Mark is a mid-level manager at an automotive manufacturing plant in the Midwest. He has plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the future of his industry—new tech, new generations of workers, new customers. But all this “newness” will require change, and Mark is struggling to keep up with it.

Demands for productivity have never been higher, and Mark can’t seem to get his employees on board. There are never enough workers willing to put in the extra weekend overtime to meet the workload, and delivery schedules are slipping. When asked why they don’t want the extra weekend overtime, Mark’s employees tell him about their kids’ Saturday soccer games or the Sunday hikes they have planned. It all sounds very nice for his employees—but it’s wreaking havoc on his floor schedule.

In my previous post, I presented three big changes in the automotive manufacturing industry: the workforce, the schedule, and the demands. In this post, we’re going to look into the changing scheduling system. As the workforce changes (which it is, rapidly), I find that companies need to update the way they schedule their workers to still meet the demands of the customers. In other words, we need to let the who of the workforce inform the when and how.

ABC Scheduling

Before we can dive into the future of scheduling, let’s pause to reevaluate the past model, what I call “ABC Scheduling.” In this model, employees would be divided into three daily 8-hour shifts within a 24-hour Mon-Fri weekday cycle, with a consistent need for weekend overtime workers. The problem with this model nowadays is that, though the weekday shifts are staffed, managers are finding employees are less willing to work those weekend overtime hours. It just doesn’t appeal to them like it did in generations past.

I touched on this in the last post, but newer, younger employees are managing their work/home life expectations differently. Generally speaking, Baby Boomers and Gen Xers were more willing to give up those weekend hours for the higher pay. But now, current and upcoming generations want to maintain different boundaries around their scheduling.

Business lawyer, Brett Cenkus, wrote about Millennials, “They also want some semblance of work-life balance. They appear to fully grasp what my generation acknowledged only through lip service — life is too short to spend it all working. They expect that when the time comes to start having families, they will be able to be active and engaged parents, which means having the time to be able to do so. They realize that we have been getting wealthier and wealthier as a society, while happiness with our lifestyle and work-life balance lags behind.” This shift in perspective has the potential to completely change your plant’s work culture and employee expectations.

ABC Scheduling had other drawbacks as well. Workers, hoping to get the overtime pay, could be tempted to slow down production during the week to ensure the work would be there for the weekend. This has obvious negative implications in an industry that needs every minute calibrated for maximum efficiency. Additionally, with union regulations, if workers surpassed their allowed weekly hours, they might choose to work on weekends (the high-paying days) and call in absent on Mondays or Tuesdays (the “cheap” days). Not only does this dramatically cut down weekday productivity, but it also costs the company more money.

But let’s say your plant needs to have workers come in on the weekends. There is too much demand to be met in a Monday-Friday schedule. What can be done?

While some hang onto the “good ol’ days,” trying to fit a square peg into a round hole (or a Millennial into an ABC Schedule), I prefer a more modern and productive approach to this change in scheduling expectations. This is why I often encourage my customers to consider:

ABCD Scheduling

In this form of scheduling, companies switch from a 5-day schedule to a 7-day schedule—the weekend is being staffed just like the weekdays, ensuring demands are being met. To accomplish this, an employee works in 12-hour shifts, 4 days on, 4 days off, 3 days on, 3 days off. It takes two weeks to complete the cycle. In this schedule, the floor is always staffed, Monday-Sunday, without having to beg for overtime workers.

For the managers, ABCD Scheduling eases the headache of trying to staff weekend overtime hours. It also eliminates the element of procrastination from those who would try to extend work to the weekend for that higher overtime pay. And because shifts are longer, employees will consider carefully any sort of absenteeism. If they take off a day, they will lose 12 hours of pay (instead of 8, as in the ABC Schedule). Such a drop in hours will prompt workers to think twice about calling in.

Not only is an ABCD Schedule helpful for management, the benefits for workers are numerous:

  • The schedule is consistent, allowing employees to plan out their work/home life balance.
  • Workers are still able to get overtime.
  • While employees will now be scheduled for some weekend hours, they also receive larger stretches of time off (3-4 consecutive days). With this time, they can plan vacations, work on outside projects, or just invest that time with family and friends.
  • The trade-off is more appealing to their values. Instead of exchanging their weekend hours for more money, they are exchanging those hours for more time away from work.
  • Many younger workers like the idea of starting a side business—this schedule will give them time and energy to invest in other opportunities.
  • For workers with families, this scheduling guarantees parents will be able to spend time with their kids. On ABC Scheduling, there was the possibility that parents would miss their children before or after school. With ABCD Scheduling, though parents are less available on their work days, they have several days off in a row in which they can be present for their kids. The guarantee is built into the schedule.

Putting it into Practice

By now, I hope you see why I often encourage ABCD Scheduling. It reflects the changing workforce and empowers managers to meet their quotas while adapting for the future.

I can’t continue, however, without letting you in on this reality: switching from one scheduling system to another takes organization, communication, and a resetting of expectations. It’s a huge transition that involves HR, staff, management, executives, the workforce—everyone. From my experience leading other companies through this exact transition, I know it can be a challenge. But it’s worth it for the results.

If you’re considering changing your scheduling system to reflect your changing workforce, my follow-up question is: do you feel confident you can make this change without experienced outside help? The great news is—you don’t have to face these changes alone!

If you’d like to talk more with me about your scheduling needs and how you’d like to actively prepare for the changes in your industry, you can sign up for a FREE initial consultation here.