Optimized Shift Planning? Get the basics right first…
A good friend of mine works for a major retail chain and because they are employed in the store running various customer-facing counters, they are subject to working shifts. And these shifts vary daily regarding the number of hours worked, the time of day that the shifts begin and end, and the days of the week that employees are scheduled. No surprise there as this is typical for the retail industry but what I found surprising is that two days before the start of a new working week, they did not know what shifts they were scheduled to work that week. This created problems within their personal life because it is difficult to plan anything if you do not know when you are supposed to be working. For them, this is very frustrating and demoralizing and it is leading them to be considering employment elsewhere.
It’s a regular occurrence too, every week there is the same uncertainty: when am I working; what hours am I working; when am I free to run my life? Given the vast availability of software that can make shift planning a fast and accurate process giving employees visibility of their shifts weeks or more ahead of time, then why haven’t some major retail chains invested in getting the basics right? Employees are “assets”, right?
But why do I care? A few weeks ago I completed a comprehensive ClickSoftware White Paper “Optimized Shift Planning – The Way of the Future” which you should download and enjoy at your leisure. In this paper I discuss how applying optimization algorithms to the shift planning process can greatly increase operational efficiency and communication with employees. It’s the pinnacle of shift planning, but attaining this level of sophistication is a journey and it has to start with getting the basics right – communicating with employees, easily accommodating their needs and preferences, and planning ahead are all good places to start.
The retail industry is often criticized for treating employees as commodities and maybe this just proves the point, but what do you think? What are your experiences of shift planning frustrations?