Why Your Business Needs "On-Call" Staff

Rahkeem Morris
April 4, 2019

Stability and predictability are better for everyone: As an employer, you want to know that you have the right number of employees scheduled, and that all employees who are scheduled will show up to work.

You also want to reduce turnover - and one way to do this is by keeping schedules predictable for employees. Plus, schedule stability and predictability are increasingly mandated by lawmakers in cities like New York and Philadelphia, as well as states like California.

So if (most) everyone agrees that stability and predictability are important to business, why isn’t this the norm in every industry?

Quite simply: When both business and staff availability are volatile, stability and predictability often go out the window.

In an unpredictable world, the ability to flexibly respond as conditions change is key. That’s why some employers leverage an on-call program: Being able to quickly contact eligible, unscheduled employees in a pinch is a massive asset.

Plus, as we discuss in other posts, some employees don’t want full work schedules or regular shifts. It’s the same desire for schedule flexibility that has brought so many workers to drive for Uber or Lyft. Capitalizing on this pool of flexibility-seeking workers can expand workforces, even in a tight labor market.

So why is an on-call program necessary?

Business is unpredictable.

Employers have a strong sense of how many employees are needed at which times - but this is always changing. For example:

  • A facilities services contractor gets a large last-minute request for janitors. Someone’s water main broke, and they need help ASAP.
  • A security contractor gets has the opportunity to win new business - but they have to scramble 20 guards for an event tomorrow night.
  • The weather changed, and a retailer is packed. They need 3 more people ASAP.

New opportunities emerge - opportunities that if successfully met can mean more customers and a growing business. But there’s real downside to missing these opportunities or winding up understaffed - a loss of customers, a diminished business reputation.

Unpredictable business opportunities don’t fit the call for stability and predictability, which means schedule flexibility is needed.

An on-call force allows businesses to quickly mobilize groups of employees to take advantage of new business opportunities - or overcome the occasional system error that leaves you potentially massively understaffed. As we continue to explain throughout this post (and in this FAQ about on-call forces), an on-call force is the most effective way to build this flexibility into your workforce.

Employee availability is unpredictable, frequently changing.

Employees have lives, too - they’re a frequent source of business unpredictability. Whether it’s sick days, unexplained absences, no-call no-shows, last-minute vacation needs, or just plain turnover, employees’ changes in availability can wreak havoc on your business.

Returning to our retail example, it is very common for retail locations to deal with multiple employee callouts every single day. Left unaddressed, these unfilled shifts can cause your store to be understaffed, jeopardizing sales, customer satisfaction, and just about everything else.

In fact, we’ve spoken with employers across industries, and managing employee availability is among their biggest day-to-day operational headaches. And no wonder, when employers report 5-10% of shifts change after the schedule is created.


Your business is unpredictable. But pushing unpredictability down to employees - many of whom want predictable, stable schedules - can lead to serious negative impacts on morale and customer satisfaction. An on-call force is a solution that balances stability and flexibility.

With an on-call force, employers can give stability to the employees who want stability, while giving flexibility to the employees who prefer flexibility. Done well, it can ensure proper staffing levels no matter the source of unpredictability!

Need more convincing? Let’s chat! info@syrg.app.

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