The 5 modern scheduling realities you need to consider for hourly employees

Hourly employee checking schedule on phone while walking to work

Do you remember your first hourly job? How about the steps it took to get your schedule and what labor meant to you then? Based on what I remember, working in an hourly environment had a feeling of permanence from schedule posting to schedule posting. It used to be that schedules would be tacked on the wall in the hallway or in break rooms on old pieces of paper. Managers would work tirelessly in the back room, wrestling with a scheduling matrix on a spreadsheet before posting. In fact, in my first hourly job I used to take my mobile phone out to take pictures of the paper schedule so that I had it readily available throughout the week. No one assumed the schedule could change, never mind that they themselves would have the power to change it.

Of course the truth is schedules are never static even after they’re posted. There always need to be options to change shifts in real time, because life and work have never been set-it-and-forget-it anyway. The pandemic has brought to light the true dynamic nature of scheduling, and we’ve seen a new evolution take place in the workforce – one where we care more about everyone’s wellbeing than about keeping that all-powerful shift calendar intact.

To get yourself in this mindset, you need to consider the following five realities of modern scheduling and adjust your operations to fit them:

1. We're all people, and we're all looking for ways to live better

Having the right technology and tools in place to understand when you're working and adjust that based on the events happening in your wider life is a huge factor in overall happiness. Since hourly workers usually don't work a set schedule, they rely on schedule postings to plan their lives accordingly. But there are always times when those plans don't match up, and that's where our workforce management tools can help us get better at supporting our people.

2020 elevated the importance of allowing a more natural flow between life and work by creating a live schedule that gives hourly employees the opportunity to participate actively in when they work shifts and giving them easy options for flexibility that don't leave managers with gaps to fill. This real-time access is critical, and is truly the baseline of modern scheduling. It changes a schedule from a piece of paper on the wall to something interactive that can reflect the needs of the people written on it. We'll get into more specifics of how this works in our other examples, but it's important to start with this as our main goal.

2. Safely communicating about work, even when not at work, goes a long way

As we all know, life can throw unexpected curveballs at you that can affect your work availability. There are countless reasons why an employee could reach out to their team to ask if someone can pick up their shift, so that needs to be a painless process. Why? Because the reality for hourly workers is they can’t miss work.

For non-exempt employees, the time they work is more directly correlated with their pay compared to a salary-based employee. If you're truly looking to implement technology that puts life first at your organization, your people need the ability to safely keep pace with the changes in their lives by responsibly trading shifts and picking up open shifts they qualify for. Your scheduling system should automatically run off rules that notify your people of open shifts that match their preferences and skills, as well as allowing them to request shift swaps directly from other employees who are the best fit for any shifts they want to exchange. This has several advantages:

  • Managers spend less time approving shifts and adjusting schedules and more time supporting their teams
  • Your people feel empowered to choose a schedule that works for their preferences and adapt to the changes life throws their way
  • Workplace safety overall increases, since your people are able to safely change shifts when ill or caring for family instead of feeling obligated to come in

3. Participating in scheduling decisions brings more certainty around scheduling commitments

Employees are more committed and happier when they get to participate in a flexible, intuitive scheduling process. Take the burden off your scheduling managers and empower your users to commit to what works for them. Employee self-scheduling tools are an example of giving your employees the freedom to negotiate the various roles intentionally and flexibly within their lives.

Something so simple can have a huge impact on your business outcomes by offering a highly personalized mechanism that is based on current circumstances and life experiences. Even small things like the system learning employee shift preferences based on when they commonly work or showing shifts close by to them if they work a multiple locations go a long way toward helping your people feel engaged and like their lives and needs are a factor in how they're scheduled.

4. Engagement isn't just for salaried employees

The core of a strong company culture is people genuinely caring about each other regardless of their position within that organization. Hourly workers want to feel that sense of belonging as much as salaried workers do. They want to believe in the company they work for and trust the teams they’re a part of.

Each worker has a family, bills to pay, rent to make, meals to provide, and a life to live. What better way to fine tune how their life connects with their job than by simplifying scheduling strategies? Scheduling technologies can increase employee engagement with something as simple as making the shift swapping capabilities we talked about earlier available from a mobile device. You bring your teams closer together when you have the right technology in place for them to interact with, technology that meets them where they are instead of restricting their options.

5. Scheduling flexibility also boosts productivity

Being a part of a company is really an extension of your life, so it's always best when the way you work there centers around helping each other out. Think of your people talking and building friendships and supporting each other in the workplace. Those friendships directly correlate with good morale, which in turn leads to being there for one another through scheduled and non-scheduled time.

The more flexibility you give people when automating schedules boosts everyone’s experience within your organization, which in turn makes people become more productive. This essentially means your customers are more satisfied because your employees showed up to work happier. When your shift workers feel more empowered to communicate their scheduling preferences and to manage their own time by claiming open shifts or changing shifts with others, they help each other out more, thank one another when it matters, and ultimately help build a positive workplace culture.

Conclusion: The reality is scheduling isn't just about operational efficiency

Modern scheduling impacts everyone. Make it mobile, available, and flexible. One of the few silver linings from this pandemic is that we've learned how scheduling is a key component through which we can demonstrate care for our people. No matter the challenge we've found ways to communicate, virtually even, and show up for work. The most important thing work can do in return is to find ways to create understanding, flexible, and engaging work experiences for hourly workers.

If you need help making the case for HR technology that can get you to this place with scheduling, let us help you make the case.