For managers, scheduling is a perpetual jigsaw puzzle with constantly moving pieces.
Employee needs, operational demands, budgets, and regulations make shift planning an organizational nightmare.
However, certain recurring issues tend to cause the biggest headaches. Here are the top 10 most common staff scheduling problems plaguing managers, and how to tackle them.
I. The Chaos of Shift Swapping
Allowing staff to freely trade shifts amongst themselves may seem like an easy solution, but lack of structure and oversight creates chaos including:
Employees often swap shifts without considering skill requirements, leaving gaps:
- Specialized roles like accounting tasks are mishandled.
- Safety issues from underqualified staff using equipment.
- Dissatisfied customers from novice staff unfamiliar with systems.
Employees agree to shift swaps unaware of policy implications:
- Ineligible staff may work prohibited overnight hours if unchecked.
- Minors may inadvertently schedule themselves during restricted times.
- Swaps may cause overtime with cascading pay impacts.
Employees working back-to-back shifts to accommodate peers’ requests may suffer:
- Fatigue and higher on-site accident risk.
- Low morale and burnout from excessive hours.
- Poor output quality from mental exhaustion.
Effective staff scheduling is crucial to avoid these issues and ensure smooth operations.
Voluntary swaps are prone to sudden cancellations, leaving staffing gaps.
Structured shift swap management using workforce tools like Dayforce can prevent these risks through:
- Skills-based shift trades adhering to requirements.
- Automated policy compliance checking before approving swaps.
- Overtime and overtime-averse shift exchanges.
- Manager override problematic trade requests.
- Documentation trails avoiding confusion.
The flexibility of shift swaps doesn’t need to mean endless chaos. The right systems foster orderly exchanges benefiting employees and operations.
II. The Dilemma of Understaffing
According to Kronos, 95% of human resources managers admit their organization is understaffed – a staggering figure. Shortages directly impact customer service, employee morale, operational costs, and sales.
Employee Morale Plummets
Remaining employees bear the brunt of staffing shortages through:
- Canceled vacations and denied time-off requests.
- Constant last-minute schedule changes.
- Long shifts covering unmanned positions.
- Lower job satisfaction performing unfamiliar roles.
These factors increase absenteeism and turnover.
Operations Suffer: The Consequences of Doing More With Less
Trying to do more with less has consequences:
- Product defects and costly errors increase with workplace fatigue.
- Deadlines and targets are missed due to resource shortages.
- Shortened operating hours lose revenue-generating opportunities.
Labor Costs Rise
Despite smaller teams, constant overtime to meet baseline operational demand inflates payroll costs. Recruiting, onboarding, and training replacement staff also add up.
Proactive staffing management is key:
- Budget forecasting for future needs using historical data.
- Workforce analytics identifying roles needing more support.
- Dynamic staffing models balancing costs with requirements.
- Employee cross-training and stretch assignments.
Strike the right equilibrium between meeting demand and controlling costs through data insights.
III. The Burden of Overscheduling Employees
While understaffing causes gaps in operations, overscheduling carries its own risks:
- Employee burnout from lack of downtime.
- Increased absenteeism from low morale.
- Higher turnover from dissatisfaction.
- Policy violations from excessive hours.
Monitoring schedules proactively prevents issues. Tools like Sling flag shifts with inadequate breaks or that exceed agreed availability. Proper workforce planning optimizes staff usage.
IV. The Perils of Disorganization
Disorganized managers struggle to locate schedules, contact details, and availabilities leading to:
- Scrambling to fill last-minute call-outs.
- Inability to easily identify the most qualified staff for shifts.
- Confusion from outdated or misplaced employee data.
- Excessive administrative time recreating lost information.
Workforce management systems like Sling centralize all employee information and automate scheduling based on skills, tenure, and availability. Organization is built-in.
V. The Nightmare of No Call and No Shows
Few things disrupt operations like no call, no shows. But being unprepared compounds problems:
- Additional burden on other employees from unplanned absences.
