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10 Mistakes And Challenges Of Implementing AI into Employee Scheduling

Have you tried implementing AI tools into your business operations, but they don’t seem to work?

In the past couple of years, artificial intelligence (AI) usage has exploded and touched almost all parts of running a business. However, with this explosive growth and hype, come other challenges and mistakes in AI implementation. AI can be helpful but you need to know how to find the right tools and prepare your business for them.

AI employee scheduling is a great example of how automation can make your work easier.

But you may find yourself in a situation where everyone around you seems to be benefiting from automated employee scheduling, while you can’t get a hold of it and all the tools you try don’t work for your business.

That’s what we’ll figure out in this article. Learn how businesses use AI to make employee scheduling easier and faster. And check for the mistakes you might be making yourself when implementing new technologies such as AI.

Go straight to:

How can businesses use AI?

Although you probably hear about AI almost every day, it wasn’t developed yesterday. Companies have been using this technology for years, for various purposes.

For example:

Customer service

Have you ever chatted with a customer service consultant about some issue you had with their service? Likely, you were chatting with an AI chatbot. Natural Language Processing (NLP) is one of the AI technologies used to generate real-time responses based on business-relevant data.

It speeds up customer service procedures and can assist a lot of people at the same time. Instead of overwhelming customer service agents, AI chatbots take a huge chunk of their work.

Data analytics

Gathering loads of data and making sense of it is a meticulous job that takes years to master. AI algorithms analyze historical data to predict future trends, customer behavior, market fluctuations, and more. With this information, you can make better business decisions.

Marketing tasks

With special AI programs, you can do simple marketing tasks such as designing visuals, structuring blog posts, or writing content.

Human resources

Many companies use AI to screen candidates and select only the best ones for further steps. Instead of hiring managers going through hundreds of resumes, AI does that in seconds.

Employee scheduling

If you’re reading this, you probably know the pain of making schedules for several dozen of people. Scheduling employees and balancing their work and rest requirements, while juggling schedule rotations and meeting business capacity is no joke.

But AI can help you handle some if not most of these tedious tasks. AI tools like OPTAS let you generate schedules for as many people as you need in minutes, spot mistakes and gather relevant information.

Benefits of AI implementation in staff scheduling

You might see marketing, sales, operations, and other departments in your company using AI to streamline their work. So how can you, a manager and schedule coordinator, use AI to help you with your tasks? Simple – AI-powered employee scheduling.

This system works best for large teams and employees who work on rotations. Here are a few examples of how implementing AI helps manage challenging scheduling tasks.

It automates the scheduling process

The main benefit of implementing AI into your employee schedules is that it automates the majority of the boring and repetitive tasks. You don't need to spend hours doing the guesswork, trying to distribute the shifts evenly and fairly, keeping in mind mandatory rest periods and everything else.

With AI, you just input relevant data and press generate.

Demand planning

Every business experiences some demand fluctuations. For example, delivery companies see an increase in operations around winter holidays due to people ordering more products and sending gifts.

Hospitals can anticipate that the nights of New Year's or any other major holidays will have more admissions due to people not being careful.

Retail stores might notice that certain months and days are busier because of shoppers’ spending habits and patterns.

To handle demand fluctuations, you have to plan employee schedules accordingly. An AI employee scheduling program lets you quickly adjust how many employees you need each day and month to create schedules based on demand.

For example, if you need more workers in the weeks leading up to Christmas, AI will help you calculate and plan the work to increase staffing during the busiest times and distribute the workload more evenly during slower periods. This way your workers don’t burn out during the hectic shifts and don’t waste their time when the customer traffic is low.

Calculating banked-hour accounting

The banked-hour accounting method is an excellent choice for companies that operate outside the traditional 9-to-5 schedule and/or work on rotating schedules. You have more flexibility to plan your team's time and spread it out across longer accounting periods.

But it can quickly become insufferable if you have to calculate everything manually.

We would go as far as to say that keeping banked-hour accounting mistake-free without automation is very difficult.

Each region and country has so many rules governing employee work and rest requirements. Keeping in mind everyone's attendance, vacations, breaks, parental leaves, and so on is a challenging task for us mortal humans. That's why you can assign these tasks to AI, and it'll gladly do it without mistakes, making sure everyone gets fair schedules.

Compliance with labor laws

You would be surprised at how many companies violate labor laws without even realizing it.

And we get it, it's challenging to track everything when you manage hundreds of people across multiple departments. But disregarding labor laws can bring hefty fines and damage your business reputation.

