If you think staff scheduling is tricky you’re not alone. Most managers find it one of the most challenging parts of their job, you have to combine expert and current employee knowledge, with time management and flexibility. It’s no easy feat but we have a few tips to help you avoid some of the most obvious, yet common staff scheduling mistakes so you can begin 2021 with ease. 

Be Clear About Time Off Requests 

Staff scheduling is hard enough without employees requesting or worse demanding that they have a certain shift off when you simply don’t have the cover for them to do so. Most of the time this is then intensified by poor communication between management and employees. Managers haven’t made it clear that ‘time off requests’ are just that. Requests. Employees are free to put in their requests but it doesn’t mean they are 100% going to get them when the wider considerations of the business and ability to cover that person also have to be included in the decision making process. 

To combat this, make it clear to employees what the process is when they hand in a ‘request’ and give them the tools or mechanism to make this a simple and flexible process. Establish clear communications that employees should hand their request in by a certain time in advance of their day off and that it is only confirmed once you have approved it. If you simply can’t get the cover, request that they find a colleague who can cover the shift. Once they have found someone, confirm with both employees they are ok with this and then sign it off. 

Give Staff More Than One Day Off Between Shifts 

This is obvious but so many managers still believe it’s ok to do. Constantly giving staff only one day off between shifts is a recipe for poor productivity and customer service.We all experience how quickly a two day weekend passes by so a one day break will vanish in the blink of an eye leaving employees feeling like they haven’t had rest from work. Minimum of two days will ensure that your staff members come back feeling revitalised, refreshed and ready to be productive. Happy employees mean happy customers which will positively impact your bottom line in the long-term. 

Follow The 2.1 Ratio When Planning Shifts

It is a fact of life that you will have some team members that are stronger than others in certain areas. Perhaps Sally is better at getting orders in quickly and Bob is great at leading the team whilst Susan struggles to remember her head if it weren’t screwed on. The golden 2.1 ratio is to schedule two strong employees for every weaker employee. This is to ensure that you always have a strong team to get the job done. 

Not only does this help the team deliver great output but it can also help strengthen the skills of the weaker employee. They can learn from the best and pick up traits and behaviours which the stronger employees hold. The weaker employees will eventually become a top-performing employee from whom a weaker one can learn, and so the cycle continues.

Avoid Creating Your Rotas On Excel Spreadsheets 

If your company is still like many out there, you still create rotas on an Excel spreadsheet or even worse paper and then print them out and pin them up. Now, whenever any changes are made you have to scribble out names, reprint the document and notify all those who need to know. It becomes a tiring and tedious task which makes you more reluctant to be flexible with your shift planning. In turn your employees become unhappy with the lack of freedom that they receive with their schedules. 

To overcome this it’s crucial that you use a staff scheduling software tool that allows you to easily make changes at any time from anywhere and communicate with everyone in a few simple steps. ShopWorks is an easy to use and free to try  Workforce Management solutions that give you a central overview of your workforce, spending, compliance, predictions across the entire organisation. Any changes made to shifts can be offered to available employees within the portal making it easy for managers to be flexible whatever the type of business or working patterns.

Ensure Employees Are Aware Of How The ‘Time Off’ Process Works

No matter what industry you are in, there will always be overlapping availability issues. So how do you decide who takes priority when it comes to time off? Perhaps you choose the person who has been with you the longest, or the person who gave their availability to you first or maybe you simply do a lottery draw. One of the major reasons for a high staff turn over that was given as the main reason for leaving was ‘shift equality’, which is why it is so valuable to usea system such as Shopworks to ensure this isn't happening to you.. 

Whichever method you choose, it’s absolutely crucial that you explain this to your team. Staff rotas can be one of the biggest causes for employee frustration, unhappiness or insecurity. They may think that you favour a certain member of staff or perhaps you don’t value them enough to give them the time off that they need. To clear up this miscommunication make it known to your employees exactly how you are planning your rota this will eliminate any negative assumptions from your team. 

Staff scheduling doesn’t have to be a difficult ordeal. In fact, if you take anything away from this article remember this. Shift planning is effective when you are completely transparent and honest with your team and when you have the tools you need to be efficient and agile. 

Author description: 
Hayley Biggs Marketing Coordinator at Ocasta 

Ocasta is an employee-focused technology agency. They’ve helped the likes of Virgin Media, Next and Tesco Mobile with their employee knowledge platform