The Schedule Triangle
Updated: Feb 7
When constructing a scheduling strategy, there are numerous aspects to consider, and it's typically worth taking the time to evaluate all of the high-level environmental factors before putting pen to paper and creating a shift pattern. Unfortunately, WFM teams usually go directly into the details, resulting in a trial-and-error approach that yo-yos between strategies and ultimately causes more harm than benefit.
Start at the top, with your first thinking being where you would position your organization's culture/strategy into the scheduling triangle.
For example, a company with an employer-first strategy may design shift patterns that benefit its employees, but this may come at the expense of the customer, who may have to wait longer, or you may need to overstaff to accommodate the increased schedule inflexibility and hence higher cost. I've had to explain several times in my career that if you give me an unlimited budget, I can design shift patterns that are "best in class" for employees while simultaneously ensuring that people are in the right location at the right time for customers. Still, it is tough to achieve all three concurrently.
When it comes to Scheduling; Employees, customers, and costs are frequently intertwined, making it challenging to strike the right balance. A cost-effective scheduling pattern that meets customer expectations, for example, may appear to be cost-effective on paper. However, if employees become ill or leave the company, costs will rise due to recruiting and overtime costs, and the customer will suffer due to a lack of manpower. The good news is that there are scheduling solutions that check all of the triangle's boxes at once, such as shift bidding and equity-based scheduling.
Consider and examine the following factors while determining your position in the scheduling triangle:
Your business's type: An emergency service, for example, is more likely to be skewed toward the customer point of the triangle and to put expense to one side than a line of business with a low net-worth income stream.
Employee Demographics - Age, gender, ethnicity, religion, student status, and family/marital status all impact employee needs. It's one thing to have this knowledge, but don't assume you understand these groups of people; instead, interact with them and speak with them directly, compiling a list of requests that you can then incorporate into your schedule.
Facilities - To give a few examples, how close is your employee to their place of work, building opening hours, canteen operating hours, facilities near the office, and work from home options.
Customer requirements - How stable is your customer demand over 24 hours? For example, demand that is exceptionally high between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. and insufficient between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. is much more expensive than demand evenly distributed throughout the day. Also, how susceptible demand is to change on short notice is a crucial factor to examine since it will define how much short notice flex you require in your timetable plan.
Spending time figuring out where you want your company's scheduling strategy to go is a valuable exercise that will prevent yo-yo behavior, provide clarity and transparency to all parties involved, and, most importantly, serve as a guiding star as you dive deeper into the details and design the shift patterns themselves.