<p>SAN DIEGO – The theme song for most employee scheduling used to be, "Nine to Five." The majority of people worked full-time conventional hours. It was relatively simple to calculate vacation time and benefits. Today the tune might be, "I Did It My Way." A breakdown of employees at a particular credit union might indicate: Jane wants to work part-time from 9 to 3 so she's home when her children arrive from school – except on Friday, when she needs to take her daughter to speech therapy. Jim can't work mornings, because he attends college classes then. It's the opposite of last semester, when his classes were only offered in the morning. The credit union needs to keep a close eye on Sally's schedule, because although she is a part-time employee she will soon have worked enough hours to qualify for full-time benefits. If scheduling today sounds like a tough job, Dr. Ali Kiran would probably agree. Kiran, CEO and founder of Exametric, has been consulting in scheduling and resource management for more than a decade. He also has a strong academic interest in how human factors affect productivity. "Our society is changing," Kiran notes. "Everybody is becoming busier and busier. Most families have more than one person in the workforce. "For example, I have a programmer here who is a single father. He takes every Monday and Tuesday off at 1:45 p.m. because his daughter has medical appointments once in a while or piano lessons. This is not uncommon at all." Basically, he says, many employees face major constraints on their schedules. It's not a case of "I'd like" but "I can't." Human Resources managers need to take that into consideration, says Kiran. "Flexibility is going to be the future of HR. In today's society these things are important," Kiran says. "It's not just that employers want to be nice. There's a cost of training. Companies are recognizing it's not easy to let someone go and find another employee. You are losing some of your investment." To help juggle an increasingly diverse set of employee and employer needs, Exametric has developed Click2Staff, an automated system aimed at scheduling the right people with the right skills at the right time. Howard Grannick, Exametric's director of national accounts, says a branch manager can use the browser-based system to quickly see blackout times when an employee is not available. It can also track an employee's hours based on the fact that employee wants to work perhaps 20 hours a week. "A part-time person might be a floater who goes from one branch location to another. They become part of a resource pool," Grannick says. "As a branch manager I might need someone who is not available as part of my regular staff. The system allows the flexibility for a part-time person to get all the hours they're looking for, and they may get those hours from multiple locations. The system can track that as well." Grannick says in the past such technology has been extremely expensive and only available to large banks. Use of the Web and a browser-based scheduling technology has cut the monthly fee to perhaps $175 or $200. First Financial Federal Credit Union, West Covina, Calif., faced a special scheduling challenge. Most FFFCU offices participate in a shared branching network with other credit unions. When the credit union served primarily teachers, afternoons after 3 p.m. were the busy times. Now traffic patterns vary. Initially, five branches were open extended hours from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Other branches were open other hours. "Trying to come up with the proper staffing for those hours became a bit of a challenge," says Cynthia Mann, the credit union's director of operations. Even though branch hours have been revised, certain days of the week branches are open 9 to 6 p.m. That exceeds an eight-hour day. Branch managers still need to determine opening and closing staff. "For at least five years we had sort of a homegrown software scheduling system. The issue we ran into was that every time our data system was upgraded, the whole scheduling program had to be rewritten," Mann says. Mann indicates that using Click2Staff, FFFCU was able to cut overtime payroll costs 30% and trim 70 to 90% from the time branch managers spent on scheduling issues. Click2Staff does the job in one hour compared to 7 to 10 hours. "There's a lot of color-coding. You kind of work in a red and green environment. It shows you how many bodies you need, and starts filling in the schedule. The color turns to a shade of green to let you know you've met your staffing requirements for that particular hour or group of hours," Mann says. She adds when a teller or other employee leaves, the branch manager has a better idea of whether to hire a full-time or part-time replacement, and what hours of coverage are needed. "When you look for your next candidate, you have that information up front. You don't get trapped interviewing somebody, then trying to get them to work the hours you need. It lets you do a better-educated job in the initial hiring process," says Mann. Administrators can use Click2Staff to see if the branches are properly staffed, and how the branch manager built the schedule. [email protected]</p>

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