How To Plan a Staff Rota That Keeps Everyone Happy

09 May 2022
Two people making plans in a calendar


Staff rota planning does not have to be complex or time-consuming. The bigger the organisation, the more important rota planning and potentially the more stressful it becomes. Even small businesses, for example, those in the hospitality industry, can find rota planning a challenge. But fear not. There are a number of ways that you can streamline your rota planning and shift scheduling, saving as much as 70% of a businesses rota management time.

In this article we will look at the following topics: -

  • Why you should create a staff rota
  • What makes an effective staff rota?
  • How to create a staff rota
  • Five tips for creating a staff rota
  • What to do with your staff rota when you have created it
  • Rota planning meets time and attendance

Why You Should Create a Staff Rota

Staff rota planning is an effective way to guarantee that you have the right number of staff with the right skills and/or qualifications working in the right place, at the right time. Getting this correct ensures that your business can operate efficiently and safely. Getting this wrong can lead to staff being overworked or underutilised, customer orders not being fulfilled or poor customer experience. When considering health and safety, poor planning can even put employees at risk.

Effective staff rota planning can help you plan in advance to increase efficiency, mitigate risks and reduce costs.

What Makes an Effective Staff Rota?

An effective staff rota should have a number of considerations:

  1. Simplicity. First and foremost, it should be simple to plan, monitor and report on staff working hours (whether planned in advance or in retrospect, as a record of what was actually done). Having simple processes, supported by intuitive staff planning software or apps, will save managers time and money. Keeping it simple also means mitigating the risk of key person dependency. Too many organisations still rely heavily on just one or two people when it comes to staff planning.

  2. Transparency. Whatever method you use for planning your staff shifts, the process needs to be clear for managers and employees alike. Information needs to be communicated between the management team and across departments, and be made available to employees.

  3. Budget Tracking. An effective staff rota will enable managers to plan within departmental and staff cost budgets. Controlling staff costs can be one of the most effective ways to increase profitability. Therefore, it is important to have a staff rota that associates the staff cost with the planned hours of work so that you avoid inadvertently planning outside of your budget.

  4. Dynamic. Plans need to be flexible and may need to change or adapt at a moment's notice. For example, when an employee calls in sick, you may need to adjust your resources or quickly see the availability of another staff member. An effective staff rota will allow you to have the information available when you need it, to then inform employees of the changes.

How To Create a Staff Rota?

The first consideration is having a repository of relevant employee information. This might include:

  • Employee contact information
  • Employee contracted hours
  • Employee availability
  • Employee qualifications and skills
  • Employee hourly rates

The next step is to consider the structure of your organisation. Breaking your organisation into departments will help when deciding on the required resourcing levels. Employees may be able to work in more than one department, but they cannot be in two places at the same time so make sure that when you are planning for ‘Department A’, you can see if an employee is already working in ‘Department B’.

Now you can start to allocate resources to where they need to be, in order to satisfy your department's needs. You will need to be able to allocate a start and end time to a shift and allow for statutory and optional breaks.

You will also need to consider, plan for and record staff absences. For example, make sure you can easily see if a member of staff is on holiday. Does this affect your compliance levels? Do you need to allocate additional resources to cover the absence?

Once you have your plan, you will need to communicate this to employees. This can be as simple as printing out a spreadsheet and pinning it up in a staff room, but this relies on staff being present to check their rota on a regular basis. Emailing staff rotas is common practice for many organisations, but even having access to work emails can be a challenge in some cases. Rota planning software tools that have an employee app can be a very effective way of communicating staff rotas in real-time, notifying staff of shift changes or upcoming overtime opportunities via their mobile phones.

Five Tips To Creating a Staff Rota

1. Plan your rotas in advance

The more visibility that you can give your employees, the easier it will be for your staff to plan their work/home life balance. It will also allow your staff to raise issues in advance that need to be addressed. But that raises the question, how far in advance should you plan a staff rota? Thankfully, we've created a dedicate article which discusses exactly that.

2. Use your staff rota to manage, record and report on absences

All organisations have to manage their statutory obligations when it comes to employee absences. For example, holiday entitlements, sickness, maternity and paternity leave, and unauthorised absences need to be recorded and managed. Using your staff rota to manage pre-planned absences and to record and report on individual, departmental and organisational absences will provide you with valuable information and will not only ensure you remain compliant with employment legislation but that you will also have access to accurate payroll calculations.

3. Communicate your plan

Having an effective way to communicate your shift scheduling is crucial. Hours and hours can be spent on composing and reading emails or WhatsApp messages relating to staff planning. If you cannot ensure that short-term amendments to a rota are communicated, you are reliant on employees regularly checking for changes on a frequent basis. Not only is this frustrating, but it is also time-consuming and can easily lead to errors that can be costly.

4. Protect your employee’s data

Employee data can be particularly sensitive. It includes personal information that will invariably be subject to data protection legislation such as GDPR. If you are planning your rota to a budget, then hours worked must be associated with hourly rates or salaries and, for obvious reasons, having access to this information needs to be restricted to a select few within an organisation.

5. Ensure you remain compliant

This is particularly important when it comes to health and safety. Have you got enough first aid trained personnel or fire marshals on site? Does accepting an annual leave request from an employee with a first aid qualification mean you are not meeting your minimum staffing requirements? When do you need to allow for recertification?

Outside of legal responsibilities of health and safety, skills and qualifications are vital for the smooth and efficient running of any organisation. Do you have enough experience on a production line? Do you have enough delivery drivers? Is there at least one supervisor on site at all times?

An effective rota planning tool can ensure that you are able to answer these questions, keep your staff safe when at work and ensure efficient running of your business.

What To Do With Your Staff Rota Once It Has Been Created

So, you are happy with your plan. What next?

Like any well-planned strategy, it can only be effectively implemented when it is communicated to everyone. There are two very important considerations to this. Firstly, ensuring that everyone is aware that a rota has been published and secondly, communicating changes to the plan to those that need to know.

Rota Planning Meets Time and Attendance

Time and attendance is the method of recording actual working hours. There are significant benefits when the actual information can be compared to the plan. For example, if an employee was scheduled to work between nine and five, but actually started work at eight and worked until six, a decision needs to be made as to what to do with the extra two hours. Are the extra hours considered part of the employee’s contract? Should they be paid as overtime? Can the employee save the hours and use them as time off in lieu?

Conversely, if another employee was scheduled to work the same planned hours but came in an hour late or left an hour early should you deduct this hour from their pay? Do they have time off in lieu available to compensate? Are there welfare or other hr-related issues to consider?

RotaOne is a powerful time and attendance system that can automatically process what to do with the exceptions to the plan. It can raise exceptions and warnings to managers so that they can determine the appropriate course of action to take when exceptions to the plan occur.

Rota Planning Made Easy

If you would like to understand how RotaOne could be implemented to best support your rota planning and time and attendance requirements, we would be pleased to speak with you. Our dedicated team is highly experienced in understanding business needs and would be happy to demonstrate how RotaOne could reduce costs, increase efficiency and mitigate risk. Please feel free to contact us or click the link below to schedule a free, no-obligation online demo and we can show you why RotaOne is trusted by organisations around the world to help effectively manage their workforce.

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