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The impact of multi-skilling on personnel scheduling in the service sector: a retail industry case

Abstract

Using personnel scheduling to reduce overstaffing and understaffing in a service industry across multiple periods is often undermined by lack of flexibility due to the exclusive use of specialized personnel. This study analyses the impacts of assigning multi-skilled personnel to different activities and its potential for improving schedule efficiency. A proposed mixed integer linear programming model determines which employees are trained to work in which activities and their assignments over a one-week planning horizon. The model results show that the lowest total-cost multi-skilled configurations are obtained in scenarios where personnel supply and demand are in equilibrium. Half of employees would continue to be specialized for just one activity while the half slated for multi-skilling would be trained in most cases for just one additional activity, even though training cost is assumed to be minimal. It is also shown that multi-skilling is best applied to employees whose contracts are highly flexible.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by CONICYT under Grant 499/17-03-2009 and 2012 MISTI global seed funds. The authors would like to thank the three anonymous referees for their helpful comments and insights on this paper. They are also grateful to their colleagues at SHIFT-UC for their useful feedback at various stages of this research and providing the data used to solve the problem for the retail firm.

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Correspondence to Juan Carlos Muñoz.

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Henao, C., Muñoz, J. & Ferrer, J. The impact of multi-skilling on personnel scheduling in the service sector: a retail industry case. J Oper Res Soc 66, 1949–1959 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1057/jors.2015.9

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Keywords

  • cross-training
  • multi-skilling
  • personnel scheduling
  • retail services
  • tour scheduling
  • workforce flexibility