- Loss of productivity from understaffing.
- Poor customer service from long queues or delays.
Proactive prevention is key:
- Foster a reliable standby pool and streamline communications, like Sling’s mass texting.
- Cross-train staff and create emergency skills matrices.
- Monitor trends to identify causes – overwork, weak engagement, and unreliable employees.
- Have contingency staffing plans ready, especially for weekends.
VI. The Drain of High Employee Turnover
Losing experienced staff takes a toll on productivity and morale while increasing recruiting and training costs. Consistent schedules help retention.
Strategies to engage employees include:
- Fair schedules aligned with availability and work-life balance.
- Recognition for reliable attendance
- Flexibility for shift trades.
- Management check-ins on satisfaction.
- Experience-based incentives like shift preference.
Savings from lower turnover outweigh the costs of engagement initiatives.
VII. The Stress of Scheduling Vacations
Trying to accommodate everyone’s vacation preferences often seems impossible without:
- Clear policies on time-off allowances to manage expectations.
- First come, first served approval with seniority advantages.
- Restricting peak season time off.
- Minimum staffing requirements for coverage.
- Automated tracking of balances through HR apps.
Transparent policies and proactive planning prevent vacation scheduling nightmares.
VIII. The Puzzle of Employee Availability
Static availability forms are quickly outdated, requiring constant one-off updates. This leaves gaps between who’s available and who’s scheduled.
Dynamic employee management systems like Sling allow staff to directly update availability in real-time. Open shifts are automatically matched to qualified workers based on skills and availability – no futile jigsaw puzzling required.
IX. The Unpredictability of Illness
No workforce plan can account for sudden illness, but reactive solutions minimize disruption:
- Providing reasonable sick time and flexible scheduling to limit spread of contagion.
- Maintain on-call staff and auto-notify backup workers of open shifts.
- Cross-train across locations for borrowed staff if needed in a crisis.
- Offer incentives for emergency shift coverage and overtime.
- Reassess policies if excessive sick leave becomes problematic.
While you can’t control sickness, proactive planning limits its impact.
X. The Spiraling Cost of Excessive Overtime
Overtime is inevitable but excessive OT indicates deeper issues:
- Understaffing leading to overreliance on existing employees.
- Overtiming from the inability to complete tasks in scheduled shifts.
- Time theft of fraudulent additional hours.
Reining in OT requires:
- Adding staff positions where needed.
- Enforcing overtime approval protocols.
- Auditing outsized OT claims for policy compliance.
- Correctly matching employee skills with task complexity.
- Exploring automated technologies to improve efficiency.
Too much overtime eats into budgets and team morale. Analytics and insights help managers achieve the right OT balance.
With proper preparation, scheduling doesn’t have to be the nightmare managers dread. While certain complexities will persist, a proactive mindset, transparency, and smart workforce tools can smooth out the most stubborn issues.
The solutions lie in using technology paired with human ingenuity to manage work’s only truly unpredictable component – the people doing it.
Frequently Asked Questions
What causes employees to repeatedly have unplanned absences?
Common reasons are low engagement, health issues, family emergencies, poor work-life balance, and unreliable transportation. Proactively addressing the root cause helps minimize recurrence.
How can managers maintain an organization with constantly changing employee data?
Centralizing information in workforce management systems avoids getting outdated. Role-based access controls, automation, and audit trails also improve data integrity.
What’s the best way to reduce employee turnover stemming from scheduling?
Engage staff to understand scheduling challenges. Offer flexibility where possible, maintain consistency, recognize attendance, solicit feedback, and collaborate to improve problematic areas.
With insight into what causes the most persistent scheduling headaches, managers can now target and troubleshoot those vulnerabilities strategically.
The first step is acknowledging that scheduling need not be the managerial nightmare we’ve come to accept. Relief comes with the right solutions and mindset.