Scheduling conflicts occur for many reasons. The underlying issue is other obligations coincide with scheduled work shifts. While there is no guaranteed way to solve the problem every time it happens, there are things you can do to ensure every shift is covered.
The Dilemma for Managers
The perfect schedule may exist, but it is not protected from some type of disruption, whether work-related or not. Some employees may need to call out at the last minute. A family emergency may turn into a leave of absence.
Without a system in place, your first response might be to begin calling anyone you think might be available to cover the shift. This could take hours, leaving you unable to immediately fill the gap. In a service-oriented organization, customers will feel the brunt of the scheduling void.
Scheduling employees is a balancing act, even for well-staffed organizations. If you over-schedule shifts, you risk having outlandish labor costs. You also must deal with disgruntled employees who were either counting on the pay or scheduled outside obligations around a shift they are not working.
On the other hand, you risk horrible customer service and stressing team members by under-scheduling.
You need a system that allows you to successfully manage work schedule conflicts that do not require endless administrative hours. There are many ways to do this, including using a scheduling software system to efficiently create, monitor and make changes when needed.
Here are three common scheduling conflicts most managers face with some practical ways to resolve the issues.
Scheduling overlaps are very common. The issue may arise because an employee takes college courses or has a second job. Related to this is over-scheduling, which occurs when an employee works two shifts back-to-back with very little time for a break.
Human oversight is the common culprit, but other factors may contribute to the frequency of making this error. One way to avoid this error, if it applies to the structure of your company, is to have one person in charge of scheduling. Too many people can convolute things.
Another practice is to keep up-to-date records of employee availability. An electronic system where employees report their unavailability may work best. It is easy to forget a sticky note or a comment one employee makes while passing you in the break room.
If a scheduling error has already occurred, such as a double schedule, decide which role is most important at the moment. Send everyone else a message to communicate the change.
Irregular Work Schedules
Irregular schedules can create many shift conflicts. An employee might forget they are working the night shift this week if they were working days last week. Not only can this interrupt productivity, but it can increase employee stress at home and at work. Be proactive by creating a schedule template.
Creating a scheduling template save you time duplicating the same days and hours every other week. Remember to be realistic and flexible by using the template as a guide. What looks good on paper may not look the same when real-world circumstances change things. A contingency plan will keep you from being completely surprised by emergencies or no-call, no-shows.
Errors in Labor Forecasting
While creating advanced schedules, you might have seen signs that a date in the future would be a slow one. Yet, you second-guessed yourself and did not place enough employees on a shift. Now, you are faced with an under-staffed department and increasing demands from customer orders.
Some companies keep an on-call list of employees for such times. However, this can become a major morale killer. Instead of having a roster of available employees, you have to make up for high turnover.
A better solution is to leverage the power of technology. This gives you a 24/7 communication tool and employees have the freedom to collaborate with you to plan their schedules.
Scheduling software allows you to run reports and know at all times who is available. You can quickly retrieve historical data to plan schedules three or four months in advance. Not only this but keeping track of employee skill sets gives you a preview of areas an employee could be useful, such as another department’s shortfall. This keeps them busy and off a waiting list.
Take Action to Resolve Scheduling Conflicts
Ideally, the best position to be in is stopping problems with employee work schedules before they start. However, predicting every challenge is not feasible. Even perfect schedules cannot avoid interruptions. Still, there are certain things you can do to minimize the conflicts.
Start with the big picture in mind when you begin creating schedules. Local events and weather changes can influence different components of your schedule. Keeping these possibilities in mind can help you make better decisions about staffing levels.
Make sure employee can easily access schedules. This is one way that an employee attendance system helps tremendously. The traditional posting of schedules in the break room is not a guarantee that all employees have seen and approve of the days and hours they are expected to work.
A digital system is designed to send schedules to all employees. Some may allow you to request a confirmation from employees that they accept their scheduled hours.
Technology can work for you. Attendance software programs take a significant amount of manpower and guesswork out of the process. These systems not only notify you of potential conflicts but can also make shift swapping easy for employees.
These are just a few suggestions on handling common scheduling conflicts. Whether it is the result of human error, or simply expecting too much from employees, knowing how to act before an issue occurs can help prevent a major fallout. The right combination of technology, preparation and calm can transform scheduling conflicts into rare occurrences.