It might not be the most glamorous aspect of running a business, but your staff rota can have a big effect on day-to-day operations.
Without a clear, carefully planned rota, it's easy for things to start falling apart. Schedule too many staff, and you end up paying people to stand around; rota on too few, and your customers won't get the level of service they need.
Factor in things like employees calling in sick, staff availability, and the small matter of annual leave, and you have a lot to think about when planning the schedule.
It's not just managers who struggle with the work rota, however — the rota is a frequent source of stress, frustration and confusion for employees, too.
With this in mind, today we'll be discussing one of the UK workforce's most common complaints: managers who keep their staff waiting for the rota until the very last minute.
It might seem trivial, but by keeping your team hanging on, you could be doing a great deal of damage not just to morale, but your entire business...
Picture the scene: you're coming to the end of your week, month, or quarter. But, with one thing and another, you have yet to plan the next work rota.
While leaving the rota to the last minute can have its advantages (you might feel better able to forecast for the period ahead, for example), without knowing their upcoming schedule your staff are unable to plan any part their personal lives — whether it's a night out with friends, when they'll have time to study, or which days they'll need to organise childcare — for the week or month ahead.
To say this is a common problem would be an understatement. Take a look at this handful of tweets, posted within just the last few weeks, from disgruntled employees who wish their managers would hurry up and release the rota.
At this very moment, there are staff all over the UK waiting around to find out when they'll next be in work.
And that's a real problem, not just for the employees, but for the managers themselves...
Even if you're prepared to deal with your staff being a bit prickly as a result of the rota being late, consider how much damage you could be doing to your business by keeping staff waiting for their shifts.
- Increased lateness. Imagine being told at 9 o'clock on Sunday night that you have to be at work for 8am on Monday. Giving your team limited notice of their shifts makes it hard for them to prepare, increasing the chances that they'll show up late.
- Additional admin for you. If your staff get their rota only a day or two before it takes effect, then you'll have little or no time to make changes when someone inevitably tells you that there's a shift they can't do or would like to swap.
- Low morale. You want your staff to show up for work with a positive attitude. If you're giving them barely any notice of when they're expected to be in, however, then it's unlikely that they'll feel particularly valued or motivated.
- Disgruntled employees. As the above tweets clearly illustrate, being unable to plan things in your private life as a result of waiting for the rota causes more than a little animosity among staff — a feeling that can spread quickly.
- Higher turnover. In the worst-case scenario, your staff could actually become so fed up of being inconvenienced by their employer that they find work elsewhere.
- Damage to company reputation. Company review sites like Glassdoor have made it easier than ever for staff to share their opinions and experiences of a company with the entire world. The last thing you want when trying to hire new staff is to have a slew of negative reviews attached to your business' name online.
The good news is, the above situations are entirely avoidable.
Here's a handful of ways that you can make life easier for your employees — and yourself — when it comes to planning the rota.
- Be prompt. The most obvious change you can make is to publish or share your upcoming rotas well in advance. If you schedule a week at a time, consider releasing next week's rota a minimum of 3-4 days before your staff actually need it. If you don't think this is possible, figure out the obstacles to rota publishing and work with your team to resolve them.
- Be consistent. Staff appreciate getting their rotas at the same time each week as much as they appreciate getting it in advance. Even if they only have a couple of days' notice, knowing when the rota will be released helps them plan their week out.
- Streamline the process. It's no good handing out printed copies of your rota one week and sending it out via email the next. Decide on a method for sharing your rotas and stick to it. That way, there will never be any confusion between your staff on how they're supposed to find out when they're next in.
- Use past data to plan ahead. The reason so many managers wait to publish their rotas is because it makes it easier for them to plan for the period ahead. Instead, get into the habit of referring to past sales data to plan your rotas so that they're based on what does happen rather than what could happen.
- Try a web-based solution. Because they're stored online rather than on your computer, rotas built in RotaCloud can be shared with your entire team with the click of a button. Even better, any updates or changes you make to your rota once it's been published are immediately visible to your entire team, so you never have to worry about staff referring to a schedule that's out of date.
As an employer, you expect your staff to be punctual, professional, and courteous. It's only fair that you do the same.
By giving your staff limited notice of their upcoming shifts, you're not only inconveniencing them, but you're giving them the impression that their time is less valuable than yours. It doesn't matter if they have to cancel plans with friends, drop the coursework they're working on, or find last-minute childcare, just so long as they show up when you want them to.
No business can function without a team that's happy, motivated, and feels valued by their employer. And while giving your team plenty of notice about their shifts isn't the only thing that will achieve that, it's a big step in the right direction.