Scheduling: Auto vs Manual Scheduling

By Patrick Dittamore
Product Manager

With so many companies going to automated scheduling, the question many managers will be asking is, “How do I get the people I want, at the times I need them scheduled?” Putting this key management function in the control of a system can make even the most seasoned employees nervous. Some employees have spent years of service working their way into a position where they have more control over their schedules. While the concern is understandable, once you take the time to weigh the options the merits of a system based approach should win them over. Let’s look at the options.

Manual scheduling is the tedious process of trying to place the right people, at the right time, doing the right tasks. Many long term employees think that manual scheduling is the best system; it gives the managers complete control over who, when, and why an employee is scheduled. Using manual scheduling, managers can keep their favorites getting the shifts that they prefer to get regardless of whether the assignment involves the right person or the right time. It also gives them control of the distribution of hours between employees, days off, rotations, nights, weekends and holidays. Some of these schedules take hours or even days to complete but, in the end, the scheduler is happy because he or she has the control to assign schedules as they please.

Auto or computerized scheduling uses your businesses metrics, sales, items, customers, load sizes, labor tasks, etc., and comes up with the best times and people to schedule shifts. With the computerized schedule the emotion of scheduling is taken out of the picture, it puts labor where labor is needed and is extremely efficient in doing so. But, the system can also look to improve many quality of life issues for employees. Today’s systems are far more flexible than the first systems developed. Most can allow multiple availabilities; a standard availability which is the broadest time frame when the employee can work, and a preferred availability that narrows the scheduling window when possible to give the most ideal schedule to the employee. All of this means that a manager can leave one day and return the next to find a schedule complete, taking a fraction of the time to finish versus the manual process.

But, are the correct people always scheduled for the correct shifts? Also, if we spend the same amount of time moving labor to an auto produced schedule then why do it at all? It all comes down to configuring your system correctly. If the system is configured properly and weighting is given to the correct skill, the schedule will be extremely close or completely edit free.

It is hard to accept change and when it might affect relationships the change management can become the task the hardest part of the conversion. So how can this be accomplished so all sides are happy? The answer I believe is with a properly configured system and training.

Once managers see that the labor wasted on manual scheduling can now be used to increase sales, improve customer interaction, and cost savings they will come “Over to the Dark Side”. I know stores where the Front End Managers used to spend 30 or more hours a week writing schedules that now take minutes to a few hours to complete. The time and dollars saved do add up, and when the end solution helps drive profits through lower cost, better labor distribution, happier employees and a better customer experience then how can anyone argue that it’s a bad idea?

This post is also available in: Spanish