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5 Scheduling Questions You Need to Ask Before Choosing a Vendor

Oct 28, 2021

Multi-faceted organizations need to combine scheduling approaches to cover the needs for different teams across multiple industries and/or geographical regions.

So, you don’t want to settle for a vendor that creates gaps in functionality that require error-prone manual workarounds. You want to rely on one vendor for flexible options that address all employee scheduling requirements, while also improving the employee experience.

If you’re ready to revamp scheduling at your organization and empower your employees to have control of their schedules, these are five questions you should ask prospective vendors to determine whether they are a true partner in your success.

 

Question 1: How are you incorporating emerging technology and trends to support innovation?

 
A great example of this is artificial intelligence (AI). Nearly every vendor out there is talking about AI, but to what extent have they put it into practice? Are they taking a reactive or proactive approach? Are scenarios pre-programmed, or is there a machine learning element to their execution?
 
For example, a machine learning approach to labor forecasting looks at historical patterns and trends, applies its learnings to the current environment, and projects the impact on staffing levels accordingly. As new data is received, it can reforecast demand and provide insights into potential adjustments to staffing levels for even more precise alignment with business KPIs.
 
 

Question 2: In a period of disruption or opportunity, how will your scheduling solution adapt to keep operations running smoothly?

 

As a result of the pandemic, organizations are accelerating digital transformation and focusing on employee safety, despite ongoing challenges like supply chain vulnerabilities and labor shortages. An automated scheduling solution that incorporates machine learning labor forecasting can help organizations swiftly adapt to this new and changing “normal.”
 
Of course, the unexpected can take many forms, from uncertainties to new opportunities for growth. For example, a utilities company in an emergency weather event may need a solution that can gauge their entire workforce and identify individuals that are best suited to fill gaps in coverage to expedite the restoration of power. This may include asking employees to perform duties outside of their normal responsibilities.
 
Elsewhere, a manufacturer that solely produces goods decides now is the opportunity to launch retail operations to sell goods direct. In this case, a solution that is purpose-built for manufacturing would not be the right fit for their retail operations.
 
 

Question 3: How does your solution improve the employee experience?

 
Employee experience is now an HR imperative, and encompasses everything from the implementation of fair and predictive scheduling practices to flexible working arrangements to career development planning and more. A robust scheduling solution can enhance these efforts and even take on some of the heavy lifting.
 
For example, employees in highly variable work environments don’t always have the luxury of a consistent schedule. An automated scheduling solution that incorporates machine learning labor forecasting publishes optimized schedules well in advance and provides employees with the necessary time they need to organize personal obligations. When conflicts do arise, employees initiate their own shift swapping to ease administrative burden, while still ensuring their replacement has the right qualifications.
 
The solution should also have the capability to send pro-active alerts when work hour limits are approaching, or if employees are not taking required breaks or vacation time.
 
For career progression planning, look for features that enforce qualifications and support schedules that allow for mentorship. For example, optimized schedules should place top performers with less experienced employees to encourage knowledge transfer, while preventing a negative performance impact during peak business periods.
 
 

Question 4: How does your scheduling solution simplify and prove compliance with labor rules?

 

Prevention is key to safeguarding employee rights. Non-compliant practices are expensive. They can result in litigation costs, fines, penalties, and lost productivity, and your brand reputation can take a major hit — making it difficult to attract and retain both employees and customers. At the very least, a scheduling solution should enforce legislation, employment agreements, and industry standards, such as work hour limits, breaks, rest periods, and minimum qualifications during the scheduling process.
 
But what happens when things don’t go according to plan, and the employee’s actual hours vary from their scheduled hours? Your scheduling, time, and absence practices need to be interwoven, so potential risks can be predicted and mitigated before it is too late. For example, if an employee is asked to work late, you should be alerted if they are at risk of not getting required rest between shifts. Then, you can decide whether to send the employee home or adjust their next shift to remain compliant.
 
In addition to being a nice convenience, some employment agreements and region-specific legislation actually dictate notification periods for publishing schedules and schedule changes. Notification compliance is one more benefit of incorporating machine learning into your labor forecasting practices.
 
 

Question 5: How does your solution accelerate smarter scheduling decisions?

 

Data drives decisions, and access to the right data across all your critical systems can provide valuable insights into your workforce.
 
For example, a solution that accepts critical business driver data from third-party systems is able to create accurate labor forecasts weeks or months in advance. This allows you to generate and populate schedules and identify any potential talent shortages or surpluses. This could trigger increased recruiting efforts or give leaders time to build a strategy on how idle workers can be leveraged on special projects or other activities.
 
 

Re-Imagine Employee Scheduling

 
Asking the right questions is the first step to finding the right solution for a complex enterprise with multi-faceted requirements. Be sure to cover your needs today, as well as your aspirations for the future, with open-ended questions that invite prospective vendors to demonstrate their value. Otherwise, you may find yourself without valuable insights into the efficiency, productivity, and engagement of your workforce.
 
Learn how the WorkForce Suite’s Scheduling can keep your organization on track, while also improving the employee experience.
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