An AI employee scheduler creates schedules while considering all laws and requirements. Such a system is programmed not to make mistakes, so the schedule comes out error-free or notifies you about necessary changes. You can also use AI to spot your mistakes if you create schedules yourself.

Analytics

I staff schedulers collect data such as planned vs actual working hours, rest periods, vacations, shift swaps, how many hours each employee worked on weekends, holidays, and night shifts, and the times when someone was late to come to work or worked overtime. You can generate reports and statistics to improve your scheduling or use this data for your payroll.

Costs of implementing AI in employee scheduling

The costs of AI implementation depend on the size of your team, the service provider of your choice, and the features you intend to use.

The best way to save costs of implementing AI is to:

  • Do your research about various providers before committing to one.
  • Request demo or trial versions to see if a system works for your team.
  • Schedule an audit with the service provider to spot gaps and discuss actionable ways to improve them.
  • Ask for your team’s feedback about selected systems.
  • Analyze pricing options and plans. Many SaaS businesses offer different pricing models that might suit your business better than others. For instance, paying a flat annual rate might not work for your team if it’s smaller and it would make more sense to find a pricing plan per user.
  • Estimate the saved costs and expenses in the long term. Implementing a new system might cost a lot at first, but when you see how much money and time it helps you save, it’s worth it.
  • Look beyond discounts and special offers. An automated employee scheduling system is a long-term commitment. You must get used to it and onboard your team, so make sure that you calculate how much the system costs after all discounts and special offers expire.

10 Challenges of implementing AI in team scheduling

Implementing too many technologies at once, going with the flow instead of focusing on your specific business needs, and rushing the integration process hinder employee scheduling automation. We collected the 10 most common mistakes and challenges of implementing AI and how you can avoid them.

1. Going with the flow instead of setting clear goals

Just because your competitors or someone on LinkedIn is recommending a new AI tool, it doesn't mean it will work for you. The AI hype is high and is likely to continue, so you might be bombarded with people swearing they've found the holy grail solution.

But subscribing to too many irrelevant AI tools only makes employee scheduling more complicated and confuses your team.

It takes time to train your team on new technologies and integrate them into your daily routine.

Instead, set clear goals by analyzing your problems. For example, if you're struggling to finish monthly schedules before the end of the month, use an AI employee scheduling system that automates these operations. If you could use help with attendance tracking, search for tools with a TimeClock functionality.

2. Expecting AI to do everything

Many people share a similar fear when it comes to AI: machines stealing their jobs and replacing humans. But as of this moment, AI isn't capable of such a thing and it's as useful as the person who uses it.

This also means you can't expect an AI employee scheduler to replace you. You still need to be there for your team because as a human, you have the flexibility and empathy that an automated system lacks.

3. Wanting to automate employee scheduling 100%

Not every part of employee scheduling can be automated or needs automation. Automating too many processes at once might lead to you losing control of your work and routines.

Each business is different. Some have more stable schedules, allowing them to rely more on AI. While others need human flexibility and only use AI as a helpful tool to stay ahead.

What works for our clients is relying on the 20/80 rule. Even if you automate just 20% of your work, but it brings 80% of results, you're doing a great job.

4. Not teaching your team about AI and its importance

Although the AI employee scheduler is designed to make the lives of managers easier, it's also a tool for your team. They can use it to track their working hours and vacations, mark preferences, and make shift swaps with their colleagues.

If your team doesn't understand the benefits of AI or how to use it, they might reject the idea and not use it at all. If the whole team isn't on board, the tool loses its purpose.

5. Not thinking about the long-term strategy

If you want to see incredible benefits after the first week or month of using AI, you might be disappointed. The benefits of AI implementation are gradual and show up in different steps.

With an AI employee scheduler, first, you might notice that you can allocate a lot of manual tasks to the system. After the system becomes engraved into your scheduling processes, you might notice that you’re making fewer mistakes and planning shifts more efficiently. As the time goes by, you'll see tons of other benefits.

OPTAS's clients have noticed that after implementing AI into their scheduling, the time of creating schedules has dropped by 73%. They noticed that the number of latecomers decreased by 65%. And they avoid 95% of labor law mistakes and violations by automating scheduling.

So, don't rush, set clear KPIs to follow, and appreciate the long-term strategy.

6. Trying too many AI tools at once

If you're hyped about AI, you might have tried software to optimize accounting, another one to schedule your team, and a third one to hire people. While there's nothing wrong with using AI in different business processes, make sure to do it gradually. Implementing too many AI tools at once can overwhelm you and your team.

