In our business, as in many others, there’s often a gap between how we harness our theoretical knowledge and our practical knowledge. We’ve all heard it before. I’m sure you’ve even said it yourself. “That sounds great in theory, but how does it work in practice?”
Let’s think about this in terms of schedule optimization. Workforce management experts and software vendors agree that an optimized schedule and scheduling process is one that most effectively balances labor supply with customer demand. That’s easy to say. But it’s often much harder to determine whether your business has achieved it.
I was reminded of this point last week during a presentation on schedule optimization at Axsium’s WFM Forum. In his presentation, Director of Corporate Retail Operations Support and Labor at Albertsons Mike Scizak provided a more practical definition: “An optimized schedule is one in which it takes the same amount of time to perform a transaction (or any piece of work) regardless of volume.”
The Elements of Optimized Schedules
This definition of schedule optimization is notable for a number of reasons.
Ease of Understanding
First, and most important in my opinion, this definition is easy to understand. Most WFM systems rely on abstract metrics like “Schedule Effectiveness Rating,” “Schedule Efficiency Score” and “Coverage Percentage” to indicate that a schedule is optimized.
But there’s a problem here—most users fail to grasp the meaning of these metrics. Mike’s definition on the other hand is far more feasible. And you can easily understand and apply it.
Ease of Use
Next, this definition is easy to use. Want to know if you have an optimized schedule? Simply multiply the amount of time it takes to perform a task by the expected volume. The result is the optimal amount of time you need to complete the work.
Comparing the required time to the scheduled time lets you quickly assess if you are overstaffed or understaffed. Do you want to see how effective your schedule was? Divide actual results by the number of hours worked. The findings tell you how long it took your staff to perform a task.
You can compare this metric to the expected time—your labor standard. This will let you measure how well-optimized your schedule was, as well as your workforce’s productivity.
Finally, this definition of optimization can be used anywhere, any time. For example, a manager can observe his workers performing a task. With some simple math, they can figure out if they are overstaffed or understaffed and adjust accordingly.
The Basis of an Optimized Schedule
Of course, this practical definition of an optimized schedule relies on one key element. You need to know how long it takes to perform each task. In other words, this practical definition is based on having accurate and up-to-date labor standards.
It’s not hard to successfully incorporate this definition of schedule optimization into your business. But you do need accurate, up-to-date labor standards. More, your corporate employees, field managers and front-line employees need to be able to understand those standards.
If you aren’t sure if your labor standards are where you need them to be, you can always talk to our experts about schedule optimization. We can help you get a better understanding of where you are. And what you may need to do to get where you want to be.