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In the Nick of Time?

by Brian Ray

There is a new trend of employee scheduling that is sweeping through various industries at the present time.  That is the practice of Just-in-Time scheduling.  It is particularly concentrated in restaurants, hotels, and retail outlets, but will probably be spreading to other industries soon.

The premise of this practice is that it supposedly allows these companies the ability to become more flexible and have the right number of employees present during times of peak customer activity. This is accomplished by utilizing software applications to predict when the highest amount of customer traffic will be present for a given business.  This then allows those companies to call in workers just before those high-traffic times, (usually with only 30 minutes notice or less).  Of course, when the software is wrong and there are fewer customers than anticipated, the employee is messaged that they are not needed, even if they were scheduled to work that shift.

So, the very first question is – When did business leaders become stupid enough to believe that they could predict and control the future?

Answer – When they believed the illusion that it will boost profits, they bought into it.

However, what leadership fails to recognize is that there are so many external variables that software cannot take into account that it boggles the mind.  But these companies continue to buy into the illusion that they can predict and control the future, which is doing nothing but lining the pockets of the software developers.

How did this trend come about?  Well just like so many other fads, it was pushed under the premise that it would reduce costs and boost the bottom line for many companies.  Anything to save a buck, no matter what – is the thought process in most cases.  These savings are then being touted by the establishment (particularly Wall Street) as a success.  Which then triggers other companies to buy into the illusion, setting up a dangerous domino effect.

However, there is an even darker side to this approach, in that it is wreaking havoc with the employees who are being forced to adjust to this kind of scheduling.  Quite bluntly, a business using this just-in-time approach makes it virtually impossible for the worker to have a normal life.

While this kind of flexibility can be useful for business on paper, people do not have the same level of flexibility within their lives to accommodate this kind of scheduling.  They simply cannot be on call 24/7 and still take care of their families and their well-being.

Fortunately, this practice is already being challenged in some states.  One can only hope that common sense will prevail sooner rather than later.  However, history has demonstrated time and again that sensibility usually takes a back seat to short term profit generation in the corporate world.  So until this type of tactic is genuinely recognized as unsustainable, the individuals working in these companies will continue to suffer the negative ramifications and disruptions to their well-being.

This is an additional scenario that brings us back to the point that Business needs to regain the humanity in its perspective and stop treating people like autonomous commodities.  Until that perspective becomes part of everyday thought & practice, tactics like these will continue to be forced upon the working public under the illusion that they are “good for business”.

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