Plan Ahead: An In-Depth Look at Predictive Scheduling

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Do you find yourself stressed and scrambling right before a big meeting or event? Or perhaps feeling exasperated when crafting the ever-complicated staff schedule for a week ahead?

If so, you may need to find out a thing or two about predictive scheduling – it can help you eliminate last-minute chaos and ensure your team is properly staffed at all times.

In this blog post, we will take an in-depth look at the practice of predictive scheduling. We’ll explain what it is, walk through the benefits it provides, talk about the challenges it entails, and review a few best practices and tools to make sure you hit peak efficiency while utilizing this time-saving technique.

Let’s dive right in!

What Is Predictive Scheduling?

Predictive scheduling is a data-driven technique for workforce planning. It uses analysis to forecast labor demand and aims to optimize employee schedules by matching them with anticipated workloads.

In simpler terms, predictive scheduling is a tool that enables employers to predict future staffing needs based on historical performance data, time of day, seasonality, and other critical factors. This technique is particularly useful in such industries as retail, hospitality, and healthcare, where staffing requirements tend to fluctuate frequently.

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Key Benefits of Predictive Scheduling

Benefits for businesses:

  • Improved productivity: Predictive scheduling helps you better anticipate your workforce needs and ensure you have the right people in the right place at the right time. This level of efficiency can lead to higher productivity levels, which can contribute to higher profitability.
  • Cost savings: By accurately predicting your staffing needs, you can avoid the costs of over- or understaffing. This includes expenses associated with overtime pay, temporary workers, and the potential loss of sales due to inadequate resource allocation.
  • Higher customer satisfaction: When you have the right number of employees working at the right time, your customers are more likely to be satisfied with the level of service they receive. This way, you increase your chance of building a loyal customer base and boost sales over time.

Benefits for employees:

  • Increased job security: When employees are given notice of their schedules in advance, they are less likely to be caught off guard by changes. And being in a more stable work environment promotes a higher sense of job security, which ultimately translates into higher job satisfaction.
  • Improved work-life balance: Predictive scheduling allows employees to plan their personal lives around work in advance. As a result, they are exposed to less stress and have the opportunity to enjoy a well-balanced life.

How Does Predictive Scheduling Work?

In the good old AI-free days, predictive scheduling was a tedious process. You had to:

  • Collect data on employee availability, performance, and workload patterns.
  • Manually analyze it to generate a predictive schedule for upcoming weeks, taking into account seasonal trends, holiday periods, your overall company needs, and employee preferences.
  • Review and adjust the schedule to ensure that all factors are considered.
  • Share the schedule with employees, providing them with the opportunity to make changes, if needed, to rest assured that everyone is happy.

Luckily for all of us, modern technologies have come a long way from the days of scribbling down employee shifts on a piece of paper. Nowadays, you can take advantage of AI-powered predictive scheduling software that uses advanced algorithms that analyze multiple data sources to forecast future demand and staff requirements with impeccable precision.

Such software can:

  • Quickly react to incoming time off requests or any changes in your employees’ personal schedules.
  • Automatically match employees for tasks based on the required competencies and skill levels.
  • Suggest optimal shift scheduling solutions considering your company policies, expected workloads, and employee needs.
  • Notify employees about any changes in their work schedules and enable them to swap shifts without a hitch.

In other words, AI can do all the hard work for you! And while doing so, it has the potential to solve the biggest challenges of predictive scheduling that businesses face these days.

2 Biggest Challenges in Predictive Scheduling

Extreme variability

Accurate workforce planning is difficult even in the most stable of industries. To come up with a realistic schedule in advance, businesses need to take into account a myriad of factors:

  • Fluctuations in demand – These can be caused by a plethora of factors, such as changes in consumer behavior, seasonality, or even external events like a global pandemic. Being able to predict and respond to spikes and dips in demand is key to staying afloat in the ever-changing marketplace.
  • Shift types – Fixed shift patterns are easier to predict and follow through, yet you need to allow for some degree of flexibility to respond to whatever unexpected occasions that may come your way.
  • Workforce mobility – If you run multiple locations or manage a field workforce, your employees may need to travel from one place to another even throughout a single day.
  • Employee absences – These include both planned days off and vacations, as well as unplanned absences due to personal emergencies or sickness.
  • Employee skills and competencies – Different tasks require a different level of expertise, and it may not always be difficult to match the right professional with the right task in case your employees are involved in multiple projects at once or are unavailable due to other reasons.

According to McKinsey & Company, businesses can deal with this variability and optimize their workforce schedules by adopting a systematic approach to job allocation and using smart, intuitive software solutions that allow for accurate forecasting.

