce to ensure a great employee—and customer—experience.
Common Staff Scheduling Challenges
Strategic scheduling is an important factor for revenue, especially for organizations with a complex, blended workforce. But creating (and maintaining) an efficient scheduling process can be tricky for organizations that are still utilizing manual tools.
Lack of Visibility and Flexibility
It’s difficult, if not impossible, to properly schedule your deskless workforce if you’re unclear on their availability, location, or skill sets. A lack of workforce transparency due to manual spreadsheets and disparate sets of tools (which often stem from legacy systems) can hinder your ability to fully understand where your workers are, how they’re being used, and where you can make adjustments to better serve your customers.
Consider also how your team handles exceptions. If a deskless worker calls in sick, how do your schedulers ensure that their appointments for the day are properly rescheduled and the customer is swiftly updated? Without a flexible tool that can easily handle exceptions, your team is more likely to drop the ball, leading to no-shows and customer dissatisfaction.
Effective communication is crucial for organizations with employees who work in the office and in the field. If your deskless workers can’t easily communicate potential delays, schedule changes, locations, or the need for extra resources, job performance (and customer satisfaction) can suffer. On the other hand, schedulers can’t do their jobs properly if they aren’t made explicitly aware of issues on the mobile workers’ end, which means increased frustration and decreased job satisfaction.
Inability to Properly Match The Right Worker to The Right Job
If the details of your mobile workers’ certifications or skill sets aren’t readily available to staff schedulers, they’re at risk of getting sent to a job for which they aren’t properly prepared. This can be particularly disastrous for healthcare organizations with in-home providers, as their success depends heavily on their ability to match the right provider to the right patient.
Ineffective job matching also leads to worker burnout, which in turn leads to unhappy employees. If the quality of worker-to-customer matching is poor, your team is not only risking negative client interactions, but also higher employee turnover.
If you’re still using manual processes for scheduling, your staff schedulers and deskless workers are likely tied down by time-consuming, frustrating tasks. The time spent filling out spreadsheet-style schedules and time sheets, sorting through employee skill sets, using disparate communication tools, and tracking down resources means fewer hours spent on what really matters—serving customers. It can also result in inaccuracies, which decrease both productivity and your bottom line. What’s more, without tools that offer transparency into scheduling, it’s difficult to identify gaps in service delivery or accurately reduce wastage.
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Benefits of Strategic Employee Scheduling
While creating strategic schedules doesn’t come without its obstacles, the benefits of getting it right are hard to ignore:
Improved Employee Experience and Engagement
Your employees are the backbone of your business, and keeping them happy means improved job and customer satisfaction and higher retention rates. When deskless workers can rely on an accurate, strategic scheduling process, they feel more efficient, supported, and prepared.
Better Business Insights
By using the proper scheduling tools, you can capture key workforce data that can later be analyzed for stronger business decisions. You’ll have greater insights into your overall workforce, allowing you to make informed decisions about processes, resources, and service delivery.
If deskless workers and staff schedulers are armed with tools that enable effective, real-time communication, they’re able to avoid miscommunications, oversights, and errors that negatively impact customers. Schedulers can easily communicate last-minute changes or cancellations, both to deskless workers and customers. Mobile workers can confidently arrive at each appointment knowing they’re fully prepared, properly matched, and on time.
When scheduling works like a well-oiled machine, your employees are freed of the frustrating, burdensome tasks that are traditionally attributed to organizations with a mobile workforce. Retiring manual processes and replacing them with technology that does that heavy lifting means staff schedulers will be less inundated with the mundane tasks that lead to burnout.
Steps for Creating Employee Schedules
Creating effective, strategic schedules can seem like a daunting task. Every business has unique needs and workflows, making the process even more complex. But by combining some tried-and-true practices with powerful tools that enable your employees, your organization can build better schedules and reap promising benefits.
1. Identify Resource Needs
Location, shift length, and skillset are all essential factors in determining what you’ll need to deliver the best service possible. A nonprofit organization, for example, should start by nailing down the details of where volunteers will be working, how many hours each person will need to be in that location, and whether or not they’ll need specific certifications (i.e. phlebotomists or nurses).
Scheduling software can be particularly helpful for this step, as sophisticated scheduling tools can track data for future planning purposes. In addition, some technologies seamlessly track each deskless worker’s attendance and time spent on the job, which is essential for improving efficiency and identifying trends.
After you’ve determined your needs for a particular job or event, you’ll want to take worker availability into consideration. Be sure to accurately track and plan for PTO, holidays, and sick time and measure these factors against your resource needs. Integrating this information into one unified system will help ensure you’re not scheduling mobile employees who are unavailable for the appointment, which saves time in re-working the schedule and communicating changes.
2. Schedule Shifts Around Who is Qualified
Once you’ve narrowed down what you’ll need to fulfill a specific service delivery, you can begin assigning jobs based on skill requirements. This is particularly crucial for healthcare organizations and other industries in which certifications, licenses, or other requirements play a big role in scheduling. A company providing in-home ABA therapy services, for example, must ensure they are matching therapists to clients based on both customer preference and skillset.
