Is Employee Scheduling Software Bad for Employees?
Employee scheduling software has gotten increasingly more powerful, and managers can now precisely match the number of workers, and the type of skills, to any range of business demands. Unfortunately, this achievement has been tarnished recently by poor usage of these tools.
A stream of bad press on so-called scheduling optimization has taken several forms:
- The New York Times profiled part-time workers in the era of automated workforce scheduling and presented a dire picture. Retail and hospitality workers were assigned odd and frequently-changing shifts, prompting several journalists to “rage against the scheduling machine.”
- Scheduling practices are also being directly challenged in court, as in the Mendoza v Nordstrom, Inc. case in California’s Ninth Circuit. An employee asked to work up to 11 days in a row filed suit saying that his schedule violated the state’s day of rest statutes. (The case prompted the state’s appellate court to review ambiguous language in the applicable state law.)
- Employee advocates and community groups are pressing for new legislation that would grant employees more say in what hours they work. Bills have been proposed in at least 8 states, with more likely.
In sum, there’s been a lot of activity … yet all of it overlooks one important point: How an organization defines scheduling optimization. This definition shapes the algorithms used by employee scheduling software to assign work. If employers account for work/life balance concerns as part of their scheduling goals, they will be better able to identify configurable tools capable of prioritizing employee needs.
The same technologies being blamed, in part, for disruptive and uncertain work schedules could also be used to create more transparent, predictable, and employee-friendly schedules, as Brandon Hall analyst Mollie Lombardi observed when these stories first broke.
We should challenge organizations, and the individual managers responsible for leading teams, to reframe scheduling optimization. The saying “right person, right place, right time”, begins with the most fundamental part of a schedule: the “right” person. By incorporating employee preferences into scheduling rules, we can strike a balance between cost, output, and work/life needs.