Benefits of automated staff rostering

Using a rostering engine to solve staff rostering and employee scheduling problems benefits an organisation in a number of ways:

  • Cost savings. Employee salaries are a significant proportion of expenditure for most organisations. Better scheduling can reduce this expense:
    • Through minimising over coverage (not assigning more employees than are required at any time).
    • Via cutting the reliance on expensive, short notice workers to fill gaps in schedules when it may appear to be the only solution.
    • Through increased work performance due to reduced fatigue and stress amongst workers caused by poor scheduling (e.g. overwork, insufficient rest, bad shift combinations etc).
  • Higher staff retention and a recruiting aid. In the healthcare industry for example, a number of countries have experienced a reduction in the number of people training to become nurses and/or an increase in the number of nurses leaving the profession. As the populations of these countries age, the demand for healthcare will increase and these nurse shortage problems will become more acute. In order to encourage more people to become nurses and to reduce the number of people leaving the nursing profession, various initiatives have been proposed. One of these is to allow more part time contracts and to provide the nurses with more flexibility and input on when they work. This allows, for example, more parents with young children to remain in nursing.
  • Reduction in absenteeism and tardiness. Many organisations incur a reduction in productivity due to staff absenteeism and tardiness. The reasons for personnel arriving late or taking days off are various. This can partly be attributed, though, to dissatisfaction with their schedules or fatigue due to poor scheduling. This can be reduced through better rostering and giving the workers more say in their work patterns. For example, an employee is less likely to be absent for a shift which they actually requested.
  • Personal preferences. Increasing the employees' satisfaction with their schedules by providing them with more choice and allowing them to better plan and use their leisure time can also increase general morale levels. This, in turn, can lead to benefits such as higher productivity and lower staff turnover with its associated costs.
  • Increased quality of service. As another example from the healthcare industry, nurses are able to spend more time with patients if they are not overworked or the ward/department is not understaffed as a result of poor scheduling. In the worst case, fatigue and stress can result in medical error endangering the patient's health and safety and damaging the hospital's reputation.

Constructing high quality rosters, however, is a challenging process which is made more difficult by providing increased flexibility and a variety of work contracts. In many organisations (including those that do use workforce management software) the schedules are still produced by hand and it is an unwelcome and time consuming assignment. The task can also be stressful and frustrating. The planner is presented with a number of requests and scheduling requirements which can rarely be fully satisfied. They are required to ensure that all legal and binding rules are obeyed whilst trying to grant as many requests as possible. Often, unfavourable shifts must be assigned and requests denied whilst trying to maintain fairness and impartiality.

By using a rostering engine to automatically create schedules, it is possible not only to remove this chore and the associated costs but also to create much higher quality rosters. The scheduling is performed with a fraction of the effort and the schedules are better than expert human planners can achieve. Legal requirements can be checked, which a planner may miss, and more requests and working preferences are satisfied. The person that was previously assigned this work now has more time for their other duties. This is especially noticeable when regular rescheduling is required due to staff sickness and unpredicted absences. As the schedules are computer generated, people also feel less victimised if they believe that their schedule is worse than a colleague's. Rostering engines are also often used as a decision support tool, allowing planners to test different scenarios. For example, how would the quality of the schedules change if more or less employees were assigned to this location?