You might get lost in the process of learning about these tools, forget important features, and mess up other steps. Instead, give yourself time to understand each system, get a hold of its features and uses, and train your team on new technology.

7. Not involving your team

By not involving your team in the process of implementing AI, not only can you face their resistance, but also lose valuable insights and onboarding opportunities.

If a new AI system involves your team, ask for their feedback. Ask if it solves their main pain points, if it's easy to use and understand for everyone, and whether they see it as a necessity.

What we’ve noticed with our clients is that the team itself is the best ambassador for new tools. Not only can they share valuable feedback, but they can also onboard others to use AI. Each team has people who are natural leaders, and others in the team tend to follow them.

One of our clients, Šiauliai Hospital, used this method unplanned. Even before the entire hospital could use OPTAS employee scheduling software, people were already raving about it and rushing the process. It all happened thanks to a few enthusiastic employees who spread the message and got everyone else on board.

8. Rushing the training process

You can't rush AI implementation, especially when it comes to tools like automated employee scheduling software. At OPTAS, we encourage companies to take their time. Even during training sessions, we divide the whole onboarding process into several weeks and sometimes into separate departments.

Each week, we introduce new features and uses and let the team do some tasks on their own to consolidate the information. This way, they understand each feature, have hands-on experience, and can consult with us if something isn't working.

9. Using an AI scheduler for small teams

An automated AI scheduler like OPTAS is best suited for mid-sized and large teams of more than 100 people. This way you can notice the best results of saving time and money. If you manage a team of only 10-50 people, you might not need all the functionality and automation.

The same goes for every other AI tool. A big benefit of using AI is saving resources, but if you spend money on unnecessary tools, you're doing the opposite.

10. Forgetting or not using your human skills

Your skills as a human are irreplaceable. Critical thinking, problem-solving, flexibility, and empathy are crucial for managing teams. However, sometimes using too many AI tools or relying too much on automation can cause people to forget their own skills.

See AI as another tool to help you, not you helping AI. Be open to changes, analyze the process to find ways to improve it, and be open to your team's feedback.

A use case of a successful AI implementation

Implementing AI into a large corporation takes time and strategic decisions. Our client, Baltic Champs, the biggest champignons producers in the Baltic States, decided to give automation a chance. The company manages over 500 workers across three departments. But what makes their scheduling processes so difficult is their business model.

You can't plan when the champignons are ready to be harvested. Sometimes they might urgently need people to harvest the mushrooms, and sometimes there's no work for couple of days. To say that planning schedules this way for so many people is challenging is an understatement.

Before implementing AI, they would manually collect information about those 500 people working hours, adjusting to the growth times of mushrooms and other demand fluctuations. Then the administrators would manually transfer this information to their payroll system.

We knew that their needs were unique, and it would take some time to introduce our AI solution to their business. We started working with the higher management and right away, we found out that they couldn't fully automate their processes due to the unpredictability of the schedules.

Instead, they needed a platform to register data, create and manage schedules, and connect it with other systems they were already using, such as time-tracking software and a payroll system.

They implemented the new AI employee scheduling system very gradually. First, we started working with only one department. We would do a configuration to make sure everything worked, then they would import all the employee data, and so on.

After the system was ready, we would do training firstly for the higher management so that they would absorb the information and could share it with other team members. Lastly, we would move on to tryouts with schedule coordinators.

We followed the same process for each department. Baltic Champs didn't install all OPTAS features right away. Up to this point, they're still discovering new functionality and going through the same implementation process to make sure it sticks and works for them.

System implementation into their processes went smoothly with Baltic Champs, and after the first month of working together, they were using OPTAS independently.

Now, a lot of processes regarding their scheduling are automated and work like clockwork.

Final words

Implementing new systems, whether it's a simple digital tool or a complex AI system, is a long process that needs careful preparation and planning. Even the most enthusiastic and tech-savvy people might experience what we call tech exhaustion. You can't implement large and sophisticated systems like automated employee scheduling software in a day by yourself.

So, don't forget the secrets to successful AI implementation:

  • Identify your pain points and find systems that you actually need
  • Take your time and work slowly
  • Don't let the hype fool you
  • Involve your team to help you
  • Don't expect AI to do everything for you
  • Don't lose your precious human skills

And with that, we invite you to check out OPTAS. We work with businesses from various industries to make sure they start on the right foot and can work with AI in their long-term business strategy. If you want to save time and make your employee scheduling easier and faster, let's talk.

Eglė Račkauskaitė
January 18th, 2024