A US Department of Transportation study, The Transportation Management Center Staffing and Scheduling for Day-to-Day Operations, provides managers, supervisors, human resource personnel, and private contractors with valuable insights for Transportation Management Center (TMC) staffing and scheduling decisions. The study addresses the concepts, methods, processes, tasks, techniques, and other issues related to work analysis, scheduling, and staff planning. Several methods for analyzing aspects of work are covered, including job analysis, workload analysis, and demand analysis. General scheduling practices, issues associated with shiftwork, and methods on how to create a staffing plan and planning for emergencies are also discussed.
Different staffing arrangements may be used to meet various scheduling demands. Common staffing arrangements include full-time employment, part-time employment, temporary employment, and contract positions (see Table 3.1 in the Transportation Management Center Staffing and Scheduling for Day to Day Operations technical document for typical full- and part-time positions at TMCs). In addition, overtime, promotion, and redeployment or reassignment can be used to meet scheduling demands. Typically, alternative staffing arrangements are used to increase the flexibility of using human resources to meet scheduling demands. For example, part-time employees may be used to meet the excess demand for services during anticipated periods of peak congestion.
- Consider use of part-time employees. Part-timers are typically less expensive and more flexible for TMC assignments. Although some part-time employees desire the reduction in hours per week, others accept part-time positions because of a lack of full-time positions. Part-time employees can require as much supervision and administrative support as full-time employees. Some part-time employees are not considered to be temporary employees and are referred to as permanent part-time. Although permanent part-time employees typically receive pro-rated benefits (e.g., pension and vacation accrual at a slower rate), often health insurance benefits are at the same rate as full-time employees.
- Implement job sharing to gain flexibility in scheduling and a greater pool of skills. Job sharing is defined as two or more part-time employees covering the duties of one full-time position; job sharers are typically at the same performance level. Job sharing does not require that each employee works half time or that the number of hours add up to 40 per week. Often the decision to increase the number of hours beyond 40 per week will be made based on the preferences of the personnel at a TMC and budget allowances. By converting one full-time position into two or more part-time positions, employers gain flexibility in scheduling and a greater pool of knowledge, skills, and abilities. To succeed, job sharers must be willing to work as a team and able to perform the job as efficiently as one employee, which requires communication and cooperation. They must also have complementary knowledge, skills, abilities, and work styles, or else splitting the job may be difficult and conflict might arise.
- Employ temporary employees and contractors to increase work force flexibility. Although temporary employees hired from another agency usually cost more per hour, there are a number of benefits associated with hiring temporary employees. Temporary employees are not paid when there is no work for them to perform, are not provided benefits, and cannot file claims for unemployment compensation upon termination. Using temporary employees provides a layer of flexibility. TMCs may also choose to contract work to outside vendors. Typically, contractors are used on a project basis, or for the maintenance of field equipment. Because temporary employees and contractors are not employees of the TMC, the TMC is not responsible for hiring, disciplining, paying, or terminating them. Although TMCs require less human resources support for temporary or contracted employees, there may be a greater demand on management resources.
- Consider that non-full-time employees might not be as loyal to their jobs as full-time employees. Although many alternative-staffing arrangements may be used to add flexibility in accommodating scheduling demands and meeting budgetary constraints, the staffing implications of the arrangements should be considered. For example, although voluntary part-time employees and job sharers may be satisfied with their working arrangements, involuntary part-time employees may resign as soon as they can find a full-time position. And as contractors are not employees of the TMC, they may not show the same commitment to their jobs as TMC employees.
- Satisfy scheduling needs by implementing promotions, redeployment, and overtime allocation. Internal actions are often a more efficient option that maintains cost levels through the flexible utilization of existing employees. Redeployment or reassignment may be permanent or temporary, and may become necessary during an unexpected peak in demand or when an employee takes an extended vacation or sick leave. Overtime also enables employers to meet more demand without hiring additional employees. Employees are more willing to work overtime if they are satisfied with their jobs. However, overtime can reduce job satisfaction and morale. If overtime is necessary, the amount of overtime should be minimized and the number of hours should be limited to no more than 48 hours per week when possible.
- Implement task transfer techniques within a TMC. Cross training enables employees in different positions to offer assistance during peak workload conditions. For example, a manager may provide assistance to an operator on duty during an off-peak time period if there is a major incident, or an operator trained in handling the changeable message sign (CMS) system may also receive cross training in special event management to offer assistance during infrequent peaks in workload. One operator must be able to complete a task received from another operator, which may require the second operator to use the same equipment as the first operator. An approach to ensuring task transfer is to standardize the capabilities and interfaces of the equipment such as operation consoles. Another approach to facilitating task transfer is to provide cross training for different positions. In order to effectively implement task transfer, the following steps should be followed:
- Create rules or guidelines for transferring a task from one operator to another operator.
- Clearly document an operator’s responsibilities and priorities when workload approaches or surpasses a peak level.
- Priorities should provide rules or guidance on which tasks are more critical and which tasks can remain incomplete.
- Ensure that the TMC system supports task transfer.
- Use a team when the advantages of teamwork outweigh the effort required to coordinate and manage the team. Although most of the tasks performed by operators are performed more efficiently by a single operator, teams sometimes outperform individuals. Teams bring together a collection of employees with potentially different knowledge, skills, and abilities. Teamwork may be advantageous (1) to simultaneously identify, collect, and process information (e.g., identify, monitor, and respond to multiple incidents), (2) to complete complex procedures while monitoring system feedback such as troubleshooting, and (3) to solve problems such as system failures. When teamwork is advantageous the operating procedures, technology, and the workspace must be designed to accommodate and facilitate team interaction. The disadvantage of using a team is the additional time and effort required for coordination.
Depending on the needs and current staff levels at the TMC, different staffing arrangements may be appropriate, some of which may influence increased work productivity. Part-time employees are usually cheaper than their full-time counter-parts, but may not be as loyal to their job. Job-sharing is a unique staffing option, and often two job-share employees are more productive than one single employee. Temporary employees and contractors are another option for increasing staffing levels; benefits include increased staffing flexibility for the TMC. Overtime work and the redeployment of employees are also methods of addressing TMC scheduling demands. Cross training for task transfer enables employees in different positions to offer assistance to each other during peak workload conditions and working in teams may offer advantages to employees working alone. These different staffing arrangements can help meet demands at a TMC.