Advice About Online Staff Scheduling To Schedulers:
What to Look for in a Vendor
Change is scary for all human beings, especially for managers who are schedulers, since a stable world is a good thing, but there comes a time when you need to consider moving to an online staff scheduling solution to help you handle the challenges of scheduling your employees day in and day out. Once that decision is made, how do you ensure you are implementing the tool that is right for you and your staff? There are so many different vendors that make very similar claims of functionality and compete on price. Let's take a look at different areas to consider when embarking on this journey.
Don't get sucked in by a flashy demo a vendor shows you where you sit and think "this is too good to be true" because as we all know, it usually is. Scheduling vendors can create anything they want in a demo and they can make it do just about anything. Make sure the functionality a vendor is showing you in the demo is currently being used by its customers. If a vendor says "it's coming soon" or "on the drawing board" make sure they commit to a time during the year (i.e. a quarter) when that functionality will be released for use. If the functionality is critical to your operation, make sure they will back up their claim in the contract. Never be afraid to ask very specific "how to" operational questions or have a vendor explain something over and over until you understand exactly how it will work for you. If this ends up being a vendor you are considering, always ask to speak with a current client so you can hear from a user if all the claims are true.
Bottom Line: You are in the driver's seat during a demo, they need to earn your business.
It is your job to ensure a scheduling solution has the functionality that you require to schedule your staff and department. Assuming that most online scheduling vendors will offer some level of scheduling functionality, here are a few general areas to vet when evaluating different solutions.
Collaborative Model – The most effective and efficient method of scheduling your staff is to INCLUDE them as part of the solution. Look for a vendor that provides online staff portals where each staff member has their own login. For example, in a hospital, true collaborative models empowers:
By empowering the staff to be a part of the scheduling solution, you decrease manager time spent on scheduling tasks while increasing staff satisfaction. Your staff will feel as though they have more control over their schedule even though they are doing more work around scheduling than in the past, they are personally invested in the outcome of these tasks, they won't mind. As a mater of fact, they will thank you for being part of the much more efficient process.
Communication – As in many areas of our lives, communication is critical to ensuring a positive outcome. Scheduling vendors should provide very strong communication modules. Auto notification of schedule changes, requests, shift opportunities etc. will save managers many hours of play "scheduling secretary" and calling, texting, and/or emailing their staff while at the same time keeping staff "in the loop" as to decisions being made. Schedule communication will have a positive impact on staff morale as well allowing them to answer their phone without worry that it might be their manager asking them to "fill in."
Flat Structure – A well-designed staff scheduling solution shouldn't require you to click thru many pages or tabs to get the information you require. Critical decision data should be available at the point of decision. Look for consistency throughout the product. "Clunky" systems show their colors at some point and you will notice these as the process to complete something takes many steps and many screens.
Bottom Line: The difference between a good scheduling solution and one that will not work, is in the details.
Ease of Use – This one is critical
Start with the End in Mind – We are told this by self-help gurus and successful business people all the time. Let's break down what this means for our online staff scheduling solution. What are the goals of implementing a new solution: save time, gain visibility, lower staffing costs, decrease the headache that is scheduling (put your reason here). Any, or all. If we backup 1 step from the end goals, what do we need to attain these goals?
We need people using the scheduling tool for it to work optimally.
ADOPTION drives our ability to reach these goals. If nobody uses the tool, the goals remain out of reach (we are no better than before). If we get everyone engaged and feed our collaboration focused scheduling tool, the goals will be within our reach. Let's back up another step: how do we drive adoption of the tool? There are many marketing ploys you can use to drive people to the online scheduling system, but if the tool isn't easy to use, your staff will not remain engaged and will slowly go back to their old ways. Ease of use drives adoption of just about every online solution we choose to use. The vendor can tell you a system is easy to use, but you are the only one that can judge if a solution is truly easy for you.
Bottom Line: Ease of Use = Adoption = Return on Investment (you reach your goals)
You have made the decision to change how you schedule your staff. Use this advice to ensure you find the right vendor with the right product. Do it once and do it right.