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The benefits of self-scheduling

The benefits of self-scheduling
A conversation with self-scheduling expert Geert-Jan Vos, ORTEC Senior Business Consultant and member of the National Network for Self-scheduling in the Netherlands

Self-scheduling has made big advances in the business world over the past few years. After all, giving employees responsibility for their own schedules offers many advantages. Read more about the opportunities and possibilities that self-scheduling offers for organizations with irregular working hours.

Where does this growing interest in self-scheduling come from?
Back in the 1990s, Professor Andris Kreichberg successfully introduced the three-round model of self-scheduling in his home country of Sweden. It then found its way to the Netherlands and Belgium as well. Its increasing popularity complements the individualization of society. Employees want to have influence on their work and private life, and prefer to work at times that suit their own rhythm and phase of life.

If you can choose when and where you work, you’re more motivated and comfortable in your role.

Why do organizations choose self-scheduling?
Research by Professor Hylco Nijp has shown that if you can determine when and where you work, you are more motivated and comfortable in your role. The main reason to choose for self-scheduling is therefore often to improve employee satisfaction and to become a better employer. After all, satisfied employees increase the chance of having satisfied customers. Other goals include: increasing productivity, reducing sick leave, raising awareness of working hours, and – just as importantly – a significant reduction in the hours spent drawing up the schedule.

For which organizations can self-scheduling offer added value?
Any organization with long, irregular working hours can benefit from self-scheduling. Think of health care institutions and security services, but also the hospitality industry, supermarkets, port authorities, factories, and railways. In fact, anywhere people work 24 hours per day, in teams of at least eight men or women.

Employees earn points when they are willing to help improve the schedule.

How does self-scheduling work?
Self-scheduling according to the familiar three-round model using ORTEC software works as follows: employees enter when they would like to work in our new Employee Self Service app, based on a predetermined pattern of shifts (round 1). Rather than deciding on a first-come, first-served basis, everyone is free to enter his or her preferences. Our software ensures that employees are only assigned to shifts that they are qualified for, and automatically prevents violations of the Working Hours Act.

Unique points system
Based on the information obtained in the first round, the software will draw up an initial schedule assignment. Where there are no conflicts, the software will fix the schedule, and where the schedule is over- or understaffed, we will challenge the employees to find a solution themselves using a unique points system developed based on intelligent algorithms. Employees earn points when they help improve the schedule, and the team member with the most points is more likely to be assigned his or her preferred working hours.

If the schedule is still incomplete, then the planner or manager can finish it in the third round, with support from the software, which generates the best solutions for specific situations.

The type of self-scheduling an organization chooses depends on the organization’s needs, objectives, and the maturity of the teams.

Is this three-round model suitable for all companies?
There are a wide variety of self-scheduling scenarios available. The type of self-scheduling an organization chooses (one, two, or three rounds) depends on the organization’s needs, objectives, and the maturity of the teams. Naturally, we are happy to advise our clients on the option that best suits their needs. For example: Is the company using self-scheduling to improve the work-life balance for individual employees, or in order to promote cooperation within the teams? In the first case, you can choose not to confront employees with the actions of their colleagues in round one, but in the second, it is actually a good idea to do so if you want team members to find a solution early on in the process.

In order to increase the likelihood of success, widespread support for the new working method is crucial.

How does ORTEC implement self-scheduling within the companies?
After an intake interview, we will consult with the organization to determine its goals. Why do they want to use selfscheduling, what do they hope to achieve, what do they actually want from the employees, etc.? The next important step is to inform the employees about the plans. In order to increase the chance that self-scheduling will succeed, it is crucial that you create support for the new work method. Every change in an organization creates some level of resistance, so communication is key: share the organization’s vision, the reasons behind the change, and above all; emphasize the benefits for the individual employee.

What are the next steps?
In close consultation with the organization, we then analyze the operational process and determine the type of selfscheduling that best suits the organization. This is followed by the set-up and testing phases. In a pilot project lasting at least three months, we work together to study whether the choices made when setting up the software actually meet the client’s expectations. In this phase, it is vital to choose a pilot team that is open to change. The last step is the technical implementation and roll-out of self-scheduling within the organization.

The planner has an advisory role; the manager is more of a coach.

What obstacles can an organization expect to encounter?
Keep in mind that it takes time to measure the effects of self-scheduling. The first step is a benchmark measurement of employee satisfaction. One complicating factor is that satisfaction often progresses in waves, varying from ‘that selfscheduling is really handy’ to; ‘It sucks, because I didn’t get what I wanted’. The changing roles of the employees also deserve attention. For example, the role of the professional planner will change more towards advising management, while the manager will become more of a coach for the team. Both require a different style of leadership. ORTEC happily advises organizations on these and other related issues.

How does ORTEC’s software solution differentiate itself from the competition?
We offer a fully integrated solution: self-scheduling is a component of ORTEC Workforce Scheduling. That means you don’t have to implement self-scheduling throughout the entire organization; we can provide it to only those business units that can benefit from it. The software also has more than enough power to support all of the various processes, as well as modern user interfaces to make it even more convenient to use.

Does your organization have irregular working hours, and do you value a good balance between work and private life for your employees? If so, ask ORTEC to join you in considering whether self-scheduling can lift your staff planning to a higher level.

The benefits of self-scheduling summarized:


Conditions for successful implementation:


This article is based on a conversation with self-scheduling expert Geert-Jan Vos, ORTEC Senior Business Consultant and member of the National Network for Self-scheduling in the Netherlands

More information?
Would you like to learn how self-scheduling can add value for your organization? For more information, please feel free to contact ORTEC.

Workshop: How healthy is your schedule?
Come to the Healthy Self-scheduling Conference organized by the National Self-scheduling Network (LNZ) in November 2018, and attend the ORTEC workshop ‘How healthy is your schedule?’.

More and more knowledge is becoming available about the influence that work schedules can have on human health. For example, we have recently learned that working night shifts increases one’s chance of developing diabetes by 60 percent. Together with the LNZ, ORTEC has developed a new app that provides users with direct insight into the consequences that their work schedule has on their health.

ORTEC is one of the world’s largest providers of planning optimization and analysis solutions. We can make your company more efficient, predictable and effective, and we turn complex challenges into user-friendly solutions. We work for clients in almost every sector of the economy. And with offices in strategic locations on four continents, we can provide our solutions world-wide, with full support from local knowledge- and service providers.

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