Planning employee schedules in an environment where staffing requirements are variable is often a complex operation. Beyond the complication, this is the stage where the planner controls the budget of the company thus a decisive step with a direct impact on productivity of the organization.
The first step is to assess the extent of staffing requirements. This assessment is usually done from different sources of information such as:
• The history of past years;
• The trend of the moment;
• The company’s backlog or service requirements;
• The rules or conventions of the company.

It is important to identify these needs according to the following criteria:
• Desired skills;
• The time of the start and end time;
• The number of employees desired.

Once needs are well defined, it is important to update employee information: availability, skill levels, position, time guarantees and length of service. Other factors to consider include employee conditions, constraints and preferences.

A scheduling system can achieve a higher level of productivity because it:
• Simplifies the scheduling process;
• Ensures optimal management of labor budgets;
• Improves employee satisfaction;
• Simplifies communications internally.
Once the schedules have been generated, the scheduler can perform daily management and last minute changes to alleviate unforeseen events.

The next article will describe these steps in more detail.