Tag Archives: shiftwork

5 things H.R. needs to know about shiftwork

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Let’s start with this – My intent with this post is NOT to tell H.R. how to do their job. Rather, I want to round up many of the issues surrounding shiftwork in an effort to put the spotlight on those I have found to be most important to H.R. professionals.

So, let’s get to the list…

#1: No one is going to come to H.R. to tell you how much they like the schedule they are currently working.  When people are unhappy, they complain. When they are happy, they are quiet.  This means that people coming to your office to complain about the schedule will ALWAYS out number those that come by to tell you they love it.  Just be aware that listening to those that come to you is not a representative sampling of your workforce.

#2:  What the average shiftwork wants or what a nearby plant is doing has little bearing on what you should be doing with your schedule.  After nearly 30 years in the business, I can tell you exactly what the average shiftworker likes and doesn’t like; and yet…I have never met an average shiftworker.  Everyone is unique.  In the same way, your business is unique from the company down the street.  What works for one company is not necessarily what will work best for you; even if you are in the same industry.

#3: As a service organization, H.R. works for several different interests including: planning, production, maintenance, quality, administration and leadership.  All of these have different functions and thus often require different shiftwork structures and outcomes.  Serving several masters is no easy task.  All need to be heard.  All need to be tended to.  Remember, if H.R. was easy, no one would need you.

#4: Recruiting and retention of skilled employees is always affected by the shift schedule being used.  Supervision, absenteeism, vacancy coverage and overtime will also be impacted.

#5: Process is everything when it comes to changing a shift schedule.  How you communicate plans and ideas as well as how you solicit input from affected parties will determine the ultimate level of success you experience with your change.

Jim Dillingham, Partner

(415) 265-1621

Jim@shift-work.com

Yes, it’s personal

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I’m often asked “Jim, what is the single most important thing we, as an organization, can do to better facilitate a schedule change.”

My answer is always the same – “Find a way to see the event through the eyes of a shiftworker.”  In other words, walk that mile in their shoes.

Companies don’t change schedules for the fun of it.  They know it has the potential to disrupt everything from planning to maintenance to hiring and training.  It’s a big undertaking and not to be taken likely.

When companies make the decision to change, they always approach the workforce with the case for change.  This “case” nearly always boils down to “We are doing this because of the needs of the business.”

While this is a great reason for change, it does not do a lot to calm the workforce’s concerns.

Here is why…

To the company, a shift schedule tells people when to be at work.  To a shiftworker, a shift schedule tells them when they DON’T have to be at work.

In other words, it tells them when they can live the rest of their lives; that part of their life not at work but instead with their families or hobbies or whatever they may be passionate about.

Yes, they will understand “the needs of the business” but its also important to understand their perspective.

When you touch a schedule, even slightly, you are touching their personal lives.  Change a start time by 15 minutes and watch the fireworks as employees can no longer pick up their kids or attend school or catch the early bus home.

You may say “We are changing the schedule to meet the needs of the business” but they are hearing “We are going to change your family life to facilitate the needs of the business.”

There is a difference.

Recognizing this difference will change the way you approach the project.  The right approach will change the outcome for the better.

Jim Dillingham

Partner, Shiftwork Solutions LLC

Jim@shift-work.com

(415) 265-1621

 

Don’t tell me what to do!

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After 26 years of working with hourly employees all the way up to senior corporate executives, one thing strikes me as a universal truth – We don’t like to be told what to do.

Shift workers are no different.

Knowing this, at Shiftwork Solutions, we have developed a process of communication and participation to help us through our change process.

Companies typically come to us with a shiftwork issue such as “I need to start running my 5-day operation 24/7.”  They expect us to do some math, which we do.  They expect us to work out the policies and staffing numbers, which we do.  They expect us to examine product flow and create a solution that fits their entire situation, which we do.

But most of all, they expect us to bring the workforce along on the ride.

We accomplish this using the following basic steps:

  1. We make sure the reason for change is real and understandable.  This is then communicated to the workforce.  Instead of saying, “We are changing,” we say “We need to change and this is why.”
  2. We tell the workforce what their level of involvement will be.  While some decisions are the job of upper management, many issues can, and should, be resolved using input from those most affected.  For example, the workforce can’t say, “Turn down that customer order because I want the day off.”  However, they can say, “I like this amount of overtime and I like my shifts to start at this time and I like longer shifts to give me more days off.”  All of these preferences can be managed in such a way as to have no impact on cost structures or productivity.  In short, if you can find areas to let the employees have their say, then do it.
  3. We educate the workforce.  This comes down to eliminating the fear of the unknown.  People that are unclear on what is happening tend to resist change.  They can become angry over a situation that only exists in their mind; where they filled in the blanks because no one else would.  They need to know what is possible and not possible.  For example, employees prefer you to hire additional crews to work weekends.  If you just say no, then the argument still exists.  If you say, “No and this is why,” the argument, and thus resistance fades away.

These three steps are very broad-strokes being used to briefly explain a complicated process.  The basic point is this: If you want to maximize the result of any change, then use a process that results in the workforce supporting that change.

If you have any questions, I can be reached at Jim@shift-work.com or you can call me at (415) 265-1621.

Changing Schedules 101

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Every now and then, I like to return to the basics.  Today I’m going to cover some of the basic DOs and DON’Ts for those of you considering a change to your schedule.

DO make sure you have clearly identified your need.  Changing schedules can be a traumatic experience for your workforce.  You don’t want to put them through it over and over again and you seek the perfect schedule coverage through a series of Trial and Errors.

