Why might a company use an online scheduling service for internal scheduling? For one thing, it gives employees the chance to create and view schedules even when they aren't in the office. This comes in handy for people who are on business trips or need to check resource availability from home.
Online scheduling services also can create centralized scheduling systems that span multiple divisions or departments. In some companies, different segments of the organization don't know what's going on with other parts of the business. A centralized system makes it easier for different departments to collaborate on projects together. It reduces the need to reconcile one department's schedule against another.
Companies use internal online scheduling systems in several ways, including:
- Allocating resources, such as conference rooms or equipment
- Assigning shifts
- Making appointments and coordinating meetings
- Scheduling production
While there are plenty of offline scheduling systems that can also complete these tasks, they normally lack the accessibility of online systems.
Online scheduling systems are particularly well suited for certain industries. One in particular is the nursing industry. Nurses tend to work long shifts. Their shifts can vary a great deal -- they might work a day shift on one day and a night shift later in the week. Often, individual nurses will want a specific shift more than another. As a result, many hospitals allow nurses to trade shifts with each other, or to pick up extra shifts.
As you can imagine, this becomes a scheduling nightmare. An administrator has to make sure that each shift has the proper coverage. If the administrator needs to fill a shift and can't get in touch with a nurse who wants it, he or she might have to hire a temporary nurse. Sometimes, that also means that someone has to train the temp so that he or she knows how to follow the proper procedures. Even if there are available nurses on staff, those nurses might not have the skill set necessary to qualify for certain shifts. Keeping the schedule organized and filled is time consuming and challenging.
A few hospitals have implemented online scheduling systems as a way to address this complicated issue. Nurses can log into the system from home to select shifts and contact each other to make trades or cover another nurse's shift. Because they no longer have to relay schedule changes through another human being, everyone can spend more time focusing on other job duties. Some hospitals report that they don't have to hire temp nurses to cover empty shifts as often. A few have customized systems that allow a nurse to cover a shift only if he or she meets specific qualifications.
The result means less paperwork for the nursing administrators and more freedom for the nurses. Some of the hospitals saw a rise in nurse morale and job satisfaction as a result. Also, because the hospitals saw a reduction in the need for temporary workers, they saved money [source: Incentive Magazine].
While the nursing industry is in many ways unique, other industries can also benefit from an online scheduling system. Companies need to educate employees on the system and make sure it fits the needs of their organizations before implementation. It's not realistic to think that just by installing an online scheduling system, everything will work out fine.
What about companies that use external online scheduling systems? How are they used, and why? Find out in the next section.