G8 Education is using AI-based scheduling to provide stable childcare in disruptive times

G8 Education uses Widget Brain to gain more insight and control over their staff's schedules.

To schedule for a wide range of childcare centres, G8 relies on Widget Brain. By utilising a combination of demand forecasting and automation for staff schedules, G8 has been able to handle disruptive times.

Features used

  • Demand Forecasting
  • Automated Scheduling
  • Capacity Planning

Ensuring quality care

When it comes to child care, parents want the best for their children. G8 Education is one of those trusted centers.  With more than 470 locations and 11,000 team members in Australia, G8’s mission is to consistently provide quality care each day, even in disruptive times like COVID-19.

We spoke with Jason Ball, Chief Operations Officer at G8, about their challenges with volatile demand and scheduling efficiency at the start of the crisis and finding the solution in AI and automation to ensure quality care, meet employees’ needs and comply with regulations in their scheduling. 

Dealing with a complicated scheduling landscape

“With our wide range of G8 childcare centres operating across the country, we realised we needed more insight and control over our staff schedules. However, like many other companies, we were then severely disrupted by COVID-19” explains Jason. 

Even before the virus struck, scheduling in the childcare industry has always been a complicated and time-consuming process. The company always has to ensure there are enough caretakers for the number of children present, qualifications match, and breaks are scheduled according to Australian legislation. On top of that, G8 also strives to improve the quality of care and education in its centres and staff more efficiently. What drives this process is the number of child care enrolments and attendances. However, this number became more unpredictable than ever when COVID-19 struck. Parents withdrew children due to safety fears and job loss, then re-enrolled with the introduction of free child care. Since the number of children in the centres differed greatly even during the day, it subsequently became harder to adequately schedule the legally required number of caretakers. 

"Widget Brain adapted quickly and now provides ongoing support to us in our response to the pandemic, helping us understand the needs of families and their children and staff." - Jason Ball, Chief Operations Officer

“Maintaining the quality of education and care for the children in our G8 Education centres is non-negotiable” Jason explains.  And with this, G8 Education kickstarted their plan to deploy a big data and AI-based scheduling approach.  

Utilising labor data and predicting attendance

To get a full picture of attendance at different points in time, predictive scenarios were made based on data about historical arrivals and departures, no-shows, casuals, and holidays. The scenarios range from all children coming back at once to possible declines in students. The output is a detailed forecast of children expected for each room in each centre, every 15-minutes of the day.

To make efficient schedules, AI technology is used to calculate the required number of educators in each room based on staff to child ratios. From there a roster is automatically created that is compliant with regulations covering all team members’ breaks and flexible hours.

“Widget Brain adapted quickly and now provides ongoing support to us in our response to the pandemic, helping us understand the needs of families and their children and staff" Jason says.

When it comes to children, we want the best for our children, and Widget Brain has contributed to that.  

Mr Ball explains: “Widget Brain is helping us to ensure that we have the right people at the right times in the right places in every one of our centres. It also meant that we could respond quickly to parents in need of last-minute casual care, confident that we would not breach the required ratios. We are now in a place where our rosters and shifts are balanced so that we can deliver the best care possible in our G8 centres.”

Not only do children get the best care possible, the use of AI technology also has positive effects on employees. Mr Ball elaborates: “The danger of under-staffing is an unreasonable burden on the whole team while over-staffing can equally lead to job dissatisfaction. The efficiencies delivered by Widget Brain help to improve team member satisfaction.”

Improved scheduling efficiency

The pandemic had placed unprecedented pressure on every child care business and leveraging technology to drive efficiencies would assist long-term sustainability.

“Widget Brain presented the perfect solution and we planned a full-scale roster reset using their technology”, says Jason. The solution was also intended to reduce the rostering burden on centre managers who must assign part-time and full-time staff, including cooks, educators, teachers, and assistants following all regulations. 

Jason continues: “We are able to use the information from their data analysis to steer the business and create unprecedented efficiency, ensuring the right number of childcare workers are present each day. They work alongside us as a team.” 

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