A stochastic goal program for employee scheduling

Fred F. Easton, Donald F. Rossin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Deterministic goal programs for employee scheduling decisions attempt to minimize expected operating costs by assigning the ideal number of employees to each feasible schedule. For each period in the planning horizon, managers must first determine the amount of labor that should be scheduled for duty. These requirements are often established with marginal analysis techniques, which use estimates for incremental labor costs and shortage expenses. Typically, each period in the planning horizon is evaluated as an independent epoch. An implicit assumption is that individual employees can be assigned to schedules with as little as a single period of work. If this assumption violates local work rules, the labor requirements parameters for the deterministic goal program may be suboptimal. As we show in this research, this well-known limitation can lead to costly staffing and scheduling errors. We propose an employee scheduling model that overcomes this limitation by integrating the labor requirements and scheduling decisions. Instead of a single, externally determined staffing goal for each period, the model uses a probability distribution for the quantity of labor required. The model is free to choose an appropriate staffing level for each period, eliminating the need for a separate goal-setting procedure. In most cases this results in better, less costly decisions. In addition, the proposed model easily accommodates both linear and nonlinear under-and overstaffing penalties. We use simple examples to demonstrate many of these advantages and to illustrate the key techniques necessary to implement our model. We also assess its performance in a study of more than 1,700 simulated stochastic employee scheduling problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)541-568
Number of pages28
JournalDecision Sciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1996


  • Goal Programming
  • Labor and Staff Planning
  • Service Operations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Business, Management and Accounting
  • Strategy and Management
  • Information Systems and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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