It's not often that scholars like Susan Lambert get a chance to put their ideas into practice.
But that's exactly what she's doing through her work with the new Workforce Educational Organization.
As head of the group's academic advisory committee, Lambert is helping to shape its professional certification on scheduling and other workforce management matters to take into account both employer and employee views.
"I am really excited about this," she says. "As academics, we usually sit around and talk to each other."
Lambert is a professor in the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. Her research has focused on the way organizations, often using advanced workforce management software tools, take "just-in-time" scheduling to an extreme.
She has shown that tightly pairing labor levels with variations in consumer demand has hidden downsides for both workers and managers. For instance, volatile schedules can make it difficult for workers to care for families, which leads to higher turnover.
In the wake of that article Lambert was contacted by Lisa Disselkamp, a business consultant who has specialized in workforce management practices and technology. Disselkamp spearheaded the creation last year of the Workforce Educational Organization, a professional group working on a certification for those in charge of scheduling, time-and-attendance and related practices and software applications.
As part of a broader effort to include employee perspectives in workforce management, Disselkamp made Lambert the head of the WEO academic advisory council. Lambert also is writing sections of the WEO's "book of knowledge" that will serve as the basis for its upcoming professional certification.
Lambert hasn't been a completely cloistered academic. She was invited to meetings on workplace flexibility held by the Obama administration. But Lambert is particularly hopeful her involvement with the WEO will change scheduling practices. Lambert says she has been pleasantly surprised that business professionals associated with the WEO also are interested in promoting scheduling strategies that take into account both employee and employer needs.
Lambert points to a meeting late last year at Logan Airport in Boston with software providers and human resources consultants.
"There was no pushback from anyone," Lambert says. "What I did at that airport in Boston is likely to matter more than my meetings with Washington officials."
Ed Frauenheim is Workforce Management's senior editor. To comment, email firstname.lastname@example.org.