Effective staff scheduling is a balancing act. Assigning the right staff member to the right shift based on their availability is challenging enough, but employers also need to be mindful of other factors governing scheduling in the organization, such as seniority, experience, and the team’s preferences.

With all these factors considered, optimizing the scheduling process may seem daunting. After connecting with hundreds of businesses in over 10,000 locations, Humanity has developed a simple 5-step process to help managers evaluate their staffing needs and turn shift scheduling into a competitive advantage for their organization.

Step #1: Assess the status quo

The first step to optimizing scheduling is examining the shortcomings of the existing shift scheduling system. Analyze actual timesheets as well as the forecasted needs of upcoming schedules and cross-reference them to KPIs, sales trends, and seasonal data to unveil what is hindering the productivity of your team. Dive into the fluctuations of labor costs to better understand where you need to invest more and where resources are drained.

When you approach staff scheduling at a high-level before zooming into the day-to-day, you will be able to identify changes that will have the greatest impact on the high-level company goals.

Step #2: Remain mindful of scheduling abuses

Unexpected absences, overtime work, and understaffed shifts are some of the symptoms of a broken scheduling system. Sometimes these issues can be solved by reaching out to employees struggling to keep up with the business demands. In most cases, however, managers need to rethink the shift assignment process and make a conscious effort to monitor scheduling issues related to a certain role or shift. Some states have even adopted regulations protecting hourly workers from employer’s scheduling abuses.

To avoid these conflicts, managers need to integrate custom rules into the scheduling system. The abuses will be prevented automatically, making it impossible to find loopholes.

Step #3: Empower employees with bottom-up scheduling

By encouraging workers to take control over their working hours, managers show trust and respect to the backbone of their business. The result: boosted team morale, higher job satisfaction, and lower turnover.

Effective scheduling requires a key component: allowing employees to take responsibility over their working hours. The chosen scheduling platform should enable them to express their preferences, set their availability and arrange shift swaps with their peers. Supervisors can ensure full shift coverage, but the management of everyday shift trades are put in the hands of the employee. Last-minute emergencies are also handled more efficiently in an environment of collaboration, rather than a chain of command.

Step #4: Deploy a secure, real-time employee communication system

Transparent, real-time communication goes hand-in-hand with an empowered workforce. Unfortunately, this usually doesn’t apply to conventional scheduling processes—spreadsheets tacked to a break room wall can’t really be called real-time, now can they? Not only are they ineffective at communicating, but these manual tools only make scheduling time-consuming and erroneous.

There’s always room to grow.

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The right cloud-based scheduling platform makes schedule planning and distribution virtually effortless, while absenteeism is kept at bay. The entire staff has access to accurate schedules at all times, so they don’t need to run to the office or stay glued to their phones to keep track of their shifts. With instant notifications about scheduling updates, last-minute changes are no longer as stressful, with staff members being able to immediately find replacements or apply for open time slots.

Step #5: Test, iterate and improve

Borrow a page from IT companies—when developing products, these innovative businesses rely on experimenting and optimizing along the way. This way, they get feedback based on user experience and can tailor their solutions to better fit their customer needs. When building a scheduling system, employees are the “clients” you want to engage, so don’t hesitate to include them in the process.

Also, remember that even if you manage to set up a picture-perfect process, schedules will almost never be good enough that managers can simply rinse and repeat every week. Regular monitoring and learning from past insights is a necessary step for building a scalable process, especially when the company is expanding.

With powerful software, going through these steps is straightforward and intuitive. It’s time to stop relying on antiquated, static scheduling tools that leave no room for improvement. After all, what doesn’t change, doesn’t grow.

Leading enterprises rely on Humanity to plan, generate and distribute optimized schedules every day. Find out more and try it yourself for free now.