Our customers request little from our employees other than a pleasant disposition," maintains Linn Moedinger, vice-president and chief mechanical officer for the Strasburg Rail Road, a steam-powered rail service carrying 375,000 tourists and passengers a year through Pennsylvania Dutch farmland, in Lancaster County. Of course, customers also want trains to run on time, which requires a policy of zero tolerance for employee absences. Moedinger responded by designing a scheduling system that keeps trains running and employees happy.

Employees have to find their own replacements, in return for control over their schedules. By the 15th of each month, employees indicate the times they are available to work the following month. Moedinger juggles the requests of up to 30 full- and part-time workers and posts the schedule. After that, employees are 100% responsible for replacements. "They do switch among themselves--some months they practically erase through the paper," remarks Moedinger. "But a qualified crew member is on the job every time."

Moedinger hasn't had a scheduling problem since the company fully implemented the new system. Some workers view flexible schedules as a form of compensation for modest salaries, and contented train crews give better customer service.

Copyright 1997 G+J USA Publishing