Implement different scheduling practices depending on the needs of the Transportation Management Center.

The United States and Canada's experience with Transportation Management Center staffing and scheduling.

January 2006
United States; Canada

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Lesson Learned

Responsibility for schedule administration varies across organizations. Department scheduling involves an appointed manager overseeing schedule generation and implementation for a group of employees. Team scheduling involves dividing a group of employees into a set of teams, and electing a team leader who oversees the generation of schedules after consultation with team members and other team leaders. Self-scheduling involves giving an entire group of employees’ responsibility for generating their own schedule. Typically, a manager will authorize the final schedule.

Although the subject matter is not ITS-specific, the following scheduling guidance is applicable to TMC staffing issues.
  • Consider department scheduling practice for large groups. Department scheduling is the most common approach of scheduling. Often a centralized department handles the scheduling duties for an entire organization, or a manager within each unit is given responsibility for employee scheduling. With department scheduling, managers usually have greater control over the final scheduling decisions. In addition, managers typically have more access to scheduling resources (e.g., software, historical data) than their employees. A number of advantages are associated with schedules generated by managers in contrast to schedules generated by employees. In general, schedules generated by managers are created more quickly and within a defined time frame, problems are resolved more efficiently, schedules are more balanced with predicted levels of demand, new schedules are more easily compared to old schedules, and trends across schedules are more easily tracked. Successful department scheduling requires an employee who can handle the complexities of scheduling, and who can communicate with other employees and handle their scheduling problems. Department scheduling is more vulnerable to challenges regarding fairness and favoritism. New employees are more susceptible to a loss of confidence in the scheduler, as they typically lack an understanding of the complexities involved in resolving scheduling decisions and judge the success of the scheduler based on how well their particular needs are met. Scheduling conflicts may lead to resentment and counterproductive work behaviors such as absences and lateness.
  • Consider self-scheduling practice for smaller groups. Self-scheduling transfers the scheduling responsibility to employees. Empowering employees to make their own scheduling decisions often leads to increases in satisfaction with the schedule as well as improved motivation, morale, and overall job satisfaction. As employees are more likely to cater to each other’s preferences, there is a greater chance that a schedule will be unbalanced (i.e., over- and under-staffing). Self-scheduling requires employees who can work together to make the scheduling decisions. Employees may require training to fully communicate the implications of scheduling decisions and an adjustment period to transition the responsibility. In practice, junior-level employees are frequently slighted in favor of senior-level staff preferences, which may lead to less positive outcomes for junior-level employees.
  • Consider team scheduling practice when teams or groups need to be formed. Team scheduling is similar to self-scheduling (with similar advantages and disadvantages), except that the employees are divided into groups or teams. For example, employees working dedicated shifts could be divided into morning, afternoon, and evening scheduling teams to ensure weekend coverage. Typically, a manager will authorize the final schedules generated by the team leaders before implementation. Team scheduling may also lead to improved teamwork, as team members may be more willing to cover unpopular shifts if the scheduling process permits them flexibility. Of the three methods, team scheduling may require the most employee time and effort. The complexity of resolving problems and conflicts in scheduling increases dramatically with the number of teams. Employees may also become loyal to their own teams at the expense of the rest of the staff. For example, an employee may refuse to swap shifts with employees from other teams.
An examination of the schedule administration practices of 50 hospital wards revealed the importance of aligning the method of schedule administration with the number of employees, the demand variability, the demand predictability, and the variety of knowledge, skills, and abilities and performance levels of the employees. Department scheduling is recommended for large groups of employees with complex situations (i.e., high demand variability, low demand predictability, and greater variety of knowledge, skills, and abilities and performance levels). Self-scheduling is only feasible with smaller groups of employees with simpler scheduling requirements, and should not be attempted with more complex arrangements. Team scheduling may be an appropriate alternative to department scheduling when self-scheduling is not feasible.

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Transportation Management Center Staffing and Scheduling for Day-to-Day Operations

Author: Wolf, Mark B., et al.

Published By: U.S. DOT Federal Highway Administration

Prepared by the Human Systems Engineering Branch Georgia Tech Research Institute for the U.S DOT FHWA

Source Date: January 2006

URL: http://tmcpfs.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/cfprojects/uploaded_files/Final_Technical_Document1.pdf

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Lesson Analyst:

Jane Lappin
Volpe National Transportation Systems Center


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Lesson ID: 2006-00303