Empowerment scheduling for a field workforce
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- Alsheddy, A. & Tsang, E.P.K. J Sched (2011) 14: 639. doi:10.1007/s10951-011-0232-2
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Employee empowerment is a flexible management concept. As in traditional scheduling, the employer is still in charge of assigning jobs to staff. However, employees are allowed to express their preferences for the jobs they want to do. The hope is that empowerment will improve morale, which will improve productivity. The challenge is to design such an empowerment scheduling system without undesirable outcomes.
In the proposed model, employees submit their preferences as “work plans”. The organizational goal and the employees’ work plans may not be in conflict. In such situations, win-win schedules can be generated without costing the organization. When there is a conflict, the organization is willing to give up a certain amount of its optimality (which is determined by the organization) in order to consider the employee’s work plans. The employer is in charge, and therefore jobs undesirable to any of the employees will still be done. A main consideration in empowerment is to make the employees feel that the system is fair. The proposed model maintains fairness by incorporating an automatic market-like mechanism that controls the violation cost of each employee’s request.
The model is applied to solve a workforce scheduling problem which involves scheduling a multi-skilled workforce to geographically dispersed tasks. Extensive computational experiments are conducted, which show that this model enables an organization to implement employee empowerment effectively.