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Scheduling Strategies Can Improve Worker Retention

Digital solutions offer the potential of best scheduling practices without conflicting with union contracts.

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In today’s workplace, predictability isn’t a guarantee. Research from the Economic Policy Institute found that around 10 percent of the U.S. workforce deals with irregular or on-call scheduling, while seven percent work split or rotating shifts. No one wins with this lack of stability — it creates challenges for employees and leads to higher turnover rates for their employers. 

The manufacturing industry, in particular, has dealt with the talent retention struggles that accompany inconsistent schedules. More than 40 percent of manufacturing organizations report at least a 20 percent average annual turnover rate. To keep workers engaged and help organizations retain solid talent, both manufactures and unions are working to improve employee scheduling policies. Among the most viable solutions to improve scheduling is new digital workplace technology. 

Benefits for Both Manufacturers and Employees 

Capable of driving greater operational efficiency and increasing the accuracy of projected labor costs, digital workplace solutions can empower employers as well as employees who currently lack input into scheduling processes. However, worker advocates like unions are often hesitant to introduce scheduling solutions into the workplace.

In the past, scheduling tools have failed to take union rules into account. Without accounting for seniority in the scheduling process, for example, freshman employees jump the line in shift selection, exposing employers to grievances. Despite these concerns, digital workplace solutions have the potential to actually facilitate the alignment of scheduling practices with union contracts. From meeting employee scheduling needs to reducing turnover rates for employers, flexible scheduling enabled by digital workplaces offer several benefits to workers as well as manufacturing employers, including:

  • Compliance with seniority clauses in union contracts isn’t as easy as it sounds. Outdated scheduling practices—including paper-based schedules—not only take up a lot of time, but also make it difficult to ensure both accuracy and consistency.
  • Agile scheduling solutions promise to set the stage for a more efficient scheduling process than ever before, ensuring compliance. Rather than worrying about whether they’ll get to choose available shifts ahead of recent hires, the technology prioritizes scheduling for senior employees, allowing them to autonomously select shifts from their own devices.
  • Digital workplace solutions open the door for greater transparency. Regardless of whether employees need to decline a shift or rearrange their schedules, any and all actions are documented in a repository of scheduling activities. This repository enables manufacturing employers to reference scheduling activities and demonstrate compliance with union regulations. It also allows managers to more easily identify potential scheduling problems and save the company both time and money.
  • Employees desire scheduling predictability to ensure personal economic stability and fuller employment. A digital workplace provides these benefits to employees while pre-determined rules ensure employers are adequately staffed. 

With a digital workplace, workers can set their own schedules, add flexibility to meet their work-life balance, and pick up spare shifts without managers having to put out a call. In addition to empowering workers, this improves manufacturing employers’ ability to satisfy union demands for increased predictability in scheduling and creates less scheduling work for managers.  

Helping manufacturing employees gain greater control in the scheduling process provides payoff for employers seeking to keep their best workers satisfied and engaged. By embracing a digital workplace solution, manufacturers can achieve better talent retention, increase compliance with union contracts, and create a more equitable and inviting workplace for employees.

Mike Zorn works with client companies to develop strategies, using the Workjam Digital Workplace.

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