Creating a Scheduling Strategy That is Win-Win

By Tyler Wyman, Colorado Springs Utilities

Almost everyone realizes there is a significant cost associated with turning around multiple new hire classes throughout the year.  There are costs associated with testing, training, and the ramp-up time it takes to get them to full performance and efficiency.  Not to mention the higher fallout rate as people leave.  So how do you reduce this need?  How do you slow down the revolving door of employee churn?  The answer is closer than you may think.

Anyone who has worked in a service center for any length of time knows the holy trinity when it comes to employee morale lies in:

  • Scheduling
  • Monetary Gain
  • Time Off

These three factors can have a major effect on the culture and morale of your organization, and can make the difference in an employee’s choice to stay or leave.  In this article, I will be focusing on the scheduling component.

Have you ever sat down and truly evaluated your scheduling strategies?  Are they a Win-Lose scenario from an employee Efficiency-Morale standpoint?  In truly successful scheduling models, the needs of the business and the employee are considered and weighed.  If you weigh too heavily on the business side, you end up with schedules that few can work for any length of time, and affects can be seen on absenteeism and attrition.  If you weigh too heavily on the employee side, you end up with staffing gaps that you must fill by hiring more staff or using OT.  So how do you find that ZEN-ful mix?

The key to balancing these two factors comes from a diverse scheduling strategy.  “Options” is the word of the day.  Challenge and expand your scheduling comfort zone by incorporating multiple layers of flexibility that meet both the needs of the business and the needs of the employee.  The biggest hurdle in this process is breaking down one’s preconceived notions about what your staff would want or like to work.  Give a lot of options.  Even if they are not all utilized, the fact that you are offering so many choices can improve your employees’ morale because they see that you are giving them choices.  Here are a few options you can consider:

  • Alternative Lunch lengths
    • 30 mins  (for those who like to get off earlier or come in later)
    • 60 mins (for those who like to have a lunch with a little more time to decompress)
    • 90-120+ mins (for those who may like to run errands, work out, or do homework over their lunch)
  • Split shifts
    • Even splits (breaks the day up into more even manageable pieces and allows for other activities during the day)
    • Weighted splits (these shifts can help those who are trying to balance out multiple responsibilities)
    • Multiple splits (for those who get bored and complacent easily, these shifts can keep the day interesting by breaking the work day into short bursts of productivity)
  • Compressed
    • Working fewer days but more hours on the days they are at work (example: 4×10)
  •  Deteriorating
    • Working more hours at the front end of the week and having their hours taper off as the week goes on (Example: 10/9/8/7/6)

  • Balanced
    • More hours on the days you need them and less on days you do not need them (Example: 10/9/6/6/9)
  • Micro breaks
    • More breaks throughout the day of shorter duration
  • Choose a break
    • A rep has their normal breaks reduced by a few minutes, but adherence is adjusted to allow one short five minute break that they can take when they choose or need to take it.
  • Flex shifts
    • Either a shift start time moves within a defined window, or their day off moves  (drives variety)
  • Choose your hours
    • Reps can choose their shift duration by day within defined criteria that you set
  • Reduced hours
    • Reps can choose to work less hours within their current shift per business need

These are just some of the options you can use.  Each option gives the business a gain in some way while at the same time, allowing choices for representatives.

  • For every two hours you shift to a day in need, you are increasing your staffing on that day by .25 FTE without using OT and reducing staff on days you do not need staff
  • Splits and extended lunches help spread your staff out throughout the day
  • Short lunches and micro breaks help reduce the effect that break windows have on your scheduling plans
  • Flex shifts help add the benefit of fluidity when it comes to being able to put people where you need them as patterns and needs change

On top of this, you can further drive flexibility and morale by offering these options for long- or short-term periods.  For those who assign schedules from a longer term standpoint, offer some of these as a shift modifier option in your bid.  Than as you generate each month, offer these again as a “take-it or leave-it” option that staff can use for short-term options for their work life balance.  This not only gives you long-term gains that you can count on, but also helps you move staff around as each month gets closer and plans have changed.

I know what you are thinking, “That is a scheduling nightmare.  How do you incorporate these into a bid or a scheduling plan?”  This can be a real challenge, but consider offering these as modifiers.  The staff bids and/or is assigned standard shifts based on your staff plan at first.  Once this is completed, offer these options as schedule modifier options.  You choose where within their shift you add or take away hours or how the shift will play out.  You can even choose whether these options are available during certain times of the month and on particular days of the week.  This simplifies your scheduling process from the bid/assignment standpoint, creating your baseline, and then alters those shifts in order to fill in staffing gaps and challenges.

Although a little more work, injecting some of these strategies can not only give you significant gains in your scheduling utilization, they can improve morale which will pay off in the long run by reducing that dreaded employee churn.

SWPP member Tyler Wyman is a Workforce Supervisor with Colorado Springs Utilities.   If you have questions or would like to connect with the author, he may be reached at