Need more time on your hands?
The job of a scheduler/dispatcher can get busy….fast. But there can also be times when the schedule goes pretty much as planned and there is a little time to breathe. So, do you need help? Or do you just need to adjust procedures during the busy times?
Some days the schedule is just plain busy. There is no way around it. Maybe there are important meetings coming up, maybe you have lost an employee and you are tasked with doing everything until the new person is hired. Maybe you have added another aircraft to the fleet. Whatever the reason, you may find yourself in need of more “hands” to get everything done. So, what do you do now? What are your options.
You could just suck it up and do it all yourself, possibly letting some things fall thru the cracks. You could adjust the departments expectations of how much you will be able to do until the schedule gets slower but then many times you are just left with a pile of stuff to do when the schedule does get slower. These items could be tasked to others although they may be busy as well and there is often a steep learning curve with much of the software and processes that are used in S&D. You could get outside help from a contract scheduler/dispatcher, but how do you do that, and does it really help?
If you just continue to do it all yourself what is the outcome? A few things come into play here. Is the busy schedule something that just happens once in a long while or is it happening regularly? Many in the S&D role like to feel like we have “saved the day”, to feel like we have gotten the job done against all odds; even if it interferes with our mental or physical health. How many of us have seen or been the person who stays long hours, does the extra work, goes the extra mile only to go home to a home life that is nonexistent or not as happy as it could be? I am not expecting that everyone will have a giant family or lots of outside interests but there needs to be a balance. Everyone needs downtime. If your department is crazy busy, frequently, odds are something is going to fall thru the cracks if you try and do it all yourself. Another victim of trying to do it all yourself is a certain amount of forward thinking. Anticipating new trends and needs, foreseeing possible issues in the schedule, and being able to recognize and address those items are incredibly important skills. Those skills take valuable time. Time which often is spent booking a car rental, adjusting a trip time, talking to an FBO. All easy tasks but still tasks that must get done before the trip goes out successfully. Ultimately our job is to get the trip out the door safely and correctly and often the other tasks get put on the side burner.
If you are busy, another option would be to task others in your department with small items that help take some of the heat off S&D. Do your plots have collateral duties? Either way, can they be tasked with calling FBO’s? Can they learn the software to add notes about fuel, Rental cars etc. so everyone is in the loop? How about the executive admins? Can they help with passenger transportation? How can you teach them about FBO car delivery? If tasking some of these projects to others, there are a host of things that also need to be considered. What is the training time needed so they can do the task correctly? Do they have time in their schedule to do the extra tasks? One other thing I would like to address is long term planning. When investing time and effort into training someone, it is wise to think long term. Will this person or position be a long-term solution? Can you rely on the outsourced task to be done when you need it to be? Ideally, the training for the task will be thorough and documented. (The process of documenting the S&D procedures itself is an outstanding project that can help the department streamline where needed, but I digress and that can be a whole topic by itself). The training will take time out of your already busy day but will be worth it in the end IF that person can consistently help you out. If not, spending time on training person after person will most likely cost you more time that it would take to do It yourself. Ultimately, if there is inside help who can willingly take on some of the tasks that are needed and that someone will do those projects long term, this can be an ideal solution.
The last option I will highlight is to look outside your department to a S&D sub-contractor that has a set of skills that would complement you and your department. But…. how do you integrate that person? What if they don’t know the specific procedure for that one special airport that you go to? What happens if it doesn’t get done correctly? How do I teach an outsider all the ins and outs of my department? These are all valid questions and ones you need to think on before you start the search for the right person. First, you need to think about what work would you like to pass along to someone else? Do you want them to do projects like uploading documents? Tracking training? Notifying FBOs? Or do you want someone to cover the whole schedule when you are out? Watch the weekend schedule? Will you want someone to be paid on an hourly basis or daily? Most contractors are open to doing a combination of the above, but it is really helpful to know what you need before you start reaching out. Now, where to find a contractor? Answer: There are 2 ways, 1) Go thru a placement agency. There are a couple aviation-based ones out there and they usually have a few S&D contractors on their approved list. 2) Use an independent contractor. Reaching out on the NBAA Airmail list will surely get you some good responses. Reach out to others in the industry as well. Once you have a good list of options, you now must choose which one is best for you. Most contractors already know the basic S&D skills, but it is important to ask about the software they are familiar with, how much international experience do they have (if you need help with that) and how are they set up? Do you need to provide the computer or are they already equipped with that? Another good question is how long have they been doing contract work and what are their long term goals? Again, the same as using an inside person, if you must train and retrain a contractor, it defeats the purpose. Aim to select the one that will be there to help when you need it, long term, ideally without the need for too much training.
Each one of the above options has pros and cons to it. A sign of a good department, in my opinion, is being proactive about finding a good solution. Realizing that your department is getting busier, more often, and knowing you may need an extra set of hands is a proactive approach that can make the difference between letting something drop thru the cracks and making sure every trip is done successfully. Well run flight departments stay in business longer which in turn helps everyone!