As the landscape of the mobile workforce continues to evolve, businesses in all types of industries hire employees who perform specific tasks during specific time periods. These individuals are known as shift workers, and they are a valuable part of organizations with a deskless workforce. Shift work can be a great way to give employees consistency while catering to your customers’ needs throughout the day, but managing shift employees presents unique challenges.
In fact, the process can be quite complicated, particularly for organizations who employ both deskless and fixed-location workers. The complexity of scheduling a blended workforce requires careful attention and intelligent tools.
That’s where shift management software comes in. It can help you build and maintain a strong workforce of shift employees so you can meet—and even exceed—your business goals.
The Challenges of Shift Management
Planning complex schedules for a variety of deskless workers can be a time-intensive, expensive task. When staff schedulers have to use manual tools and processes to manage such a huge process, it introduces even more challenges. Here are some common challenges of managing shift- and roster-based work:
Limited Ability to Deal with Exceptions
In a perfect world, your shift workers would never call off sick. The reality, however, is that shift workers are susceptible to unforeseen circumstances just like anyone else. When workers are unexpectedly unavailable for a shift, you may be stuck trying to find a qualified replacement as soon as possible.
Without the right tools, this is a time-consuming and labor-intensive process: manually sorting through your list of available workers, contacting potential substitutes individually, adjusting the schedule, accounting for any effects on other appointment times, and communicating the updates to both employees and customers. If even one step is missed, a customer could be left high and dry, which negatively affects the customer experience, your reputation, and your bottom line. This is especially risky if you can’t notify your customers automatically when a worker is running late or unable to make the appointment.
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Poor Workforce Visibility
If your business depends on a team of deskless and fixed-location shift workers, it can be difficult to keep track of everyone around the clock. You may be unsure of how long your shift workers are on the job, where they’re located, and which customers, clients, or patients they’re serving.
Poor workforce visibility can lead to decreased productivity, inefficiencies, and an inaccurate understanding of resource utilization. Customers see field workers as part of the overall organization, so a lack of workforce visibility can undermine customers’ confidence and reflect poorly on the company itself; if a customer calls HQ to complain their technician is 30 minutes late, it’s much better to be able to say, “They were finishing up a job nearby, and I’ll confirm that they’re on their way to you now” than to say, “I assume they’ll be there soon.”
Inability to Match Based on Skill Set
No two shift workers are exactly alike. Each employee has their own unique experience and set of skills. Matching workers to the jobs they’re qualified for is a crucial part of delivering a great customer experience, but it’s no small task.
If you’re using a manual process and lack proper tools, you’ll find that matching employees based on skill set is not only time-consuming, but often inaccurate, too. Employee certifications expire, preferences change, and when you find the person with the right skills, you still have to determine if they are close enough to the customer’s location and available for the job. Unless you’re able to connect the right person to the right job quickly, you risk having to send another worker to finish the task at a later time, leading to customer dissatisfaction and lower productivity.
If your organization offers in-home healthcare services, for example, you need to be certain you’re sending the proper provider to the patient every time. Sending a provider who isn’t qualified, licensed, or certified to deliver certain services to a customer is not only a liability for your organization, but also a risk for the patient.
Proper forecasting is an essential part of successful shift scheduling and rostering. Scheduling too many or too few workers for various shifts can take a serious toll on your bottom line. Unfortunately, it’s tough to predict how many employees you’ll need at each shift, especially if you don’t have reliable historical data to lean on.
Manual or traditional tools just don’t offer the type of in-depth data collection and analysis required to understand resource gaps and financial trends, which can make it nearly impossible to accurately plan ahead. Chronic overscheduling leads to significantly overspending on staff costs without enough corresponding revenue, and under-scheduling introduces delays, burnout, and frustration among staff that can spill over into the customer experience.
How Software Improves Shift Scheduling and Rostering
Fortunately, implementing the right shift and rostering management tools can address common challenges and take some of the guesswork out of managing your deskless workers.
Saves Time for Schedulers and Dispatchers
Manual scheduling and dispatching leads to inefficiencies and burnout. Schedulers have to keep track of the ever-evolving schedules of multiple shift workers and track updates, delays, requests for time off, changing qualifications, and more.
Shift scheduling and rostering software uses automated matching and validation to help schedulers and dispatchers work smarter. When customer requests, workers’ skills, and employee schedules are housed in the same place, the system can automatically identify double-bookings, gaps in the schedule, and the best route for a worker to take between appointments.
Improves Access and Communication for Deskless and Fixed-Location Workers
With a strong shift management system, you can ensure both your deskless and fixed-location shift workers have access to up-to-date schedules, updates, optimized routes, and other key details.
