Employee Scheduling Glossary

Jan 27, 2023

Like many software specialisations, Employee Scheduling has lots of jargon, acronyms, abbreviations and technical terms. In our employee scheduling glossary, we attempt to list the more regular terms and explain what they mean

Auto Scheduling

A software engine used to allocate shifts to staff. Increasingly these are AI-powered because of the complexity of the problem being solved. Auto scheduling tools need to take into account demand, budget, compliance rules, staff preferences and shift patterns, this can often only be done using machine learning or artificial intelligence.

Employee Scheduling

Employee scheduling is a three-stage process for allocating shift to staff:

  • Predicting the demand for staff and generating a demand curve
  • Converting the demand curve into a number of discrete shifts
  • Assigning those shifts to employees in an optimal way


When referring to employee scheduling, demand relates to the number of employees of each role that are needed in 30 minute or hourly segment.

Demand Curve

Is the intraday distribution of forecasted workload used to generate a schedule. 


Also known as a work rota, a schedule or roster is a documented plan which indicates the employees that need to do each shift at a workplace. It will also document the dates and times at which they are scheduled to do it and their responsibilities.

Schedule Optimization

The action of making the best or most effective use of available staff to fill the predicted number of shifts. Schedules can be optimised to meet demand, budget, compliance, staff preferences, fairness or several other factors. Building the optimal schedule is a complex staff and modern systems now rely on AI or machine learning to build optimal schedules.


A software tool for creating a rota. Can be manual or automated.


A period of time for a specific role that needs to be filled in a specific department or venue. For example, a 9-5 shift as a baker in the bakery department.

Shift Accept

A tool which allows managers to offer available shifts to relevant staff on a first come, first serve basis. It is very similar to the functionality required to allows shift swapping but gives managers greater control over who is offered the shift.

Shift Swapping

A self-service tool which allows employees to swap shifts with each other. This can be for many reasons, but most often in the event of a conflict between their work and personal lives. It normally does not require approval from a manager.

Shift Work

According to wikipedia “Shift work is an employment practice designed to make use of, or provide service across, all 24 hours of the clock each day of the week. The practice typically sees the day divided into shifts, set periods of time during which different groups of workers perform their duties”.

Task Management

Is the WFM module that assigns individual tasks to employees to complete during their shifts. Examples include cleaning, internet picking, shelf stocking, etc. An optimal rota may be optimised to ensure that there are enough skilled staff on-site to cover all predicted tasks. A recommendation engine may also be available to recommend which of the staff on site should do each task.

Work Rota

Another phrase for Rota

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