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Self-scheduling can increase job satisfaction.

Self-scheduling can increase job satisfaction

The idea of self-scheduling conjures up images of organizational chaos characterized by crowded day shifts and an empty laboratory at night and on weekends. Untrue. With careful planning and management, self-scheduling can make a staff happier, more cohesive, and more committed.

The key is to match staffing requirements with individual preferences. Self-scheduling tends to increase overall job satisfaction, an important element in retaining employees. Another long-term benefit is the potential for reduction of the high costs usually associated with employee illness, voluntary absenteeism, and turnover.

For managers, the system shortens the amount of time required for scheduling and the conflicts associated with it. After the first few go-arounds and some fine-tuning, the system operates well with minimal supervision.

The larger the staff, the easier it is for them to establish a self-scheduling routine. The system can work well with as few as 20 staff members or as many as 100. Self-scheduling is not really practical for smaller labs because they simply don't have enough scheduling possibilities available.

Individual employees and the organization gain a great deal when employees create their own schedules. Work-related benefits include improving self development, productivity, job satisfaction, and commitment. In addition, employees become more responsible through determining their own schedules. Staff members are better able to meet personal obligations and goals: spending more time with family, enjoying a more active social life, taking educational courses. For some, self-scheduling lowers the costs of child care and commuting. Working with colleagues of one's choice makes for a happier crew. Figure I summarizes the advantages of self-scheduling. * Standard views. The traditional form of assigning shifts excludes personal choice. Technologists either work specific, fixed shifts or rotate through a number of different ones. Assignments tend to be based on seniority or previously established patterns, with little or no thought given to individual preference.

Autocratic organizations do not trust their employees to be responsible for their own scheduling. Many managers consider scheduling an important personal function that they will not readily surrender. From the staff's perspective, such scheduling seems a heavy-handed form of control exercised by management to reward seniority or favored workers. * Joint responsibility. The aim of self-scheduling is not to remove the direct responsibility of scheduling from management but to make that responsibility a dual one with their staffs. When technologists have a say in the hours they'll work, their sense of belonging to their shifts is heightened and their commitment to the organization as a whole is intensified. In breaking down barriers between staff and management, self-scheduling democratizes the lab. By recognizing individual preferences in a formal way, management promotes staff growth and organizational cohesion. * Reactions. Do not underestimate the degree of opposition that will almost surely arise when self-scheduling is first proposed. People frequently complain that the system is too complex to work, much less to understand.

As with any other organizational change, both the staff and the instution must be sold on the system's benefits if it is to have a real chance of success. Call the staff together to describe the advantages of this system. Hold team meetings before implementation to articulate the process. Make your objectives clear. See to it that your staff does not mistake the proposed system as a gimmick to increase productivity. Explain its value as a program created specifically for them.

Be patient and persistent; it takes a long time to make the system work smoothly. It isn't easy to design a protocol that everyone will accept and that will accommodate the numerous realities of your laboratory. The staff will have to adjust to making group decisions, perhaps a difficult transition if they have had little practice in this area. Communication and bargaining skills will need time to develop and improve. * Pointers. If self-scheduling reduces costs while improving efficiency and morale, why haven't more organizations adopted it? One answer is that it won't work everywhere.

[Paragraph]Decentralized management. Self-scheduling requires a decentralized management structure with an emphasis on participative decision making. Management must be willing to share power with staff members. The climate must accommodate group participation in decision making and must reveal a general commitment to addressing issues related to the quality of work life. Self-scheduling is likely to fail in laboratories that do not have a decentralized structure and an entrenched philosophy promoting philosophy promoting group participation.

[Paragraph]Quality of work life. The type of laboratory that is able to implement self-scheduling most successfully tends to maintain other programs promoting the quality of work life and satisfying the needs of individual workers. Such programs include flextime; merit pay; management by objectives; quality circles; job design, encompassing job enrichment and enlargement; and autonomous work teams.

[Paragraph]Climate for change. One of the greatest barriers to implementing self-scheduling is the resistance of certain individuals. Senior employees in particular may consider the program a threat to their traditional right to select their own shifts. In addition, many employees form a strong psychological attachment to their shifts and resist changing them.

Identify those who might resist self-scheduling. Apprise them of its potential benefits to the individual and to the organization. Intransigent employees and others resistant to change can scuttle even the best-designed and most carefully implemented protocol.

[Paragraph]Cooperation. Self-scheduling requires a great deal of flexibility by all involved. They must be willing to bargain in a give-and-take atmosphere. Management must be patient, realizing that the process will take time.

[Paragraph]Staff composition. Self-scheduling works best when the staff includes employees with varied seniority and experience. The purpose of self-scheduling is to integrate staff fully so that everyone feels an equal part of a cohesive team.

No single self-scheduling system will work for every laboratory. Each lab must establish a system consistent with its own policies and procedures, mode of organization, and management philosophy. Some general guidelines for devising a protocol that will best suit your lab are presented at left.

Self-scheduling works only when the administrative and social climate support it. Designing an appropriate protocol under the right conditions facilitates staff involvement and satisfaction while promoting the development of a common bond in the laboratory.

PHOTO : Figure I Advantages of self-scheduling

General references: Cummings, T. Self-regulating work groups: A socio-technical synthesis. Acad. Manage. Rev. 3:625-634, 1978.

Cummings, T., and Molloy, E. "Improving Productivity and the Quality of Work Life." New York, Praeger, 1977.

Goldberg, A.M., and Pegels, C.C. "Quality Circles in Health Care." Rockville, Md., Aspen, 1984.

Hackman J.R., and Oldham, G.R. "Work Redesign." Reading, Mass., Addison-Wesley, 1980.

Kelly, J.E. "Scientific Management, Job Redesign and Work Performance." New York, Academic Press, 1982.

Lawler III, E.E. "Pay and Organizational Development." Reading, Mass., Addison-Wesley, 1981.

Lawler III, E.E., and Mohrman, S.A. Quality circles: After the honeymoon. Organizational Dynamics 15(4):42-54, 1987.

Manz, C., and Angle, H. Can group self-management mean a loss of personal control?: Triangulating a paradox. Group Organ. Stud. 11:309-334, 1986.

Moore, B.E., and Ross, T.L. "The Scanlon Way to Improve Productivity." New York, John Wiley and Sons, 1978.

Nadler, D.A., and Lawler III, E.E. Quality of work life: Perspectives and directions. Organizational Dynamics 11(4):20-30, winter 1983.

Pearce II, J., and Ravlin, E. The design and activation of self-regulating work groups. Hum. Relations 40:751-782, 1987.

Raia, A.P. "Managing by Objectives." Glenview, Ill., Scott Foresman and Company, 1974.

Ronen, S. "Flexible Workings Hours." New York, McGraw-Hill, 1981.

Wall, T.D.; Kemp, N.J.; Jackson, P.R.; et al. Outcomes of autonomous workgroups: A long-term field experiment. Acad. Manage. J. 29:280-304, 1986.
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Title Annotation:includes advantages & guidelines
Author:Rondeau, Kent V.
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Date:Nov 1, 1990
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