Even the smaller establishments need staff rostering systems if they employ more than a few staff, and the staff members have to work at different times. These establishments, say, a retail store, might do the scheduling using a spreadsheet. In the left column, staff names are listed in alphabetical order. The top row of other columns shows the days of the week. Against each staff person, each day’s working time is entered.
A quick glance at this simple schedule will show that all working hours for all the days have been accounted for. It would also indicate that work has been allocated fairly among the staff. That is the essence of staff rostering systems, ensuring that people are available to attend to work and that no staff person is overburdened compared to others.
More Complex Staff Rostering Systems
In the case of manufacturing companies, shift working might be resorted to for utilizing expensive capital equipment 24 hours a day or nearabout. Some employees will work in a first shift from, say, 8.00 hours to 16.00 hours while others will work the evening shift of 16.00 hours to 24.00 hours and yet others during the night shift from 24.00 hours to 8.00 hours the next day.
While day shifts are normal, the other shifts, particularly the night shift, can cause health and family problems. Hence, no employee works these late shifts continuously. Instead, there is rotation among employees so that all employees work all the shifts (with some exceptions). Shift scheduling and rotation of shifts can make the work of rostering more complicated.
Where thousands of employees are involved and the staff rostering system has to consider scheduled breaks such as annual vacations and unscheduled breaks caused by sickness or other emergency, the work becomes even more complex. A staff rostering system that works with paper and pencil (and erasers), or even a computer spreadsheet, can prove quite inadequate to produce staff rosters in time.
There are other issues that make the work further complicated. Skill requirements during particular shifts are one of these. Persons with particular skills might have to be assigned to particular shifts. Consideration might also be given to employee preferences where possible.
Thus, the staff rostering system has to ensure that:
- People are available to work all the shifts
- People with special skills needed in each shift are also scheduled
- Shift workers are rotated equitably among the different shifts
- Scheduled and unscheduled breaks taken by employees are considered
- Employee preferences are accommodated where possible
Another important requirement of a staff rostering system is to instill employee confidence in the system. They must come to feel that the scheduler does not make decisions arbitrarily and that their needs are met to the extent possible. This can pay in the form of greater employee productivity and commitment.
The best solution in such cases is a computer-based staff rostering system that can be configured to consider all the issues involved and produce staff rosters that meet all the conflicting requirements. The system might then even produce reports indicating why particular employee preferences cannot be met. That could be a great employee confidence-building measure.