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Challenges of Shift Planning

Shift planning sounds easy at first – how hard can it be to tell people to come and go at certain times? In reality, any small business owner who schedules employees on shifts (instead of a standard 9-to-5) can tell you that shift planning is full of challenges. The obstacles involved with shift planning include but arent limited to the following:

Time: When operating a small business, time truly is money, and shift planning is rarely a quick process. That’s largely because you’ll need to ensure that you have enough employees working at once and that every employee is working the right number of hours. Achieving both these goals can take some creative arranging and rearranging of shifts that quickly proves to take longer than a short administrative task.

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Employee vs. employer needs: Planning shifts so that employees are working at times that fit both their schedules and your needs can quickly cause tension. If your best employee can’t work the night shift when you absolutely need someone with their skills on the job after sundown, you may need to train other staff members or hire additional employees with that skillset.

Errors: For some employers, shift planning is primarily a pencil-and-paper task. However, as with anything done by hand, manual shift planning increases the chances of human error. These errors can be significant: If you assign two employees with the same role to work at the same time, you’re paying more money for less work. In this case, you might have also accidentally left a key timeslot unstaffed.

Unique employee attributes: Some employees are just more cut out for certain shifts than others. For example, at your restaurant and bar, your night owl bartender can hold down the fort until 3 a.m., but they’ll struggle during the 10 a.m. shift. Likewise, if one of your servers is taking time off, your busboys might not yet be ready to cover for them, thus leaving you with a big scheduling gap.

Legal compliance If you schedule an employee for a certain number of hours per week, the employee may be entitled to overtime pay. While planning shifts manually, you might not realize that you’re wading into overtime territory, and if you neglect to properly pay for overtime, legal trouble can arise.

Labor costs Any time you schedule an employee for work, you pay them, which means that shift planning has inextricable costs. These costs can be challenging to quickly factor in when manually scheduling shifts, especially since you might be paying different employees at different rates.

Employee choice Shift planning is often a process in which you, the employer, have the most say. However, shift planning is easier for both you and your team when you can easily get your employees’ input before finalizing schedules. On this front and many others, time and attendance software often is handy.

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