The average manager spends almost five hours a week planning and managing rotas — that's more than two workdays every month.
While building a rota from scratch usually takes the bulk of a manager's time, there's also the matter of communicating schedules with employees. After all, if staff don't have a copy of the latest rota, you might as well have not bothered building it at all.
And yet, a RotaCloud survey found that over 40% of managers largely distributed rotas by displaying them in their office or staff room. At many businesses, it's often up to employees to write down their shifts, take photos of the rota, or ask their colleagues to find out their shifts for them.
This approach usually works fine for straightforward rotas where shifts seldom change, but when rotas are updated frequently, things can start to go wrong.
As we're about to see, inaccessible rotas are the root of many scheduling problems, with employees and employers equally affected.
Your employees know that they need to note down their shifts when they have access to the rota at work. And they do.
However, a series of last-minute rota changes means next week's final rota isn't in the staff room until Thursday evening. Some of your employees aren't in for the rest of the week. Ordinarily, either you or a supervisor would communicate changes to staff — but sometimes you just don't have the time to pick up the phone and walk every employee through their shift changes.
The employees try to call up to confirm their shifts for next week, but it takes several attempts to get through — and when they do, the manager is in a hurry to get off the phone so they can get back to serving customers.
It's not surprising that social media is overflowing with complaints from employees who just want an easier way to access their rota or communicate shifts with their colleagues...
You might argue that most of these complaints are down to employees' poor organisation or laziness, but the fact remains that the root of these problems is that the rota isn't easily accessible to employees at all times.
The consequences of limited employee access to their rotas can have numerous direct and indirect effects.
- Endless phone calls. You might well receive dozens of calls every week from employees wanting to check or double-check their shifts. These calls might only take a couple of minutes each, but it all adds up, leaving you with less time to spend managing more important areas of your business.
- Staff turning up at the wrong time. If they can't get hold of you to double-check their rota (or don't want the hassle of trying), it's likely that there will be shift mix-ups and staff in the wrong place at the wrong time. Dictating shifts over the phone will also lead to staff occasionally mishearing shift times.
- Frustrated staff. If an employee can't get hold of you or a colleague to check their shifts, they either have to risk missing a scheduled shift or turn up to work at the next opportunity to find out whether or not they're meant to be in. This can be incredibly frustrating for staff and adds unnecessary stress to their working lives.
- Higher turnover. Let's face it: this system of distributing the rota is unnecessary with today's technology. If staff know that employees at other businesses don't face this problem, they'll be more tempted to look for work elsewhere.
Employee rota access is a relatively easy problem to solve in many ways, but there's no doubt it requires a big change in process for many businesses. Here are some ways to make your rota more accessible to employees.
- Use a Facebook/WhatsApp group to share rotas. If all your staff are comfortable with social media or messaging apps, a group can be an easy way to distribute rotas and alert staff if there have been any changes. These groups only work if everyone uses the app you've chosen, and if you work to moderate them to keep off-topic chat to a minimum.
- Send out group emails whenever the rota has been updated. If you don't think your staff are yet to take to social media and messaging apps, email could represent a lower-tech solution. In your email client, create a group of contacts containing all your employees. Whenever a new version of the rota is released, send to all your staff through a group email. If you don't create a rota digitally, take a photo of your paper rota and attach that to the email instead.
- Store your rota on a cloud storage platform like Dropbox or Google Drive. You can then give your employees access to the file or folder, so they can view the rota at any time on any device.
- Use rota planning software. Rota planning software has all the benefits of a cloud storage platform and staff can also be certain that they're looking at the most recent version of the rota. Notifications can also be sent out automatically as soon as a rota change affects each individual employee, so staff never miss a shift.
With today's technology, it's easy to give your employees access to the rota 24/7. And there are different solutions that work for businesses of all sizes with every level of digital confidence.
It'll make your life a lot easier if staff can access the most recent rota whenever they need it. No more phone calls, no more shift mix-ups, and no more worrying about whether staff have seen the newest rota.
Rota planning software can handle all this for you, with employees able to check their shifts from their smartphones whenever suits them.