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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

But Why ONLINE Employee Scheduling?

When I first started working at Aladtec, I had a lot to learn about "software-as-a-service" or SaaS or what is sometimes called "cloud computing." Sure I was familiar with products that were hosted online like Gmail and Google Calendar, Apple's then MobileMe (now iCloud) platform and other services of that nature. I've been managing my own personal email and calendar online for awhile now and have thoroughly enjoyed the benefits:

  • Checking email or my calendar on any computer or web-enabled device
  • Looking up email or event archives on any computer or web-enabled device
  • Traveling abroad without needing my own laptop to check email
  • Buying a new computer and not "losing" any email or my personal calendar
  • Not worrying about viruses trashing all my email - it's in the cloud!

Thanks to Technorati for the graphic.
But what else is there about having things in the cloud? In the past few years, Google has done wonderful things with their Google Apps allowing you to write and store documents, spreadsheets, presentations among other things right in the cloud. In fact, Google's Chrome OS and Chromebook are big indications that the future of computing is cloud-based and not local file-based.

So what about cloud computing for the workforce? I just mentioned office productivity tools like those from Google but what else could be put in the cloud to everyone's advantage? I didn't have any experience in public safety or workforce management prior to working here so it was eye-opening learning how intricate, delicate and complex employee scheduling is for agencies like EMS, fire, dispatch, police and other branches of public safety. 

As I learned more about the differences between full-timers (aka. career), part-timers and volunteers, I learned how elaborate any given schedule could be. Employees requesting time-off, shift trades, or even calling in sick had a big effect on the schedule considering what qualifications needed to be met on filling a given shift. Having worked in offices for most of my life, I hadn't even considered the importance of one's qualifications when it came to the business of saving lives. 

I had a great conversation with Bruce Hoffman, the Training Officer at the Ellington Volunteer Ambulance Corp in Connecticut, the other day and he told me that online employee scheduling for EMS made perfect sense. He shared with me that since EMTs and paramedics lead such dynamic lives, they require a dynamic schedule. Having their employee schedule online allows their entire staff to view current information at any time and from anywhere. Switching from scheduling on paper, Bruce told me how they would struggle to keep any scheduling information current because it was difficult to know when time-off or trade requests had been submitted or how a request could affect another request. 

Bruce's explanation really made sense to me. I understood how scheduling your staff online would save any company time, resources and prevent mistakes. I understood the benefit of having detailed reporting and statistics on staff scheduling trends for internal consumption as well as for external audits. What really dawned on me was that online employee scheduling, as a dynamic and evolving tool, fit the lifestyle of around-the-clock agencies like those in public safety. 

For workplaces where:
  • employees work varied shift times,
  • shifts have qualifications, 
  • and you have backups available in case of emergencies, 
having a dynamic and always-available schedule is a necessity. The internet has been an evolving medium for people to communicate, both privately and publicly. Cloud computing has provided cost-effective and excellent tools for productivity. I'd like to throw employee scheduling and workforce management into that hat.

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