The Shift Planning Primer

Employee Scheduling ought to be that one truly great contact, every week.

Good Shift Planning lets you do it!

Your one great in, every week is a chance to renew that commitment.

Every email is too.

For many of our best clients, those who are the most pleased – like retail stores, hospitals and call centers – and even a few factories – operations are going on 24 hours a day and seven days every week. Numbers are looking good, thank goodness but…

Keeping these places going means staffing them with reliable, attentive and dedicated people. The costs to organizations who don’t realize this are just ridiculous. Unfortunately for all of us, though, that “employees-last” model remains very much the Standard Operating Procedure.

Yet for each of them, that scheduling email remains the one make-or-break email that they send out.

If your scheduling email is not optimized – for employee engagement, continuous improvement and talent retention – then you’re almost certainly losing people – and money.

But before all of that, let’s take a look at what your shift planning really needs to include. Under-staffing and over-staffing are both problematic – and for different reasons – but at the end of the day, too many or too few people costs you money.

1) Understand Employees

We do a lot of work with smaller retail and call center outfits who hire students. Students working short part-time shifts – and older adults are both two very different markets. They can work together too. In fact, lots of happy older adults wouldn’t have it any other way. Knowing their preferences also means knowing something about their lifestyles too. Adults with younger kids can be your very best employees but they have very different needs from younger people with no kids. Retirement age seniors can also be very profitably employed but their no good to you if you aren’t ready to listen to them.

2) Understand Shifts

It’s important to estimate staffing requirements across shifts and at all varying hours. Seasons, months, weeks – all of them bring different demands. The people you need will change, too. Knowing peak hours and external factors that can affect them is just plain crucial for the scheduling manager. Likewise, communicating knowledge of that demand is also important.

3) Clarify Employee Classifications

The important thing about dividing employees into groups or scales is really that you let them know. It doesn’t mean creating strict divisions but usually you’re dividing by “skill set” and experience. That might be followed by a consideration of seniority. But the important thing here is that this be relatively public information. We say “relatively” because you don’t need to post it for all employees to see. But every employee deserves a brief explanation of how decisions are made and why. Employees should also be able to understand exactly how they can supplement their skill sets to get better access to different shifts.

4) Plan for Holidays

This is another area where a clear policy is your best friend. A month’s notice for vacations is standard, but also, make sure that employees understand why or why not. Holiday seasons can create a demand for staff, or they can deaden everything. Plan yours aapropritately

5) Public posting of Employee Schedules

Obviously, Ximble schedules are on the internet. They can always be read by anyone that you grant permission to view them. But keep in mind how much of the schedule each employee needs to see. In general you want them to see more – rather than less – of a given schedule.

6) Work towards ever more Flexibility

Badly implemented Flex-Time plans can cost more than their worth. But once you’re getting used to whatever system you’re using, practice rolling out more and different policies. A well designed Flex-Time plan should allow employees to voluntarily prevent you from any over-staffing or under-staffing – EVER AGAIN. Work towards making whatever kind of schedule you’re working with.

But short of actual Flex-time, allowing for greater employee flexibility in making their own schedules is still always a good thing for employees. Make it good for you too. The point to shift planning is really to enunciate rules about supply and demand, to anticipate when you’ll need more or fewer people, and then to establish ways for your employees to meet those needs.



Karin Jakovljevic

About the author

Karin Jakovljevic

Karin Jakovljevic is the head of marketing at Ximble, a powerful, cloud-based workforce management system, simplifying employee scheduling and time tracking for retailers, restaurants and small businesses.

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