Hamline University’s ITS Helpdesk is a small, largely student-run organization. The Helpdesk was started in 2001 to act as a sort of “middle man” between the full-time technicians and users and has since grown to support a wide range of issues from users across the university community (staff/faculty, students and visitors). The Helpdesk has always been staffed by student workers, with at least one full-time staff member managing them all. We pride ourselves on being open for a wide range of hours, offering professional-level service and doing more with less.
At any given time we have between 11-18 student workers (consultants) who use the work scheduler ShiftPlanning for their schedule and time-clock and one coordinator and one full-time manager who oversees the Helpdesk’s ShiftPlanning account.
Being staffed almost entirely by student workers presents the biggest challenge. It means:
a) Our workers’ schedules change every semester.
b) For the first week or two (sometimes longer) of a semester we end up rewriting the schedule over and over to accommodate students who are adding/dropping courses.
c) We end up scheduling in strangely-shaped chunks of time to fit shifts in between students’ classes, especially during times when we have trouble finding workers – for example, we often have shifts of 30 minutes to an hour and a half over the lunch break and most of our weekday morning shifts are about 2 hours long.
d) We have to be flexible with our workers because school is their #1 priority – so, for instance, “I need to skip my shift to cram for a midterm” is a legitimate excuse to miss work and we need our workers to be able to trade shifts easily.
e) Some semesters we have a severe lack of available students on certain days because the academic departments, where a lot of our workers are majoring, offer almost exclusively Monday, Wednesday and Friday courses.
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Before the work scheduler ShiftPlanning we used an Excel spreadsheet to create and manage our schedule. Once a week an updated version of the schedule was sent to our staff email list and a copy was printed and hung behind the Help-desk. Shift trades were carried out via the staff email list and there was no efficient way to track whose shifts were up for grabs and who had taken what, other than making a mark on the paper copy of the schedule. Supervisors were expected to remember shift trades.
We’ve been on the work scheduler ShiftPlanning for a year and have benefited from it quite a bit. ShiftPlanning has helped immensely with both our schedule communication and our record-keeping. We no longer have to rely on our staff email list and hope that workers are checking their email and scanning through the schedule every week – the work scheduler notifies them of their upcoming shifts and they can check it from anywhere (most of them have smart-phones and all have computer access at home and on-campus). The notifications have been particularly helpful – we tell workers that if they don’t want to receive notifications, that’s their own decision but they have no excuse to forget when their shifts are. This has really helped improve our accountability. It’s also highlighted some issues among our staff that weren’t readily apparent without that level of accountability and thus allowed us to deal with those issues.
We also use the work scheduler’s time clock feature, which helps us tell whether our employees are correctly recording their hours on their official time-sheets. You can complete the school’s time-sheets at any time during the pay period, so we often have student workers fill out their time-sheets ahead of time and forget to go back and edit out shifts they missed (or fill everything out at the last minute and not be able to remember when they worked). The time-clock records allow us to cross-reference and at least tell whether a worker was here on a particular day. Aside from record-keeping it encourages workers to communicate with us when there are problems with clocking in on time, which has been helpful.
Our biggest concern starting with the work scheduler ShiftPlanning was that employees would use it as a crutch so they wouldn’t have to take personal responsibility for their shifts but in reality it’s improved responsibility levels, if anything. Now that employees have a tool they like using, it’s made them want to learn the system and take advantage of it. We still depend on Excel to help create the initial schedule because it’s the best system we’ve got for our strange shift sizes and availability issues but once we have a stable schedule for the semester, we make changes mostly in ShiftPlanning.
Absolutely – in fact, we already have recommended ShiftPlanning. One, possibly two other departments within the university are currently looking into the work scheduler as an option for their own staffs of student workers. The ShiftPlanning team appears to be a committed, dependable group. They seem to be all about open communication, which we appreciate.
I think it’s improved our employee responsibility levels by putting the control of their shifts squarely in their hands – they’re the ones in charge of getting shift trades, making sure they respond to notices, etc. We no longer have to do those things for them or assist, most of the time. As managers we’re able to set up the schedule and let them have it and the trades are right there on display for us when we log in – no extra effort expended by us to keep a running list of who’s trading shifts with whom. It’s just made things a bit easier.
ShiftPlanning has helped immensely… – Kipp Manske – Manager, ITS Helpdesk – Hamline University
We occasionally use the work scheduler to store very basic documents from our knowledge base but we haven’t explored that function much yet.
“We like that ShiftPlanning doesn't keep your data behind its walled garden.”- mashable.com
“With this tool, you can literally run tens of employees with ease.”- makeuseof.com
“It is an intuitive product, with a nice range of features.”- killerstartups.com