Once these have been established, ensure that all staff know about them and understand them. We recommend posting a copy near to where your staff clock in/out; also keep a copy near your desk.
Our recommended policies and procedures (explained below):
- Rosters cycle from Thursday to Wednesday and run for 1 week.
- Rosters are published on Tuesday, 9 days before each roster cycle starts.
- Rosters can be checked from Tuesday either online, in person, or by telephone.
- Time-off requests of less than 2 days need to be made at least 10 days in advance.
- Holiday requests of more than 2 days need to be made at least 3 weeks in advance.
- If someone wants to swap a shift on a published roster, it is suggested that they be required to: request a shift change online, in person, or by telephone. When requesting a shift change they must: establish and nominate the person that will take the shift, specify which shift will be swapped (if any), and give a reason for the change.
Start day and length of roster cycle
Typically, rosters cycle from Monday to Sunday. This takes them from the quietest days of the week to the busiest days. If the week is slow, you might decide to start trimming some hours by Wednesday. They will then be taken from the weekend, when you really need to be fully staffed to make money and keep customers happy. Problems can be avoided by starting the roster week on a Thursday; you will also overcome the ‘end of a long week’ slump, while writing the roster. The payroll days can still match the calendar or accounting week; rostering is about optimising the allocation of human resources.
As far as length of a roster goes, weekly rosters are perfect. Weekly rosters minimise the need for changes to a ‘published’ roster; they also support the flexibility of staff (and customer levels). As a rule of thumb, it is always better to have shorter rosters available further in advance, rather than longer rosters with little notice.
When each roster should be published
There are legal requirements for how far in advance rosters must be displayed. A roster that is displayed at least 7 days in advance will allow staff to plan their lives around it and achieve more of the ‘work / life’ balance, to which we ALL aspire.
Many managers fear that a roster displayed well in advance will need endless rewriting before the starting date. However, once you put in place better systems for time-off and shift-change management, you will find that rostering doesn’t need to be an ongoing drama. Erasers and white-out will be a thing of the past!
If your roster cycle runs from Thursday to Wednesday, as suggested, you can build the following week’s roster on Monday or Tuesday. This will give your staff 9 days notice in advance.
How staff can find out about his or her shifts
The traditional way for staff to find out when he or she was working has been for them to drop in to the workplace, or telephone.. As a manager, you might have grown tired of being interrupted with roster check phone calls; or having to ‘shoo’ staff away who have come in to check their roster and ended up staying for a drink, a few chips or a natter with the prep crew. The good news is there are other options.
Online software like Roster Plus can send staff a shift summary via email or SMS when you publish the roster, which you have just built. Ask your staff if either of these options would interest them, their response will be overwhelming! It might seem like a small change, but if each of your staff is spending just 10 minutes per week finding out when they are working, you will save them more than 8 hours per year!
Managing time-off and holiday requests
Flexibility is part of the modern working life. If requests for time-off are denied, forgotten or made difficult, staff are likely to call in ‘sick’ or even worse, eventually move elsewhere.
Quickly jotted post-it notes can be mislaid or forgotten, or a staff member might neglect to add a name to a request. Either way a major headache can occur. Therefore it is important to have a solid system in place for submitting and recording all requests. One option is to use a specific piece of paper which has been pre-marked with columns which include:
- Staff name
- How often (i.e. is it once off, weekly, fortnightly)
- How long (i.e. is it for a few hours, all day, multiple days)
- Details (i.e. ‘Can’t work Monday before 12pm because of Uni’, ‘Going on holiday 12/7 – 18/7 etc.)
- If it has been approved by you (only you should sign in this column)
Have a sheet printed and posted where your staff can easily access it. Check the list every few days and sign-off requests which meet your policy requirements. As you build each new roster, cross off requests which no longer apply. A better option is to use an online system such as the one provided by Roster Plus. This allows you and/or your staff to login and make/manage time-off requests. This saves you and your staff paperwork as the approved time-off requests are automatically reflected on future rosters.
Managing last minute shift changes
Last minute shift changes which are made to the published rosters can be a major headache; with an efficient system in place, you can reduce them to a minor annoyance.
The need to add or change a shift on a published roster is initiated by:
- You (when you need extra staff to work)
- A staff member (for unforeseen circumstances)
Firstly a suitable staff member must be found to work the shift (more on staff roles under ‘Setting up’, below). If a staff member has initiated the shift change, then they should organise a suitable replacement. Once the replacement has been determined, it is important that they are informed about their duty requirements. It is also important that the original staff member knows that they are no longer required to work the shift. As with the section ‘How staff can find out about their shifts’, this can be done by telephone, email or SMS via an online system such as the one Roster Plus provides.