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7 Ways Smartphones Are Rewriting the Rules of Shift Work

by | Jan 16, 2017

7 Ways Smartphones Are Rewriting the Rules of Shift Work

Shift Managers need to know that traditional employee mechanics are dead…

Barry, a career Retail Associate, checked his email one afternoon…

He found a lone message from his employer, a larger retailer. He opened it and read it, silently, at his kitchen table:

Dear Barry,

Last month, in an effort to better support shift staff, we modernized our scheduling software and introduced a new workforce management mobile app. Now we’re eager to get some feedback from engaged users, like yourself:

“How has the new app changed your life?”

Please log into your employee portal to answer this question in as many words as necessary.

Thanks in advance for your help,
Anjali Rhiner, HR Manager

Barry immediately logged in and began writing:

“This app changed my life for the better,” he wrote.

As a shift worker, Barry constantly felt as though he was at the mercy of people and events that he had no control over. It wasn’t fair. He felt victimized by circumstance, by professional happenstance. The little things—the “bullshit”, as he called it—that adds up and eventually overflows.

“In an unexpected way, this app gave me back control over my life,” he added. “For example…”

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1. “Now, I can access my schedules from anywhere.”

Every Friday, around 8:00 PM, Barry would find his upcoming schedule tacked to a pin board in the breakroom at work. For years, whether he was working that night or not, Barry needed to physically come in to learn his hours.

It was like a ritual, just one of those frustrating things he had to do because, well, that’s how everybody did it…

Now, on his phone: Barry’s schedule is automatically made available to him every Friday, giving him his weekend back.

Every shift employee wants (and usually needs) more control over their schedule.

2. “Now, I can swap shifts with anyone, any time.”

Barry is 100% accountable for his scheduled hours, meaning he’s responsible for either working his hours or, if he can’t make it for whatever reason, personally finding someone who will.

The latter, of course, is always a difficult, stressful process. A process that often takes tremendous effort, if it even happens at all…

Now, on his phone: Barry’s entire team is at his fingertips, which expedites and simplifies the shift-swapping process.

3. “Now, I can quickly input my ‘In’ and ‘Out’ times.”

Before and after every shift, Barry had to walk about a minute out of his way, weaving in and out of display stands as he journeyed to the clocking station in the back corner of his store.

At 2 minutes a day, 5 days a week, that amounts to nearly 9 hours of extra work a year…

Now, on his phone: Barry can start and end his shifts instantly, which gives him back a day of work, every year, until he retires.

4. “Now, I can attribute my time to specific tasks.”

Retail Associates wear many hats: They stock, they clean, they sell. They’re the bedrock of every profitable store, which is why it pays to study and understand the logistics of their day.

But many managers find these details hard to come by—hard to extract and record—much less learn from…

Now, on his phone: Barry finally has a precise answer for his manager when she asks: “What did you accomplish today?”

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5. “Now, I can submit time-off requests and receive approvals.”

Barry has always been independent, a personal trait that has bled into his professional demeanor. He likes to be self-sufficient, in the know, especially when it comes to his career…

Now, on his phone: Barry has 24/7 access to all the information he needs to make responsible, independent decisions about his vacation time. He now has the luxury to plan.

6. “Now, I can bid on ‘Premium’ shifts.”

As a “Base + Commission” associate, Barry makes a percentage of every sale he initiates and closes. Therefore, he stands to make more money on a busy Saturday afternoon than he would on a quiet Tuesday morning—and so do each of his colleagues.

Traditionally, however, securing that Saturday-afternoon shift was a complicated, political process…

Now, on his phone: Barry enjoys a fair, concrete process that locks in his “Premium” shift (and the extra income it brings) weeks in advance.

7. “Now, I can rate my weekly schedule.”

While feedback is central to improving processes, it’s often underutilized in shift environments because there isn’t a streamlined way to collect and document it. The result is stagnation, leading to employee discontent and disengagement, which, ultimately, is felt by the customer.

Now, on his phone: Barry can give his manager feedback about his schedule every week, spurring incremental improvements that add up and make a difference.

“Thank you for doing this, truly.”

That’s how Barry ended the note to his employer.


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