A retail associate clocks in using a Zebra tablet and Workcloud software
By Ashish Sawhney | December 18, 2023

How to Assess Schedule Quality in Workforce Management Software (and Why You Should)

Optimizing operations and enhancing customer service can be easy if you’re using the right key performance indicators (KPIs). But how can you be certain you’re using the right KPIs?  

Workforce management (WFM) software can play a pivotal role in modern business operations, as a high-quality schedule not only boosts operational efficiency and employee satisfaction but also improves customer service. Of course, you must ensure the technology tool you choose is capable of producing a high-quality schedule if you want a significant return on investment (ROI).

That’s why you need to run some quality checks from time to time. Are the schedules being created proving to be effective? Are they giving you the right staffing levels from both a headcount and skill set perspective based on business demand and objectives?

Not sure? I’m not surprised.

The challenge in determining if a WFM tool is actually helping your business often lies in identifying the right key performance indicators (KPIs) to assess schedule quality. The best way to address this challenge is to align your KPI selection with your business’ overarching goals and leverage the data available within your WFM tools. (Yes, “tools” plural. Not just your scheduler.)

The Importance of KPIs in Schedule Quality Assessments

Selecting the appropriate KPIs to evaluate schedule quality will be a very personal exercise, as you have different business objectives and labor considerations than others. However, I am happy to share some commonly used KPIs by many of Zebra's Workcloud Workforce Optimization customers to get you thinking about what you might want to leverage. These KPIs offer valuable insights and can be used individually or weighted to calculate an overall schedule quality score.

1. Schedule Efficiency

One fundamental KPI in schedule quality assessment is schedule efficiency. It measures how effectively a schedule meets your workforce requirements while minimizing overstaffing and understaffing. 

Efficiency is calculated as a function of overs and unders against the required workload. For example, if a system schedules five employees when only three are needed, the shift coverage may seem adequate at 100%. However, two extra staff members are scheduled in this scenario, resulting in a 40% deviation from the optimal staffing level. Therefore, efficiency is just 60% due to overstaffing. The efficiency of a weekly schedule is a factor of all deviations (not just overs, but unders too).

Improvement tip: Aligning employee contracts or availability with your store, bank branch or restaurant demand can significantly enhance scheduling efficiency. For example, some customers are using tools such as Zebra AI Staff Planner (AISP) to help improve staffing forecasts based on comprehensive data and analytics. By relying on data-driven recruitment strategies, this type of AI tool enables you to determine the required roles, the number of employees needed, and the optimal contract times. This approach answers critical labor-related questions, streamlining the scheduling process.

2. Schedule Adherence

Schedule adherence is another pivotal KPI that assesses how closely employees adhere to their scheduled shifts. It is calculated as the percentage of scheduled hours actually worked. Utilizing a timekeeping solution is essential for accurate measurement, though. While this KPI may not seem directly related to schedule quality, it holds significance. Consistently high numbers of timecard exceptions, such as early clock-ins, early clock-outs, and missed breaks, can indicate issues with the inputs used to optimize schedules. Such discrepancies can impact the overall quality of the schedule and lead to increased costs.

Example: In a company with 10,000 full-time employees working five shifts a week, if 20% of employees clock in one minute early and finish one minute late, the additional weekly payments can total $5,000/£4,106/4,743 euros (assuming a $15/£12/14 euro hourly wage rate), adding up to $260,000/£213,543/246,662 euros annually (excluding the soft costs of time spent on clearing timecard exceptions).

3. Schedule Coverage

It's crucial to schedule the appropriate number of employees for specific time slots to match the forecasted labor requirements, so an effective schedule involves creating shifts that align with the generated labor forecast/demand. Schedule coverage guarantees sufficient employees are scheduled to meet the projected demand.

For instance, if a system schedules three or four employees for a shift when only three are required, the shift coverage in both scenarios would still be considered 100%. Many of the workforce scheduling tools our customers use rely on the 'Minimum Coverage' functionality to guarantee 100% schedule coverage for critical store tasks like store opening/closing, always having one first aider available, etc.

4. Employee Satisfaction

To ensure schedule quality, you must close the loop with employees to make sure they agree it’s a ‘good schedule.’ Measuring their satisfaction is crucial, and the best way to do that is by using feedback and surveys based on rules rather than preferences (to avoid subjectivity). Refining business rules based on common feedback themes can lead to better schedule adherence and overall employee satisfaction. It's essential to strike a balance between individual preferences and organizational rules.

For example, someone may not like working two late nights in a week. But is it within the defined rules? Someone may prefer to start their shift at a different time than 08:45 am. However, is it within their defined availability and company rules? 

5. Schedule Cost

Analyzing the cost-effectiveness of schedules is vital for successful workforce management. However, simply relying on an average hourly wage rate and scheduled hours to calculate the cost of a particular schedule is insufficient. There is functionality available now to help you consider individual employee costs, overtime payments, evening premiums, and other factors when calculating schedule costs. This provides a more accurate picture of the financial implications of scheduling decisions.

For example, the cost of an 8-hour scheduled shift on a weekend calculated purely on the wage rate ($15/£12/14 euros per hour) and scheduled hours will be $120/£98/114 euros. However, if the overtime rules (time and a half on weekends) are also considered for the cost calculation, the cost will be $180/£148/170 euros. So, using premiums factors provides a more accurate picture of the financial implications of scheduling decisions.

6. Schedule Compliance

Schedule compliance involves assessing the extent to which schedules adhere to both labor laws and business-defined rules. Ensuring compliance with labor laws, such as a maximum of five consecutive shifts, is crucial to avoid legal issues. Similarly, adhering to business-defined rules, such as limiting the number of Saturdays an employee can work in a given timeframe, is essential to maintain operational consistency and employee fairness and increase employee satisfaction.

7. Shift Swap/Give Away Shifts

Tracking the frequency of employee requests for shift swaps or shift giveaways can reveal potential scheduling issues or employee dissatisfaction. A high rate of such requests may warrant a closer look at the scheduling process and its impact on employee well-being.

8. Certifications (Training and Skills) Match

It is essential for efficient operations to assess whether employees with specific skills are scheduled for tasks that match their capabilities. Any mismatch in this regard should be factored into the overall schedule quality metric calculation.

In Conclusion

The selection of KPIs should always align with your organization's unique objectives. Regularly analyzing these KPIs empowers you to fine-tune your scheduling processes and enhance overall workforce management. By focusing on schedule quality, you can better optimize operations, improve customer service, improve employee satisfaction and maximize the ROI from your WFM solutions.

If you need help figuring out which KPIs will be best for you to use, you can always contact a Zebra WFM specialist here. You can also learn more about the WFM solutions available on the market today to help automate or assist with scheduling and schedule quality assessments here.

Healthcare, Blog, Warehouse and Distribution, Digitizing Workflows, Transportation and Logistics, Retail, Article, Hospitality, Software Tools, Banking,
Ashish Sawhney
Ashish Sawhney

Ashish Sawhney is currently the Director of Global Professional Services at Zebra, where he is responsible for leading the global team of Functional Consultants, Implementation Specialists, Project Managers, Program Managers and AAR Cognos Developers. He has more than 12 years of experience within the retail and software industries, and his team has successfully implemented software for many of the world's biggest retailers.

Previously, he served as a Technical Consultant at JDA, as well as a Functional Consultant and Head of Delivery at Reflexis Systems and Zebra Technologies, where he managed the technical solution design, functional solution design and overall implementation delivery. Ash holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in IT from Coventry University and Bachelor's in Computer Application (BCA) from Jammu University.

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