DON’T think that there is a schedule where 100% of your workforce will be happy.  There are two reasons for this.  First of all, shift workers judge a schedule by the time off it provides. Since everyone goes to different lifestyles when they leave work, it is not surprising that they will have different opinions about what schedule best serves their needs.  Secondly, about 5% of every workforce comes to work to be contrary.  They will oppose any change.  In fact, if you try to appease them by not changing anything – they will oppose that.

DO keep the workforce informed.  As with any change, rumors are the enemy.  There has never been an instance where two shift workers are talking and one says, “I wonder what’s going on with our schedule” and the other one replies, “I have no idea but I’m sure we will like whatever it is that they come up with.”  If what you are planning to do is they right thing, then you should make whatever effort it takes to share your thoughts and actions with those that will be impacted.

DON’T assume that a small change is easy to make.  If you don’t believe this, tell the workforce that you intend to change the shift start times by 15 minutes; then stand back and watch what happens.

DO get the workforce involved.  No one likes to be told what to do.  If you need to change schedules, there must be a reason for this.  Tell the workforce and then solicit their input in creating a solution.  There are always numerous solutions to a scheduling issue; many of which will work equally well.  Since this is the case, why not use the schedule that best meets the needs of your employees.  They know better than you when it comes to knowing what they want.

DON’T assume your current pay and work policies for your current schedule will work equally well for your new schedule.  Things like vacation, holiday pay and shift differential must be addressed to make sure they are not costing you or the workforce more on the new schedule. When companies contact Shiftwork Solutions because their 24/7 schedule does not work, the problem is rarely with the pattern and nearly always has something to do with policies.

DO your math.  It’s one thing to think you know what you need, its another to be able to demonstrate it on paper.  If you can’t justify your schedule change using math, then maybe you are making a change based more on assumptions rather than reality.  I personally don’t like to guess.  I like to measure twice and cut once.

DON’T take short cuts.  Being “penny wise” will result in mistakes and missed opportunities that you will not quickly recover from.

DO be thorough.  Involve everyone in your change process; even those that will not be impacted.  Telling a group “We are changing schedules over in that area and you will not be affected,” is much better than leaving an unaffected group out of the loop and allowing them to make up their own reality.

If you have any questions or comments, contact me at Jim@shift-work.com or you can call me, Jim Dillingham at (415) 265-1621.  I never charge for advice given over the phone.

6-day schedules (part 4)

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This is the fourth and final post in a series of four posts regarding 6-day schedules.  Here are the links to 6-day schedules (part 1), 6-day  schedules (part 2) and 6-day schedules (part 3).

In this post, we will look at two extremes when it comes to covering 6 days.  One uses extra staffing to cover 6 days with 40-hour workweeks.  The other uses traditional staffing for a 48-hour workweek but has a few 12-hour shifts to give an occasional weekend off.

First, lets consider a schedule that covers 6 days with 40-hour work weeks.  This is more complicated than you might think.  Why?  Well, there are 144 hours in a 6-day period.  If a crew is worth 40 hours, then you would need 3.6 crews to provide coverage (144/40=3.6).

This is accomplished by having each of your three 8-hour crews being 20% larger than the number of people you expect to show up each day.  In this way, one out of every 6 people can be off on any given day (except Sunday when everyone is off).

Here is what the schedule looks like:

6 day 40 hourYou will notice that to have 5 people show up on any given day, you need to have 6 people assigned with one of those 6 being off on that day.

First, the good news about this schedule.  Everyone gets Sunday off plus one other day that week.  This should increase alertness (compared to the alternative of only getting Sunday off and no others during the week).  That’s about it as far as the good news goes.

There are several problems:

  • Supervisors cannot match their crews unless they work all 6 days.  If they also take a day off, then provisions must be made to cover for their open position.
  • People like two days off but generally prefer then to be two days off together.  Most shift workers will place a low value on having, for example, Tuesday off as their second day off that week.
  • The staffing requirement must be a multiple of 5.  This schedule works well if you need 15 or 375 people, but it will not work if you need 7 or 18 people.
  • Night shift alertness will suffer as night shift people lose some of their “night time adjustment” during their day off.
  • Cross training is required since every combination of 5 out of 6 must represent all of the skills needed to get the job done.
  • Twice every 6 weeks there are “split workdays”.  This is where they are off the day(s) before and the day(s) after a single day of work.  Shift workers will quickly recognize that these solitary days are good days to feel…maybe a little too sick to come into work.

Companies ofter go to this type of schedule in an attempt to avoid the “high cost” of overtime; failing to realize that overtime and straight time are generally “cost equal”.

Onward…

This next schedule is an attempt to keep things simple and yet, still give the employees a full weekend off once every three weeks.  “Keeping things simple” basically says, work everyone for 6 days in a row, all 8-hour shifts.  The workforce might not like this.  Alertness, safety and productivity will suffer; but its “simple.”

Now to get a full weekend off with the smallest departure from “simple” you must work 12-hour shifts on two out of every three weekends.  The third weekend is off.

Here is the schedule:

6 day 12 hour weekendsThis schedule is only popular among those that place a very high value on full weekends off.  Working 6 days in a row is hard enough.  This schedule not only calls for that, but it makes one of those 6 days, a 12-hour day.  The result is a full weekend off once every three weeks.

This is probably not a sustainable schedule for more work places.  However, in the short run, it may be just what you need.

That’s it for 6-days schedules.  I may return to this topic again sometime.  There is certainly a lot more to say about this subject.  If you have any questions, please give me a call.  My number is (415) 265-1621.  Ask for Jim Dillingham.