The Challenge

Sierra Madre Police Department (SMPD) sworn officers work 3-day/12-hour schedules with payback hours every 28 days. Civilians work 4-day/10-hour or 5-day/8-hour shift schedules and may be in the 24/7/365 rostering coverage.

Before 2009, Captain Giannone and his work scheduler labored with Microsoft Excel to make personnel available for all shifts, the unexpected, and community contact. SMPD’s sterling results were accomplished in the face of personnel shortages, resulting in a sharp rise in overtime. So predicting, planning, tracking and reporting hours worked is critical. The schedule planner must ensure and report compliance with the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA). This includes managing planned and unexpected time-off scheduling to satisfy sometimes-competing needs.

Giannone says, “In 2008, we did staff scheduling in Excel—and that produced a lot of pain. We manually input everything, and had none of the features that modern software like Snap Schedule shift scheduling software gives you. After a viable work schedule was defined, Excel couldn’t easily extend it days, months or years into the future. Its cut-and-paste proved vastly inadequate. Making short- and long-term compensations for unexpected times-off or police emergencies—without throwing off FLSA guidelines—added more difficulties.

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“In Excel, each person had a cell with a number or letter in it showing their shifts. We had to memorize those codes or keep their legend handy. It was confusing and too easy for errors to occur. Our schedule planner would spend eight hours a week on it—sometimes more when changes were heavy because we have always kept changes very current and our records tight to ensure accurate payroll.”

The Solution

“When Giannone searched for a rostering program to replace Excel, Snap Schedule employee scheduling software received very high praise from another agency. “Their schedule planners described very convincing benefits with similar shift scheduling problems,” says Giannone. “Snap Schedule’s fully-functional, 30-day free trial let us verify its benefits in real-life situations. We licensed the new rostering software in February 2009 .”

“The difference between pushing Excel to do something it wasn’t made for and staff- scheduling with Snap Schedule shift scheduling software is like night and day. Literally, every rostering function is faster, easier, more accurate and foolproof in Snap Schedule. Its records are compact, so we store every change into the database in case there’s a question or challenge about an employee schedule, number of hours worked, or when overtime kicked in.

“Snap Schedule is very easy to use once you look at it and see how it works. I just dug in and did not really read the directions. I set up the company first, then the employees. It’s easy to grasp and teach.” Following the successes of Giannone’s team, in July 2009 Sierra Madre’s Parks and Recreation and Fire Departments will begin using Snap Schedule. Giannone will teach schedule planners and users. Snap Schedule is developed, marketed and supported by Business Management Systems (BMS) of Anaheim, California, USA.

The Benefits

“Our scheduler’s work is down from eight hours or more per week, to about two hours,” says Giannone. “That gives SMPD back 15 percent more productivity from that person. Our biggest time-savers are being able to extend any schedule into the future as far as necessary—and making faster, more error-free schedule changes.

“On a larger scale, we can better avoid unnecessary overtime because Snap Schedule’s overtime flags automatically display when a new schedule or change invokes overtime. Its internal calculations are really a big benefit. Snap Schedule’s printouts are intuitively easy to read and use. You don’t look through every row and column, then ‘decode’ what’s happening and where. You just pull up dates, people and locations you want.

“Our payroll records are more accurate now, which will also benefit us when there’s an audit. And we can now provide instant numbers when requested by state and federal agencies. To email schedules or any report, we no longer select, create and file another spreadsheet, then copy-paste in the right parts, and finally email it. We just run a report, PDF it, and right-click to email the recipients. This saves us a lot of finicky busy-work.”