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8 tips to improve your staff scheduling

Efficient scheduling can safeguard your business against understaffing and overstaffing. It can help promote work-life balance, increase job satisfaction and improve retention. Managers can gain a clearer view of total employment costs and forecast future staffing needs that benefit changing circumstances. On top of that, a robust staff schedule can ensure adequate compliance with UK labour laws and regulations and optimise productivity and customer satisfaction.

But where do you begin? How can you create a staff schedule that genuinely works for your team and business?

1. Know your workforce inside out

First things first, understanding the ebb and flow of your employees’ work preferences is pivotal. Your team is composed of individuals with different skills, availability, and preferences. Therefore, taking the time to understand each team member’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as any personal commitments or time-off requests, is an absolute must if you want to create an efficient staff schedule. This information will help you assign suitable tasks and shifts to each employee, ensuring maximum productivity and job satisfaction.

However, achieving this doesn’t have to be a chore of sifting through emails of availability and time-off requests or checking every employee’s CV for their skills. There are now a variety of efficient scheduling tools that can help managers keep track of all this essential information in one central location.

Employees and managers can update their availability and preferences in real time, making it easier to create a schedule that works for everyone. And with an all-in-one HR platform that includes a learning and development and performance management module, you can have a good idea of the skill set of each employee to plan accordingly.

2. Considering employee preferences

However, knowing your workforce goes beyond just understanding their professional strengths, preferences and availability.

Given a Deloitte study’s insight on employee well-being, enabling employees to have a say in their schedules can lead to a more content and productive workforce. The study, which surveyed 2,100 employees and C-level executives across the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia, revealed a significant gap between how executives perceive their employees’ well-being and how the employees themselves report their experiences. While 91% of the C-suite believed their employees felt cared for, only 56% felt that their company’s executives cared about their well-being.

This study is testemant to the fact that a company can only truly care for its employees if they listen to their needs and preferences, including their scheduling preferences.

Here is where a digital tool, such as scheduling software that automatically creates a schedule based on the demands of the shift and employees’ availability, comes in handy. Not only does it save managers time and effort, but it also gives employees a sense of control over their schedules, leading to better work-life balance and overall job satisfaction.

So, encourage your employees to express ideal working conditions, preferred shift times, time off requests, and any constraints they may have. Understand their strengths, their weaknesses, and their preferred tasks. And lastly, make sure you consider all this information when creating your staff schedule.

3. Balancing the needs of the business and employees

Now, while you want to empower your employees to have a say in their schedules, you also need to maintain some level of control and organisation. At the end of the day, you are creating these rota schedules to ensure the business runs smoothly and efficiently. Therefore, it is essential to find a balance between employee preferences and business needs.

For instance, say you have a shift that requires an employee on-site with a certain certification or skillset. While an employee may prefer to work from home on that day, it is crucial to consider the business’s needs and ensure you have someone with the necessary qualifications available for that shift.

Moreover, while giving employees a choice in their schedules is essential for job satisfaction, as a manager, you must also ensure fair shifts and tasks distribution among your team members. This will help avoid overworking certain employees and underutilising others.

But, of course, this can be hard to keep track of. Especially if you have a large team and shift changes occur frequently. In this case, it might be worth investing in a scheduling tool that can automatically balance workload and distribute shifts evenly while still taking into account employee preferences and business needs.

4. Optimise shift schedules based on busy hours

Your staff scheduling system should also be a precise mechanism that maps out peak business hours with employee productivity in mind. Analyse historical data on your business’s customer traffic patterns and optimise them with times when your team members’ work preferences and skills. This alignment not only maximises the utilisation of employee strengths during the hours that matter most but also ensures that every customer interaction is met with excellence.

To achieve this, a scheduling system equipped with integration and analytic capabilities will be your saviour in assessing factors such as seasonality, budgetary constraints, and upcoming events. This insight will be the beacon of light that will guide your hand as you plot out the optimal deployment of employee shift schedules.

For example, if you are in hospitality, weekends and holiday seasons are likely your peak times. Given this, scheduling more experienced staff during these busiest hours would be wise to handle the higher volume of customers while giving newer employees opportunities to learn during less busy times.

It is also recommended that you save the scheduling templates created for these peak hours for a day when you are short-staffed; you can fill gaps quickly without too much fuss, ensuring that your business runs smoothly and efficiently even during unexpected staffing shortages.

5. Comply with legal requirements

This is, of course, a non-negotiable. You must stay on top of changing employment laws to avoid the severe repercussions of non-compliance. Take, for instance, the Working Time Regulations. If your business falls short of adhering to its requirements, company directors could potentially face hefty fines or even imprisonment of up to two years. This is not something that you want to risk.

Therefore, it is crucial that you stay up-to-date with the latest regulations and ensure that your scheduling practices are in full compliance. This includes monitoring hours worked, providing adequate breaks and rest periods, and ensuring employees are not overworked or underpaid.