When workers can see and share updates from anywhere via desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone, they save the time it takes to call or email staff schedulers about issues or changes. With secure, cloud-based scheduling tools, workers can even log updates with limited or no connectivity so no one misses a beat.
Reduces Scheduling Errors
Scheduling errors are far more likely to arise when the process includes working from multiple sources, like calendars, emails, and spreadsheets. Shift scheduling and rostering software reduces this risk, as it securely stores and/or integrates all the information you need in a single interface.
Some modern shift management tools also include real-time error alerts so schedulers can easily manage complex work patterns. This automation makes it a breeze to keep track of hours worked, time off, who is right for the job, and other key factors that influence productivity and efficiency.
Integrates with Existing Systems
Shift scheduling and rostering software is particularly useful when it integrates with your payroll, invoicing, HR, CRM, and other existing systems. Mobile workers in particular benefit from interoperable systems that bring together all the information they need to serve customers. When your data is able to flow securely and seamlessly, employees can work more efficiently, and you’re better enabled to uncover key business insights.
Integrating information from different sources can turn an OK customer experience into a truly memorable, excellent one. For example:
- A HVAC service company receives a request for an urgent repair for a large system. The scheduler uses technician information (synced from the HR system) to match the right worker within minutes, and sends the details of the new job right away.
- The technician is notified on the mobile app, and they open it up to see the customer’s name, address, and recent appointment history (synced from the CRM). Now they’re prepared to head that way and greet the customer appropriately.
- When the technician arrives, they need a little more guidance on how to handle this specific issue. They open up the training manual on their phone (synced from the company’s internal knowledge base), or check in with their manager using secure, built-in communication tools.
- When the job is completed, the technician collects the customer’s signature on the estimate or the invoice right on the spot (synced with the invoicing system).
- The technician had to spend an extra hour on this complicated repair, which is automatically logged as overtime based on the hours worked that week (synced with the company payroll system).
Offers Centralized Management
Shift management software is crucial for leaders who are overseeing, evaluating, and improving their deskless workforce.
A tool that offers centralized management means you can:
- Set Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), which are essential for tracking performance and finding areas for improvement among your workforce. What gets measured gets done, so picking the right KPIs, communicating them to the workforce, and measuring progress over time makes a big difference. Analyzing data like time to schedule, travel time, response time, and schedule adherence in a centralized system empowers managers to make necessary adjustments to better serve customers and support employees.
- Correct negative trends earlier by gaining visibility into issues like declining customer satisfaction, lower number of jobs completed per day, higher number of no-shows, and lengthy travel time. With accurate insights into troublesome patterns, you can quickly course-correct for better outcomes.
- Celebrate positive trends to improve the employee experience. Your deskless workers are your most valuable asset, so it’s important to identify and celebrate workers who are keeping customer satisfaction high, completing a high number of jobs, or decreasing their rework percentage or repeat visits.
Manages Complex Work Patterns
Work patterns can be complicated, especially for shift employees who work irregular schedules or trade shifts often. With a shift scheduling and rostering system, you’ll be able to create templates based on customer demand, worker availability, and your own business requirements.
Tools that offer these types of shift and roster templates save your teams the time of generating accurate rosters, and give you a firm foundation from which to make adjustments when needed. Even better if you implement modern technology that can also manage single shifts or recurring appointments, which can be a hassle to keep track of manually for multiple deskless workers.
Tracks Employee Hours
Shift management software is the most convenient way to track employee hours. When a mobile worker checks in or out of a job site, their time is automatically tracked, meaning the hours worked are both accurate and easily accessible.
Instead of having to track down employee hours from spreadsheets and enter them into a system (which takes up valuable time and resources), the right software can capture everything in one place. This leads to quicker, more accurate billing and invoicing, which benefits your organization and customers, and employees save time they might otherwise spend filling out timesheets every week.
Captures Field Data
In the past, capturing field data often meant deskless workers had to manually take notes on the job and enter them into a digital system once they returned to the office. But this process is time-consuming and leaves quite a bit of room for error—times are fudged, details are forgotten, and small things slip through the cracks.
A modern shift scheduling and rostering system eliminates this extra step altogether. Document what’s going on at the job site via photos, notes, and even contactless customer signatures, then save them automatically so schedulers and managers are up-to-date. Depending on the software you select, it may even work offline, so key details will automatically sync to the system when connectivity is restored.
Shift Scheduling and Rostering Software for Your Deskless Workforce
There’s no denying that creating an efficient work schedule for shift workers can be a challenging feat. The good news is that a robust shift management software can solve these challenges and increase your team’s efficiency, productivity, and revenue.
Skedulo’s Shifts and Rostering software helps you optimize your shift management to save on labor costs, enable real-time communication, and tackle the time-consuming challenges associated with managing shift-based employees.
Learn more about how to create effective schedules for a more successful deskless workforce, or book a demo today!