‘Smarter Rostering’ through better staff suggestions

Over the last couple of weeks we’ve been busy fine tuning the shift create form on the roster builder. We were already quite happy with how the system intelligently suggested shift lengths but we knew there was room for improvement when it came to suggesting the best staff for newly created or edited shifts.

The two places staff are suggested while working on your roster:

  • Staff drop-down in the shift form on role view
  • Assigning a new staff to a shift in staff view


Prior to the change, these two areas looked like this:

1. Staff drop-down in the shift form on role view

2. Assigning a new staff to a shift in staff view

staff-suggestion-role-view-old assign-new-staff-old

The major shortcoming of the existing form was the staff’s existing shifts and unavailability were not being checked to the hour before they were suggested. The shift would require saving before a clash became evident.

The mockup

As with most new features, we try and refine the concept as much as possible within mockingbird, before anyone starts coding.

Since the staff suggestion drop-down in the shift form is a simplified version of the staff re-assignment form, we decided to wireframe them side-by-side. Not only did this help us think of the problem as a whole, we could easily illustrate the criteria we should be running the top suggestions off.


As you can see from the above mockup, we only wanted to start by suggesting staff without a shift or approved unavailability request that crossed any part of the planned shift.

To take the suggestions even further, we wanted to visually highlight if the new shift would push the any full or part-time staff into overtime, should it be assigned to them. We did this by calculating the length of the proposed shift and adding it to the total of all the shifts they were already rostered within the pay cycle. If this exceeded their ordinary hour limit we we would highlight the hours in red.

The Find and compare more… button at the bottom of the suggestion short list links the user to a full breakdown of staff considered by the system (shown on the right of the above image).

This full list of results would illustrate everything happening behind the scenes in the short list, and give the user extra information on ‘red‘ squares with a simple hover action.


1. Staff drop-down in the shift form on role view


2. Assigning a new staff to a shift in staff view


The suggestion engine also checks all staff in the local area that can work a similar role.

The guys have done an amazing job building more intelligence into the way we suggest staff, without sacrificing speed.  We plan on using the underlying code to re-vamp the fill-in finder and build a report that can help highlight possible future staff shortages.

Happy (smarter) rostering!

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