Imagine you have a brand new scheduling system, technology you have installed to automate employee scheduling. It assigns hours to employees to best cover busy times, and scales back on staffing for hours or days when fewer people are needed. That's great for your organization, but there is one thing missing: the human element.

Optimized workforce scheduling ensures that you have the right people working at the right times to maximize workforce productivity at the best cost. At times, however, the optimization can be too focused on the organization as a whole — and not focused enough on the employee. One employee may end up working too many hours while another doesn't see enough shifts on their schedule.

This, however, is changing rapidly. Scheduling technology innovations make overscheduling or underschudeling preventable by helping organizations take an employee-centered approach, balancing the needs of both employer and employee.

A recent HR.com discussion defines an employee-centered workplace as a place in which all individuals, programs, processes and systems are focused on helping employees become success. Fortunately, there are some developing innovations in scheduling technology that are designed to find that balance by considering the direct costs (staffing levels, hours worked, number of workers on a shift, overtime pay) and the indirect costs (happier employees, reduced PTO/sick days taken, reduced turnover) of optimizing employee schedules.

Web-Based, Mobile-Friendly SaaS Solutions

One major innovation in scheduling technology is a shift from installed software to a web-based model. Web-based, mobile tech offers benefits for both employers and the workforce as a whole: The company benefits by not having to support an on-premise solution, which is not a core technology for most companies. Employees benefit because they have more flexibility to view and plan their schedules from anywhere — not just at work. By the same token, managers can review and approve schedules anywhere, as well.

Moreover, if web-based and mobile scheduling is executed with a true balance between the needs of the organization and the needs of employees, then employees will be able to block unavailable times and/or accept and reject requests to work certain shifts. The technology on its own, however, serves to empower employees by offering tools that help establish that needed flexibility.

Tight Integration With Other Systems

Another key innovation is tighter integration with other systems; in short, the technology should be designed to fit into the work flow of people who actually use it. For example, contractors hired by a company can keep track of their schedules through the system. Some time-tracking technologies even allow contractors to bill directly through the system, which helps reduce invoice errors by removing any manual entry of work data from a scheduling system to a billing system.

Collaborative Scheduling So Everyone Wins

Enterprise social networks are not the only software in organizations where collaboration occurs. In fact, enhanced scheduling lets managers and employees collaborate in order to create schedules that work for everyone. In other words, scheduling is no longer a one-way push from organization to employee. With collaborative scheduling, managers can publish open shifts, while employees can set preferences like availability. The collaboration is not just between employer and employee — workers can swap shifts with each other. Collaborative innovations make scheduling a two-way street.

For HR leadership, the appeal of scheduling technology innovations lies in the potential to collaborate with front line employees to maximize productivity and control costs, while ensuring it balances employee and employer needs in an ethical and fair manner.

Tags: innovation Scheduling technology Starbucks workforce optimization