Scheduling for Success

James McDonough blog sizeA recent NY Times article describes software that uses algorithms to schedule human labor to meet business needs. Essentially, human work time is converted to labor data bits that are plugged in as needed to handle ever-changing work volumes. On paper, the model is brilliant and a big improvement over old fashioned “hand to paper” scheduling with a crystal ball.

One big problem – human beings. People cannot be reduced to labor “bits”; they are attached to lives full of complexities and competing needs. Like children. Children don’t care what the needs are of a business. They want mom or dad home to help them with homework, take them to the park or tuck them into bed. Their parent, an employee, is squeezed between these competing demands. Childless workers also suffer from unpredictable, erratic work schedules that prevent any sense of control over one’s own life. The article (and reader comments) discusses how “robo-scheduling” negatively impacts employees, families, employers, and society as a whole.

Employers face a conundrum. Competitors, shareholders, and other marketplace forces drive a need to maximize business results at every opportunity. Scheduling technology offers such an outcome.  Yet employees cannot be manipulated at will and without consequence. Morale and retention will suffer, driving up costs and undermining organizational goals. How can employers find a balance?

A sustainable business model is possible when an equilibrium is achieved between business and employee needs. With any new investment in a technological solution that directly impacts your employees, include them in the discussion. Tap into their ideas! Employee feedback could reveal issues that, if not proactively addressed, could undermine your investment. Partnering and communicating with employees will help you create a more humane and sustainable operations model.