By Dan Whitehead
Jul. 2, 2021
Shift planning is arguably the most important responsibility a manager must shoulder. Get it wrong, and your entire business grinds to a halt. That risk can make the task seem intimidating, particularly if you’re doing it for the first time. It doesn’t have to be a massive ordeal, though. With the right systems and processes, a lot of the most worrisome aspects are easily resolved.
As one of the world’s best-established staff management organizations, Workforce.com is uniquely placed to help guide you through the shift planning maze with your sanity intact. Follow these best-practice solutions, and you’ll soon build up tried and tested shift planning skills that you can rely on in the future.
The best preparation you can do for shift planning is to know your business inside and out. Filling all the shifts is meaningless if done randomly. Here are the basics you should cover before assigning employees anywhere.
By making these a core part of your shift planning process, you’ll head off lots of future problems and build your schedules on rock-solid foundations.
Once you’re armed with as much intimate knowledge of your market conditions and predicted needs, it’s just a case of filling those empty shifts. With the right preparation, this part of the job should already be less intimidating, but here are the key things to keep in mind when you create a shift schedule.
It can be a lot to take in, and for people new to shift planning this is where the feeling of being overwhelmed can rear up again. Trust your data, be methodical, and even the most complex shift planning job can be broken down into manageable parts. Remember, you can always use scheduling software to automatically match employees to shifts based on your criteria.
If you manage shift workers and aren’t yet familiar with the concept of predictive scheduling laws, then you should brush up on the details even if you don’t operate in an area where they are in effect.
The penalties for breaching these laws can be steep as they apply to each infraction. If you have multiple shift workers whose schedules do not comply, the fines will mount. Careful planning and good recordkeeping will help ensure you are not exposed to unnecessary legal risks. As well as compiling your shift data automatically, employee scheduling software like Workforce can be easily set up to catch infractions at the scheduling stage, eliminating the danger of falling foul of predictive scheduling legislation in your region.
Even if you are not legally required to follow these laws, it’s worth implementing some of the changes regardless. Studies have shown that workers who have advance notice of shifts and healthy breaks in between are more productive and stay with companies longer. If staff churn is an issue for you, taking a long-term approach to shift planning may help retain employees.
No schedule is written in stone, of course, and employees will want to take personal time off. This doesn’t need to throw your shift planning into disarray, provided you have established a clear framework for managing employee time-off requests.
As a manager, keeping track of who has time off and when is vital. You don’t want to approve requests that leave you understaffed. Using scheduling software is the quick and easy way to avoid this as it can automatically alert you whenever a time-off request creates a problem elsewhere on the schedule.
Emergencies will happen, and staff will sometimes not be able to work for unpredictable reasons. While this is never ideal, staff coverage doesn’t have to be a problem. In fact, you will already have insulated your business against this issue by preparing properly for shift planning in the first place.
The most robust way of minimizing the impact of staff unavailability is to allow employees to swap shifts to plug these unexpected gaps.
The idea of shift swaps, or shift trades, can create anxiety for some managers. Giving employees the option to swap shifts with each other seems to fly in the face of shift planning. A shift trade policy can actually be a benefit to both the staff and the company when properly managed. Not only does it help fill the gaps caused by unexpected staff shortages, but almost half of workers say that they consider flexibility the most important benefit when job hunting.
If you still handle your shift planning using spreadsheets or pen and paper, then tracking and implementing shift trade requests does become exponentially more complicated. Shift planning software makes the process painless by allowing employees to make their requests digitally while empowering managers to offer open shifts to specific workers.
Shift planning is less intimidating when you approach it fully prepared and break it down into a methodical process. Taking control of shift planning doesn’t just make the life of managers less stressful, but it also results in more efficient use of your employees and a company culture that is less likely to be derailed by staffing issues.
There’s nothing involved in this process that can’t be done using whatever shift planning method you currently prefer, but if the complexity of the task still overwhelms you, then consider trying shift planning software to ease the strain.
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