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Social Choice and Beyond
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Employee Cooperative Shift Choice
Mood:  chillin'
Now Playing: Thelonious Monk

I have blogged before about employee shift bidding which has been used by hospitals to schedule shifts for nurses. This gives the nurses some choice over their preferred shifts and pay levels. Employees would usually be able to get a higher pay rate for working less desirable shifts such as the graveyard shift. Employees who want the more desirable shifts would usually have to work for less. From the hospital's viewpoint, they can choose the nurse with the lowest bid for any particular shift thus minimizing their total budget.

What I am proposing here is a cooperative shift choice arrangement which would be appropriate for a worker's cooperative such as the Mondragon Corporation in Spain. In this situation the goal would not be to minimize total workers' pay as it would be in a for profit corporation. The overall budget for worker/owners would be set by some procedure such as negotiations between management and labor. Then subject to the overall constraint, workers would input their preferences as to shift choice and pay level. A computer program (or algorithm) would then seek to maximize worker satisfaction within the overall budgetary constraint. A detailed paper, "Algorithm for Employment Cooperative Shift Choice," can be found here.

This process goes beyond shift bidding or mere first come, first served scheduling. In addition to shift choices and pay levels, other parameters could be taken into account such as job location and work assignment assuming that the employee is qualified for more than one kind of work. More flexible time commitments than fixed shifts could also be considered. There is no reason why an employee couldn't work a certain number of hours on a particular day in a time slot of his or her own preference and a different number on another day in a different time slot as long as the need for employee coverage of shifts was met. This might be considered a secondary constraint.

In general a society or entities within a society which give individuals as much choice as possible over their work/pay schedules would tend to maximize employee and worker satisfaction. I have called this preferensism. It is based on utilitarianism which seeks to maximizes societal satisfaction or happiness. Recently, there has been much interest in basing a society on Gross National Happiness rather than GDP (Gross Domestic Product). Consumer choice can also be taken into account in terms of what is produced or stocked. Computerized consumer choice is already widely available, but there is no direct link between consumer choice and what is produced. "Just-in-time" production scheduling tends to make production a function of consumer choice, but consumers are generally "pushed" into consuming by advertising rather than producers being pushed by consumers  so that only that which is really needed gets produced.

Posted by jclawrence at 2:06 PM PST

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