Stearns County (MN) Sheriff's Office, less than two hours from Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport, saw a demo of Vector Scheduling (formerly CrewSense) in 2020 and quickly realized how the web-based tool could easily streamline their complex Emergency Communications Center (ECC) scheduling needs. By January 1, 2021, after being sold on the powerful online platform's capabilities, the department was using Vector Scheduling to manage regular schedules, overtime, special assignments, and shift trades for more than two dozen full-time and part-time public safety telecommunicators.
Communications Sergeant Michele Burke has been with Stearns County Sheriff's Office 20 years. As the head of scheduling for the Dispatch Center, Sgt. Burke understood first-hand the staff scheduling challenges they faced. Serving 14 police agencies, including Stearns' 77 sworn officers, approximately 100 sworn officers in the neighboring town of St. Cloud, smaller surrounding towns, 30 fire/rescue departments, and six ambulance services, Sgt. Burke needed better insight into the number of dispatchers on shift at any given time to support their first responders.
Before selecting Vector Scheduling, Stearns County SO Dispatch Center used painstaking Excel spreadsheets for years to manage staff schedules.
"I was counting excel spreadsheet boxes; it was a nightmare. Vector Scheduling is super helpful."
Michele Burke, Communications Sergeant for Stearns County Sheriff's Office
Using a server-based program like Excel meant dispatchers could only access the schedule from work computers, forcing them to manually write down their schedule and transfer it to their personal calendar. Because Vector Scheduling is a web-based tool, all dispatchers, supervisors, and administrators can quickly and easily access the schedule and get the information they need right from their mobile device, anytime, anywhere.
For Sgt. Burke, the most important factor in choosing Vector Scheduling over competitors was its convenient staffing count feature. "My main goal is to have a certain number of butts in seats during specific hours of the day," Sgt. Burke shared. Needing to see what counted towards staffing levels was critical to ensure proper coverage for the areas they served.
With Vector Scheduling, Sgt. Burke could create assignments to track staffing every day. She set up two shift assignments for days and two for nights and uses the Point in Time Count feature to see who is on-shift at any given time of the day. Now, she could clearly see if her staffing needs for the minimum requirement of three people from 3 a.m.-10 a.m. and four people from 10 a.m.-3 a.m. were being met.
Sgt. Burke wasn't the only one appreciating Vector Scheduling over their old spreadsheet system. She noted how much the dispatchers were enjoying the automation and flexibility the tool offered. With Vector Scheduling, they can now access their schedule, sign up for special assignments, and trade shifts right from the mobile app on their phone.
The Shift Trade feature is especially attractive to dispatchers, as Stearns County SO has enabled them to self-manage trading shifts through the platform without the need for supervisor approval. "I like how the shift trades show up in the schedule and that they can manage it themselves. That's a really nice feature," Sgt. Burke said. And since supervisors have insight into the system, they can track if any issues develop from allowing dispatchers to self-manage shift trades and adjust permissions as needed.
Another feature Sgt. Burke uses is the System Log function. Because the system tracks all historical activity, she can tell exactly who has done what in the past, preventing accidental changes from potentially impacting the platform's functionality.
Also, with the platform's intuitive notification system, Sgt. Burke can now notify dispatchers of shift changes automatically and use the history log to see whether they received the notification or not. This automated documentation provides confidence that she is meeting contractual obligations to give the dispatchers shift change notifications in the required timeframe.
The scalable, streamlined web-based Vector Scheduling solution has afforded Stearns County Sheriff's Office the ability to customize their scheduling strategy and pivot resources as needed based on data-driven metrics. From setting up multiple templates to enabling anytime, anywhere access for users to establishing permissions and notification preferences and more, Sgt. Burke can now do it all with one easy-to-use workforce management solution.