Compliance with the law

To help hourly and on-call employees have more predictability in their schedule and finances and provide them with greater protection from unfair treatment by employers, several states have enacted predictive scheduling laws:

  • For example, in Oregon, the Fair Work Week Act requires large employers in the retail, hospitality, and food service industry to provide employees with a good-faith estimate of their work schedule at least 14 days in advance. If there are any changes to the schedule within this 14-day window, employers must provide additional compensation to employees.
  • Similarly, in New York City, the Fair Workweek Law compels employers in the fast food and retail industry to provide employees with at least 14-day and 72-hour notice of their schedules respectively and compensate employees for last-minute changes.

The above list of regulations is by no means a complete one. And besides, these laws can be subject to changes at any time.

Now, we understand your concern – it’s already hard enough to adjust workers’ schedules to ever-changing demands and other variables, and predictive scheduling regulations only limit employers’ flexibility while increasing the risk of financial loss multifold.

That’s when accurate and efficient resource scheduling becomes particularly important. And a proper scheduling solution with smart forecasting functionality can be of tremendous help.

AI-Powered Work Scheduling Tools to Explore

AI power is just coming into force and, unfortunately, won’t be able to dispel all your work scheduling woes right away… yet!

One thing is certain – AI technologies will rid you of the headache of manually creating and managing work schedules for your team. They can automate that process to a large extent, making it as quick and convenient as possible.

Here are the 5 prominent software options worthy of your attention:

  • – This intelligent solution is designed specifically for restaurant businesses. It collects historical point-of-sale data and monitors such real-time factors as weather reports to help you build the optimal schedule for every day of productive work. is capable of making labor forecasts up to 4 weeks in advance, which gives you a chance to give employees a long notice of their expected schedule.
  • – This one is intuitive for building weekly or monthly shift schedules on a visual timeline. It lets you create new schedules either from scratch or by copying already used shift patterns from past work periods. The best part – OneDee features an AI-powered chatbot that makes team communication regarding scheduling a breeze.
  • Staffpoint – This work scheduling solution makes smart suggestions on resource allocation, considering employee availability and qualifications. It has a user-friendly color-coded interface that is easy to work with and navigate through.
  • Motion – This automated task planner optimizes team schedules based on task priorities, deadlines, staff availability, and so on. If you sync Motion with your email platform or an online calendar, it will import any tasks or meetings from them to your schedule automatically.
  • Sidekick – This one is an automated meeting scheduler that collects data from its users’ schedules and considers their availability to suggest the optimal time to meet together.

Best Practices for More Accurate Predictive Scheduling

  • Collect data (lots of it). Accurate forecasting relies on a plethora of factors, including employee availability, customer demand, seasonality, and even weather patterns. Take advantage of modern technologies such as software analytics and forecasting models to optimize your data collection process, and get ready to analyze that data with a fine-tooth comb (or a powerful algorithm).
  • Create meaningful benchmarks. Consider variables such as staff turnover rates, employee preferences, and even traffic patterns and community events that might impact your business for they will help you predict demand levels and employee availability. For instance, if you run a coffee shop near a university, you likely know that students will flood in during finals week and slow down during holiday breaks. Use this data to create a scheduling baseline that can help you optimize staff schedules accordingly.
  • Use a predictive scheduling model. Give preference to algorithms that can anticipate demand based on historical data and market trends. These algorithms can be trained to adjust staffing levels in real time, maximizing efficiency and minimizing labor costs. In addition, incorporating feedback from employees and managers, as well as tracking performance metrics, can further refine the accuracy of your predictive scheduling model.
  • Establish internal policies and procedures that align with the laws. Keep track of federal, state, and local laws that may affect your organization. Then, make sure that your HR department is well-versed in these regulations and that they communicate any changes to the management and employees. Providing training and resources to your team members on their rights and responsibilities under predictive scheduling laws can also promote compliance.
  • Keep in mind the human element of scheduling. Treat your employees with respect and offer them some flexibility whenever possible. Be sure to account for things like time off requests and unique scheduling preferences. By balancing rigid rules with a personal touch, you’ll be able to create a scheduling system that benefits both your business and your workforce.

Enjoy a Simple Way to Optimize Your Workforce Scheduling

If you’re tired of dealing with complex and inflexible workforce scheduling systems, give try to actiPLANS – this simple yet powerful solution offers a range of features to help you optimize workforce scheduling and make your team’s life a great deal easier.

Say goodbye to rigid, one-size-fits-all scheduling systems – actiPLANS lets you create custom shift types and leave types to match the unique needs of your organization. You can also take advantage of built-in automated email notifications and keep your team up to date on the latest schedule changes and avoid any hassle down the line.

Email notifications, actiPLANS

When it comes to tracking employee absences and availability, actiPLANS is at the top of its game. With its robust leave management functionality, you’ll have a clear overview of who’s in and who’s out.

On top of that, actiPLANS features informative reports that you can use to predict workforce capacity and plan resources ahead. No more guessing or last-minute scrambles – actiPLANS gives you the data you need to make informed decisions.

Ready for a simpler and more efficient workforce scheduling? Sign up for a free actiPLANS trial now.

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