You also want to ensure that your staff are fully compliant themselves. If they have to operate certain machinery, are their certifications up-to-date? Do they have the necessary training for their roles? Do they have the correct working visa if they are foreign nationals? These are all crucial factors to consider when creating your staff schedule and ensuring that your business operates within the bounds of the law.

Using a sophisticated staff scheduling software that keeps all your businesses legal requirements in mind with automated checks, but also alerts you to potential violations before they occur, you can maintain legal compliance effortlessly.

At the end of the day, it is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that all employees are treated fairly and legally. By keeping on top of legal requirements, you not only avoid costly fines but also create a workforce management process built on respect and fairness.

6. Minimising last-minute schedule changes

It would be unrealistic of us to advise you to create the perfect schedule and expect that it will never have to be changed. That’s not how the world works. People get sick. Emergencies happen. Sometimes, employees need to request changes to their schedules for personal reasons.

However, constant and last-minute schedule changes can be a significant source of frustration for your employees who need to cover shift gaps or rearrange their personal lives to accommodate work. It can also be a headache for those responsible for making the administration changes.

To minimise these issues, establish clear policies and procedures for requesting schedule changes. Encourage your employees to give notice as early as possible when they need time off or want to change their shifts. And promote the use of a designated communication tool, which will centralise requests and responses, ensuring transparency and efficiency.

6 steps for establishing employee understanding for schedule adjustments

  1. Documentation: Create written documentation detailing the policies for schedule changes and disseminate this information to all staff.
  2. Training: Conduct training sessions to ensure that every employee comprehends the new procedures and knows how to use the designated communication tool effectively.
  3. Feedback loop: Introduce a feedback loop, allowing employees to voice their concerns or suggestions about the staff scheduling process, fostering continuous improvement.
  4. Lead time: Enforce a minimum lead time for schedule requests to allow for adequate adjustment planning.
  5. Managerial oversight: Ensure managerial oversight for approving changes, with managers equipped to make decisions that align workforce needs with business requirements.
  6. Contingency plan: Develop a contingency plan that outlines the protocol for last-minute changes due to emergencies, ensuring such instances are handled promptly without significant disruption.

All the above should be easily accessible on their HR system, where employees can reference the protocols whenever needed. And if you have a system such as elementsuite that will allow employees to request shift changes via their mobile app, even better. This makes it easier for your employees to follow procedures and reduces the administrative burden on managers.

7. Ensure schedules are readily available

When do you post your schedules? Do your employees know when and where to access their schedules? This may seem like a small detail, but it can significantly impact employee satisfaction and productivity.

In the UK, there is no set regulation that mandates a specific time for posting employee schedules. However, according to the Living Wage Foundation, it is highly recommended that at least four weeks’ notice be given to employees.

Once the schedules are posted, ensure they are easily accessible for employees. This could be done through an online or mobile app workforce management tool or a physical notice board in the staff room (or both). Communicate the posting schedule to employees and stick to it consistently. This will give your staff time to plan ahead and ensure everyone is on the same page.

Plus, it allows for ample time for employees to request any schedule modifications, reducing the likelihood of last-minute requests or conflicts. Ultimately, having schedules readily available and easily accessible sets a precedent for clear communication within the workplace. It also shows that you value your employees’ time and well-being by giving them the opportunity to plan their work-life balance effectively.

8. Embrace the digital shift

With the rise of technology, it’s no surprise that businesses are moving away from paper-based scheduling methods towards digital solutions. Not only does this eliminate the risk of misplaced or lost schedules, but it also allows for easier collaboration and communication between managers and employees.

With the ability to offer real-time updates and automated notifications, your staff can stay informed about their schedules without delay, ensuring that everyone is synchronised. On top of that, the reduced inaccuracies in staff scheduling lead to a more efficient allocation of resources, directly impacting the bottom line in a positive manner.

However, when selecting a staff scheduling software, prioritise systems that offer:

  • Comprehensive solutions like automated scheduling and real-time updates, which are imperative for maintaining an agile and responsive operation.
  • Look for integration capabilities with existing payroll and other business management tools to create a seamless workflow.
  • Ensure that the software you select has adequate employee self-service features to empower your team members to take control of their scheduling needs.
  • Reporting and analytics functionalities to deliver valuable insights into workforce utilisation and productivity patterns, enabling data-driven decision-making.
  • Adherence to regulation compliance within the software ensures your business stays within legal requirements without extra legwork.

But it also cannot be stressed enough that when integrating an employee scheduling software, a thoughtful approach to training is undertaken. Ensure that your staff is well-trained on how to use the system and that they have access to ongoing support in case of any issues.

By following these steps, you can foster a culture of accountability and empower your workforce to manage their schedules effectively. In turn, this will lead to increased employee satisfaction, productivity and, ultimately, better business outcomes. So, embrace the shift towards a digital scheduling solution and see the difference it can make.

Let elementsuite help you achieve these goals and more with our comprehensive employee scheduling software. Request a demo today to see how we can transform your scheduling processes for the better.

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