Another factor to consider is employee performance, which should be tracked and measured to identify the best person for any given job. Also take into account details like seniority, pay rates, and employee preferences, which are important both for better customer service and increased worker satisfaction.
Some tools offer features that match mobile workers to jobs automatically based on factors that can be updated over time, saving schedulers the time it would take to manually pair them with the right customer.
3. Enable Real-Time Communication
When there are breakdowns in communication, the employee experience and overall business outcomes suffer. If mobile workers aren’t getting updates, or they have to check multiple platforms for updates, day-to-day tasks become more time-consuming and frustrating.
By providing a single tool on which your deskless workers can access schedules and communicate with the back office, your teams will be better prepared to manage change. Up-to-date staff schedules should be instantly available for mobile employees to see updates to job details, cancellations, delays, and more. When workers don’t have to switch between checking text messages, emails, and phone calls, they’re less likely to miss important information.
Real-time communication shouldn’t be limited to your internal teams, though. Make sure your tools can also update clients with crucial information—like accurate arrival times, delays, or necessary appointment changes—so that your customer experience doesn’t suffer.
4. Be Flexible, and Plan for Exceptions
Your deskless workers have lives outside the organization, so planning ahead for curveballs is essential. If you’re still operating on a reactive scheduling process, you’re giving your competitors a clear advantage.
By shifting to a strategic, proactive scheduling process, you can avoid the no-shows and operational scramble that often accompany last-minute changes. You’ll also improve employee experience for both staff schedulers and deskless workers, who will no longer be burdened by the stress of those off-the-cuff modifications.
Intelligent scheduling software can identify and resolve exceptions so that appointments don’t fall through the cracks. By using a tool that can quickly adapt the schedule to support your dynamic workforce, you’ll offer the kind of flexibility that keeps customers—and employees—happy.
5. Use Data for Capacity Planning
The data that results from your scheduling process is a valuable source of potential improvements! By taking a close look at both real-time resource needs and historical data, you can adjust accordingly for a more strategic process and efficient workforce.
For example, you may start to identify large gaps of idle time for mobile workers throughout the day. Now that you know some workers are underutilized, you can create a plan to assign more jobs to those workers, or assign work more quickly so they aren’t waiting around in the field for the next assignment.
On the other hand, you may see a higher number of missed appointments, which is starting to affect customer satisfaction. By digging into this trend, you can identify whether the appointments were missed because of an administrative issue, like failure to communicate or underestimating travel time, or an individual performance issue.
By capturing and analyzing these findings over time, you can better plan for workforce capacity and reduce the time that staff schedulers spend dispatching and rescheduling. This process is made easier by tools that automatically collect data and identify trends to help you improve workforce visibility. You can better understand and manage the availability of deskless workers with the help of real-time status updates, overall customer demand, and even location tracking.
How Scheduling Technology Can Help
If you’re currently using manual tools and processes to create employee schedules, the steps we’ve outlined may seem too challenging to tackle. But implementing scheduling best practices for a more efficient process doesn’t have to be complicated. Modern tools can help your organization effectively schedule your deskless workers—and keep them happy, too!
A robust scheduling solution enables real-time communication between deskless workers, staff schedulers, and clients all in one place. Look for a tool that offers access to alerts, schedule updates, messaging, and crucial client details on a centralized, secure platform.
Intelligent Job Matching
Your staff schedulers’ ability to quickly and accurately assign the right worker to the right job impacts both employee and customer experience. Technology that stores information on worker availability, skill sets, and customer and employee preferences will ensure each service is delivered properly.
Data Collection and Analysis
A strong scheduling tool should capture and analyze key data to offer deep business insights for your organization. Focus on technology that tracks performance, service gaps, worker location, and job completion times. By leveraging that kind of crucial data, you can optimize your operations for improved customer satisfaction and a healthier bottom line.
Integration with Existing Systems
Most businesses with a mobile workforce already use multiple tools for a variety of purposes. When looking for scheduling software, make sure the tool you choose can integrate seamlessly with other systems—whether it’s HR, payroll, or a CRM—to support your end-to-end workflows. By ensuring that these technologies work seamlessly together, you’ll avoid data silos that prevent you from meeting key business requirements.
Strategic Scheduling with Skedulo
The importance of a strategic scheduling process for organizations with a blended workforce can’t be overstated. To ensure you’re creating the most effective schedules possible, you need a strong tool that offers automated job matching, centralized and streamlined communication, and a deep understanding of workforce operations.
Skedulo’s intelligent scheduling software works seamlessly on desktop and mobile, offering end-to-end support for both your back office schedulers and deskless workers. As a centralized platform for real-time communication, seamless integration, and data analytics, it can enable your team to develop a strong scheduling process with both employees and customers in mind.