I often get asked the question what is it about scheduling that makes it so hard. I always answer Workflow! That more than anything is what defines good staff scheduling from bad. One problem is the format and publishing of schedules is often similar e.g. staff down the left and dates across the top – with perhaps some frequency counts at the bottom. This almost universal format is efficient, conveys a lot of information and is generally understood just by looking at it. That is why formatted spreadsheets and most staff scheduling software appear to do the same job.
However the effort and time to achieve something as familiar as the workplace schedule can be as different as ‘chalk and cheese’. It is workflow that makes the difference in the quality of workforce scheduling. If someone told you they had a ’system’ that was totally flexible, gave you complete control to do what you wanted, and above all cheap – even free – most jump at it. That’s exactly what a spreadsheet offers. However there is nothing stopping you doing something dumb. In fact you can even make a staff schedule that can’t possibly succeed look good – until someone else, usually operations, use it.
If all you are bothered about is just getting something out, and ultimately it’s someone else’s problem on the day (so much the better), that might be OK for some managers – though in a business serious about operating costs they are not managers for long.
The relationship between staff hours, costs and timing of shift patterns allied to a business requirement is complex. Without workflow you are unlikely to arrive at a satisfactory solution. Worst of all you are destined to deliver different workforce scheduling outcomes even when the problem remains the same. With workflow you get flexibility, without it you get confusion.