What is a Flexible Workforce or Flex pool?
A flexible workforce, or flex pool, is a group of flexible, deployable internal and/or external employees who are able to work in different departments based on skills, availability and locations. The primary function of a flex pool within a business is to ensure consistent service delivery to clients by eliminating disruptions in staffing caused predominantly by planned or sudden absences from work. On an operational level, another function of a flex pool is to stem costs associated with hiring permanent staff. The flex pool is usually coordinated by a centralized planning function within an organization.
Why optimize Workforce Scheduling for Flex pools?
Within the planning environment of large organizations, sudden and irregular absences from work can create a dramatic increase in complexity and time pressure for flex pool planners. They need to fill shift gaps quickly, and only with those employees with the appropriate skillsets, who are available, and who are physically in the area. Optimizing the process that planners rely on in these scenarios can result in significant savings on a number of levels.
In the world of optimized workforce scheduling, ‘Self-Scheduling’, is also referred to by the umbrella term ‘autonomous planning’, opens up the planning activity to the participation of employees themselves. This approach results in numerous advantages for planners, employees, and ultimately the bottom line for organizations as a whole, including:
How to optimize Workforce Scheduling for Flex pools?
- Less time spent by central organization on planning
- No more time spent on back-and-forth communication between planners and employees about personal preferences, needs and unexpected absences
- Greater employee engagement due to involvement in planning own work-life balance
- Less absences from work
- Greater labor productivity
The first step to introduce self-scheduling for flex-pools, is to optimize workforce scheduling by using smart algorithms A ‘smart algorithm’ is a set of well-defined instructions that finds the best optimum in formal rules combined with restrictions deriving from organizational or personal preferences. In the world of optimization, an algorithm is ‘smart’ when its mathematical solution is also balanced out with in-depth knowledge about the client’s business needs and, often, insights from applied sciences.
An algorithm functions along a set of well-defined rules, while additional insights that refine it into a ‘smart’ algorithm are referred to as ‘restrictions’.
Formal rules, for example, can be found in:
- Labor laws
- Collective Labor Agreements (CLA’s)
- Contracts, like service level agreements (SLA’s)
Restrictions come from the organizational needs for which the smart algorithm is created. These can include:
- Specific business KPIs
- Situational or local requirements
- Tasks that require specific expertise
- Employee preferences
Smart algorithms uploaded with a full set of rules and restrictions allow an organization’s scheduling system to prevent, detect and report ‘violations’, such as overtime or a mismatch between expertise and the specific job that has to be done. These can be resolved, either by a manager, a planner or, in a self-scheduling environment, employees themselves.
Which form of autonomous planning and amount of employee participation is being used, depends on the organization and/or system. Different forms of autonomous planning, are:
What are the results of optimizing Workforce Scheduling for Flex pools?
- Self-scheduling, employees compose their own schedule from A to Z
- Shift swapping, employees swap shifts
- Shift bidding, employees point out preferred shifts and the planner decides
- Shift picking, employees choose and get assigned the preferred shifts directly
Optimizing workforce scheduling for flex pools and introducing self-scheduling:
- Reduces time spend on scheduling significantly
- Eliminates time spend on communication to schedule
- Increases employee involvement, motivation and satisfaction
- Reduces absences from work
- Improves productivity
- Reduces extended shifts and overtime
Why contact ORTEC to optimize Workforce Scheduling for Flex pools?
ORTEC has extensive knowledge and experience in optimizing workforce scheduling within a range of different industries, each with its own specific needs but all sharing a high level of complexity. ORTEC has worked with clients around the world to introduce autonomous planning or self-scheduling, shift bidding, shift picking and shift swapping into their scheduling processes.