Everything You Need to Know About Predictive Scheduling

Predictive Scheduling

February 15, 2022

Predictive scheduling is something we’re going to be hearing a lot more about, so what is it, and how does it work?

Essentially, predictive scheduling is about making sure your employees get schedules with plenty of notice. While this might challenge some businesses, it also comes with a lot of benefits.

If you can implement effective predictive scheduling, then you may find it makes a big difference to how your business runs.

What Is Predictive Scheduling?

Predictive scheduling is the practice of giving your employees posted, predictable work schedules with plenty of notice.

In a perfect world, every business would do this because it has obvious benefits for employees. However, as we all know, business isn’t straightforward, and offering predictable schedules with plenty of notice isn’t always easy.

This is particularly true in industries where it’s hard to predict demand. For example, a bar might be packed full one night and deserted the next, sometimes without rhyme or reason.

For businesses that face fluctuating demand, this can make scheduling a nightmare, resulting in shifts being posted at the very last second. While this might enable companies to match demand on any given day, it also places untold stress on their employees.

This is where predictive scheduling comes in, and a lot of cities are considering new rules to govern the way scheduling works (some have already brought them in).

Predictive Scheduling Laws

Many cities across the United States are looking into scheduling practices and asking questions about the merits of on-call and just-in-time shifts.

These shifts clearly bring some benefits to businesses in terms of flexibility, but too often, they come with negative consequences for employees. While the laws generally focus on employee well-being, it’s also important to remember that last-minute scheduling hurts businesses.

Workers are leaving industries like hospitality and retail in large numbers, and part of the issue is a lack of certainty. Employees can’t plan ahead, and they can’t guarantee how much they will earn each day, let alone each month.

Cities like San Francisco, San Jose, New York, and the state of Oregon have all implemented their own versions of predictive scheduling laws. The chances are, there are plenty of other cities waiting to see how they play out, but beyond complying with legislation, there are convincing reasons to embrace predictive scheduling anyway.

The Benefits of Predictive Scheduling

We don’t have to think too hard to see why predictive scheduling might be beneficial for employees, but it can also be beneficial for employers. The key is in how you implement predictive scheduling, but with the right technology, it can work for everyone.

For Employees

Studies have shown that a lack of notice about scheduling When you don’t know what your schedule is going to be from one day to the next, there’s no way you can plan your life—you’re simply reacting.

The other side of on-call and just-in-time schedules is that you can be called into work only to be sent home after a few hours. You’ve still got to prepare for the day and go through the commute, but you’re doing it for a fraction of the reward.

Without guarantees of shifts, workers can’t plan their personal lives, and they can’t plan their finances. This results in increased stress that ultimately will affect employee morale.

For Employers

When employee morale is low, it tends to result in performance drops, more health issues, and more errors. In turn, this makes it even harder to schedule because you’re going to have to cover more gaps with less motivated employees.

It’s a circle that can be hard to break. The more you rely on last-minute-scheduling, the more you need it.

With predictive scheduling, you can break away from last-minute scheduling and help restore employee morale. Giving your employees certainty about when they’ll work and how many hours they’ll work could improve performance and impact turnover rates.

More productive employees and lower staff turnover are certainly benefits employers can get behind.

How to Implement Predictive Scheduling

How can you stay ahead of regulation by implementing predictive scheduling? Scheduling is challenging, which is why businesses rely on just-in-time and on-call schedules in the first place, but it’s not impossible.

When you make predictive scheduling work for your business, it can have a big positive impact on performance, and these steps will help you to achieve it.

Plan in Advance

Planning in advance is an implicit part of predictive scheduling. You’ve got to be able to look ahead and see what might be happening in your business, and what your staff needs will be.

Many businesses hold off on scheduling until the last minute to help them understand demand, but others do it simply because it’s become a habit. There’s no reason why schedules can’t be published at least a week in advance if you’re taking the time to look ahead and plan in advance.

Demand might fluctuate, but you should have access to data that will help you predict the challenges you face.

Use Time Tracking Software

Time tracking software is a good way to better understand your needs.

If you can quickly see how many hours your employees are working, when they take breaks, and how they use their time, then it can help you plan better. It’s much harder to schedule when you’re not sure exactly how many resources you need, and time tracking can fill this gap.

This also helps to ensure that employees are getting paid efficiently and there aren’t administrative errors. Modern time tracking software like PayClock, makes it effortless for employees to clock in and out, allows managers to edit timesheets, and automatically syncs them with payroll.

Keep Old Employee Schedules

Part of planning for the future is understanding what’s happened in the past. If you can access old employee schedules, then you have a good idea of how you managed demand at other times in the past.

For instance, a restaurant can look back at their old schedules from when they hosted a yearly event, or a retail store can look at past Black Friday schedules. You’ll be able to look back on those schedules and compare them to your predicted demand for this year.

This can work on a much more regular basis as well, allowing you to replicate schedules for recent weeks to make scheduling much more efficient.

Get Input from Your Employees

Part of predictive scheduling is about understanding employees' preferences, so get their input. When you understand each employee’s preferences, it’s much easier to fill shifts, find out who can take shifts at the last minute, and work out a routine.

It can also give your employees a little bit more control over their lives.

Of course, you can’t accommodate every request, but you can do your best to give your employees added flexibility and more control over their work schedules.

Manage Paid Time Off Efficiently

Another element that makes scheduling challenging is managing aspects like PTO.

If you don’t have clear PTO policies or a system that makes time-off requests simple, then it’s going to lead to problems with your scheduling. You need to have a clear picture of who’s available to work on any given day, and you need access to essential reports and information to manage PTO in advance.

You don’t want to schedule someone for 40 hours a week, only to find out you agreed they could take time off. Predictive scheduling requires certainty when it comes to people’s days off, so make sure you’ve got robust systems in place that allow you to plan around PTO.

Time tracking software such as PayClock from Lathem comes with features like benefit time accruals and time-off requests that can make predictive scheduling a lot easier.

Make It Easy for People to Swap Shifts

Swift swapping can get messy. This is particularly true if you’re doing your scheduling manually, with Excel sheets and decentralized communication.

It’s much easier to make shift swapping work if you’re using one central platform for your scheduling. Everyone is able to see the schedule, communicate in one place, and trade shifts with the approval of their managers.

Again, this is something you need to have clear policies on, as it’s imperative you have the right people working at the right time. However, when done well, shift swapping can help employees to gain extra flexibility without impacting the business.

Conclusion: Predictive Scheduling

Predicting your workforce needs isn’t easy. If it was, businesses wouldn’t have to rely on just-in-time and on-call scheduling.

That doesn’t mean that it’s not possible to create schedules ahead of time so your employees get a good amount of notice. We have the tools to make predictive scheduling work, it’s just about embracing them, and adapting them to your business needs.

Central to this is understanding how your employees use their time, and PayClock from Lathem is a great place to start.

Once you can automate processes like time management, then you’ll have a lot more data to inform your predictive scheduling.

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