Complex on-call workforce planning: how SWDE solved the puzzle
How can you reliably supply nearly 2.5 million households with high-quality drinking water through a pipe network that extends to over 40,000 km? SWDE, the largest drinking water company in Wallonia (Belgium), has the right technology, processes and people in place. However, setting up 24/7 workforce planning with an effective on-call schedule has long been complex. When Excel leaves little room for flexibility, what’s the alternative?
Field engineers, technicians or laboratory workers: when they’re on call and an incident happens, they have to jump to action right away. Also during nights or weekends. “The best possible work-life balance is key for us here at SWDE,” says Florence Hanzir, VP Human Resources. “Shift and on-call work invariably impacts the personal lives of our teams. It takes a lot of organisation and control to provide our staff with a feasible schedule and make sure the right people are available at the right time.“
From manual to automated staff scheduling
For years, SWDE had been planning the on-call work manually, using Excel spreadsheets. With different skills, roles, services and even regions involved, the puzzle has always been difficult and time-intensive to complete. A new approach to on-call management was inevitable. “We believed that a centralised, real-time overview of the workforce would help us create schedules that work for everybody and can be easily adjusted in the case of changes,” says Leslie Jacobs, project manager.
In a series of workshops with colleagues from different departments, Leslie and Florence defined SWDE’s exact business requirements, which were then summarised in a tender. Flexso suggested developing an SAP Fiori-based rostering app that was integrated seamlessly into SWDE’s SAP platform, as well as in the non-SAP payroll tool.
The SWDE team had worked with Flexso on other projects in the past and were happy to join forces again. They appreciate the way Flexso approached the project. The 5 trump cards of Flexso, according to SWDE:
- experienced team of professionals;
- very flexible, hands-on approach;
- perfect size: small enough to care and be really engaged; large enough to call in the help of other experts;
- work in co-creation, in an agile way;
- one single point of contact.
5 ways the rostering app helps SWDE
The new application ticks all the boxes, and even more. Benefits include:
- On-call planning management made easy: thanks to the centralised overview of employee data, skill sets and availabilities, planning becomes a breeze for planners as well as HR. The app helps planners resolve any scheduling conflicts that pop up.
- Flexibility in scheduling: adjusting the roster in case of unforeseen changes (illness, …) is quick. When colleagues are unavailable, planners get notified so that they can immediately look for a replacement.
- Smooth communications: every on-call worker has access to the app so they know exactly when they are going to be on call. In the case of unexpected changes, they automatically get notified via SMS or email.
- Real-time, centralised overview of information: integration into the payroll software ensures correct remuneration and automatic updates of the annual leave calendar.
- Time savings: for the HR team alone, on-call planning used to take 2 days a week for one employee. That time is substantially reduced now. The planning teams too save a substantial amount of time.
Employee satisfaction as the major asset
The new app could only be successful if everyone involved used it correctly and enthusiastically. To ensure user adoption, SWDE invested big in training and change management. They clearly explained why the new app was needed and which benefits it would bring. Once the tool was up and running, there was no need for more convincing: the benefits were crystal clear to the HR team, the planners and, most importantly, the on-call workers themselves.
Florence: “Having an unpredictable work schedule is hard. Today, on-call workers have an overview of their schedules six months in advance. That makes it much easier for them to plan their leisure time and organise family life. In addition, they can easily look for a colleague to take over an on-call shift, which empowers them. Last but not least, the app allows us to plan and balance the shifts much better. Employees are now sure they will never be on-call for several weeks on end. That, too, improves motivation and job satisfaction.”