Tactics for effectively rostering your staff

May 29, 2015 Uli Aschenbrenner No Comments

While business growth is exciting, it’s comes with a number of challenges – especially if you manage shift workers. How do you roster the right amount of staff at the right time? How do you keep your staff happy? And how do you ensure you’re doing these things while accommodating for business growth?

It’s unlikely that you thought of these problems when you started your business, but the more your business grows, the morestaff you end up hiring, and the more time you spend managing everyone’s roster. This becomes a particular hurdle when staff get sick, they don’t want to work weekends, or you have fluctuations in sales.

Without proper staff rostering, you soon run into staff turnover, poor customer service, or shifts that aren’t filled. Senior staff have to work more to cover shifts, leading to burnout or sick days, and your business model soon starts to develop cracks jeopardising its future growth.

There are two main problems that managers face when rostering staff:

  • Understaffing.

Understaffing means you’ve roster too few staff for the workload. This can mean your customers don’t get served, orders are forgotten or your staff are put under unnecessary pressure and burnout. Staff burnout then leads to turnover, and you’re left with on-boarding costs for hiring and training new staff.

  • Overstaffing.   

On the flip side, overstaffing (having too many staff to do the work) can lead to staff becoming bored, the business burning through money and potentially going bankrupt.

Rostering tactics

To help you overcome the problems small businesses face when rostering staff, we’ve put together a list of tactics:

Roster staff the way you’d like to be rostered

As simple as this sounds, it pays to put yourself in your staff's situation and imagine what it would be like to be under the same schedule. Obviously different people will have different preferences, but try and give the hours and days that are best for them and what they’d like. If staff get the times they want, they’ll be more consistent and reliable. If you’re pushing your staff to accept shifts that are inconvenient for them, it will result in resentment and poor productivity, potentially even resignation.

Roster in advance

Where possible, schedule your staff are far into the future as possible. Although difficult to project as a business, giving notice of when shifts are allows your staff to plan their life and finances.

Many businesses (especially those with almost a 24hr schedule) are affected by external factors such as local events or weather (Ento integrates the weather into your schedule) and consequently leave scheduling to the last minute.

While it might sound like a good idea to gain from fluctuating payroll, this leaves staff annoyed and ultimately contributes to turnover. Future schedule planning also helps you to create contingency plans if something doesn’t go to plan, allowing staff to trade shifts.

Roster strategically

Rather than simply filling your working hours, think about the busiest days first, then work through the slower days as you go. Consider how staff perform in different conditions and which staff are more reliable than others.

Rostering shifts with just junior staff will lead to problems, and rostering with just senior staff can be expensive. Ensure you have a mix of people who are right for the job and work well together as a team.

Keep an eye out for special events, such as festivals, sporting events or city-wide promotions. If there’s going to be significant increases in foot traffic to your business, you want to benefit from it as much as possible.

Communicate your roster effectively

Before the days of staff rostering software, schedules were posted on the wall and the next few days were spent negotiating, trading and changing shifts. Staff would turn up for shifts they weren’t scheduled for, and communication between staff and managers was a headache to say the least.

With staff scheduling software there’s almost no reason to have these problems. Ento hosts a range of features like schedule updates, trading shifts, SMS notifications and multiple manager logins making communication problems a thing of the past.

Of course, there may be some scenarios for creative thinking to ensure all staff are happy, but by thinking ahead and openly communicating, this can often be easily resolved.

Know your legal requirements for rostering

Depending on the country your business operates in, you may have requirements for the maximum number of working hours, minimum breaks, overtime or a host of other considerations.

Staff rostering software can help cover this for you (especially when working out your payroll), but it’s important that you get to know the laws in your country and are across them when organising your staff roster.

Roster for growth

With every business being different, there’s no universal method to deciding how many people you need to roster for a particular day. In the early stages, this can be based on your best guess, but as your business grows you should consider things such as:

  • Sales growth
  • Events, and
  • Seasonality

A good rule of thumb is to consider a conservative estimate of growth over the past few months. If you grew 20% each month over the last 3 months, and you had 1,000 sales last month, you can reasonably expect to achieve 1,200 sales this month. If your rostered staff can handle that then great, otherwise look to increase the number of staff to cover the extra demand on your staff.

It’s also important to consider any on-boarding and training processes for your business growth. If you project rapid growth and need additional staff to cover shifts, ensure you start hiring before your staff are strained and having issues with workload. This not only means you grow more smoothly, but it also means you’re taking full advantage of new opportunities.

Working out the ideal roster isn’t an easy task. You may have some months where payroll is excessive due to overstaffing, or others where employees are put under too much strain, but if managed correctly, over the long run, revenue is usually recovered, your staff remain happy and your business grows to find new challenges.

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