This article originally appeared on the WorkForce blog. 


Two words: domino effect.


Finally, I thought, it’s happening.

After eight delays in eight hours, the plane that was scheduled to take me back to Chicago at 6:25 PM was speeding towards liftoff at half-past two in the morning …until it wasn’t.

“Folks,” the pilot’s voice shot through the intercom, “I have some bad news: the baggage handlers assigned to this flight were late due to some scheduling glitches.”

I could feel the plane’s brakes digging into the wheels.

“The delay made us pilots miss our fatigue deadline by a couple minutes.”

The plane slowed to a crawl and started to turn around.

“I’m sorry, folks,” he said. “We have to cancel the flight and deboard.”

The lights came on. The woman next to me gasped.

“I have work tomorrow,” someone called out. “What am I going to do?”

Out came the phones. The grumblings picked up: UnbelievableThis is ridiculousNever in my life…

The moral of the story?

Schedules affect employees as well as customers.

In my case, the airline probably didn’t have real-time alerts enabled for their hourly workers. Alerts that would’ve kept their employees apprised of any schedule changes due to flight delays caused by weather, air traffic congestion, security issues, what have you.

To think: a couple minutes spelled the difference between 200 satisfied patrons and 200 irate ex-customers, who are now dead set on sharing their airline nightmare with anyone who’d listen.

Of course, airline customers aren’t the only people affected by bad, un-optimized schedules. Un-optimized schedules are those that are created without the benefit of data, which helps align employee coverage and customer demand.

Bad schedules are ubiquitous, transcending industries and job roles and service hours, creating issues in virtually every space where hourly employees exist. For example, in:

  • Retail: every time there’s a standstill in the checkout line.
  • Hospitality: every time someone eats their lunch without a fresh iced tea refill.
  • Healthcare: every time “The doctor will see you now” is heard an hour later than promised.

Bad schedules can be found across the board, which means that many employers are still ignoring the benefits that can be realized with a modern workforce management solution, one that enables true scheduling optimization…

The benefits of optimized schedules:

Optimized schedules are created using multiple key performance indicators (e.g., store traffic, POS sales data) to ensure that employers have the right people, in the right place, at the right time.

As far as benefits are concerned, the domino effect applies: better schedules create elated employees, who deliver better service, which delights customers, who buy more—all of which drives tremendous cost savings.

Let’s break these benefits down some:

1. Elated employees:

Engaged, productive, elated hourly employees know exactly when they work—and for how long—in advance. They know they can always swap shifts if they need to. They know their schedules will be created fairly, accurately, using data that ensures hours are distributed logically based on demand.

Most importantly, engaged hourly workers feel like they’re treated fairly on the job, like people, not cogs.

Consistent, responsible scheduling enables consistent, responsible people—creating trust, loyalty, and engagement along the way.

2. Delighted Customers:

Optimized schedules are lean, efficient, void of the typical kinks that interfere with an hourly employee’s ability to do his or her job. As a result, customers see better, more attentive service—and organizations capitalize on more sales opportunities.

Anne Mulcahy, the former CEO of Xerox, said it best:

“Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person—not just an employee—are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability.”

“Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability.” –Anne Mulcahy

3. Cost savings:

You’re not paying people to idly stand around, to check their phones, to count down the minutes until their shift is over. If you’re paying people to be there just in case, you’re losing money.

Managers can avoid the added costs of scheduling “just-in-case” workers by knowing, beyond a shadow of doubt, how many people each shift calls for. Optimized schedules can help you do just that.

Optimized schedules can also help employers play the other side of the coin: scheduling enough people to meet a particular shift’s demand, ensuring that every customer gets the service they need, when they need it.

Scheduling shouldn’t end with a schedule.

Scheduling should end with efficiency, with proper coverage, with the satisfaction of both employers and employees. This outcome hasn’t always been possible, but today, thanks to modern workforce management software, it is.

Ready to elate employees? To delight customers? To save money, schedule after schedule?

Let’s go.