Guest Contributor

5 Shift Management Best Practices

By | Elaine Bennett | Editor in Chief, Bizzmark Blog

Shift-based work environments are full of challenges. Keeping tabs on work hours, absence, vacations, salaries, and many other things can quickly throw management procedures into chaos. Not to mention the pressure of the COVID-19 pandemic that turned many workplaces upside down. Here are some of the best practices that will make your shift management much easier to deal with it all.

  1. Establish rules for scheduling

Before you start assigning shifts, you need to lay the groundwork for it. Determine the resource needs for each role and shift. Using your previous experience, anticipate trends that occur and plan them into the schedule – such as shifts that are often understaffed. Factoring in around-the-year events such as winter holidays or Easter is also a good strategy. 

If some shifts require workers with special skills, schedule them first to ensure that you will have them available when needed. Be sure that all regulations and policies concerning the creation of schedule are known to managers before assigning shifts.

  1. Focus on hiring the right crew

Shift-based work is not for everyone, and it is not always easy to figure out who is the best candidate. To hire the best employees at your disposal, consider the following strategies:

  • Check experience – if the candidate was successful in previous jobs organized in shifts, they might be considered reliable. Prioritize them over those without any experience in working in shifts.
  • Be open about what is expected from them – shifts can be hard on people’s schedules. Be specific about your expectations so that the candidate understands the work conditions and obligations.
  • Explore their motivation – since shift work can be stressful, try to understand why they apply for the job. This is especially important for the night shift. The reason and personality are critical factors in employee engagement, so try to figure them out.
  1. Setup onboarding for new employees

Onboarding is vital for all types of work, but primarily when people work in shifts. They need to learn how shifts are organized, what production or service they provided, their role in it, tools they need to master. Since it can be overwhelming in the beginning, break it into several chunks in order of importance. Also, write down all the necessary information so that new workers may find answers more quickly; all the documents should be readily available to all your employees. 

Encourage them to ask as many questions as they want and have clear channels in place for them to do so. Establishing a mentoring or “buddy system,” where one person already working in the company knows all the necessary procedures and acts as a support and guide to the new employee, can help with that. 

  1. Plan schedules in advance and detail

Last-minute schedules are a terrible way to run any business. Employees, especially those working in shifts, need to know their schedule well in advance. Make it as straightforward as possible, using a visual dashboard that is easy to understand and follow. If you want to go digital, look for the best time and attendance solutions, as they can help immensely with tracking hours, shifts, and costs. Here are some recommendations when making schedules:

  • Plan everything at least a month ahead. Two weeks should be the bare minimum.
  • Divide employees between those who choose an 8-hour slot and those that choose two 4-hour slots.
  • Do not be afraid to hire temporary workers during the peak of the season.
  • It would help if you kept overtime at a bare minimum. If you are expecting an increase in work, pay more for overtime hours.
  • Keep employees rested – give two days off per week and avoid consecutive night shifts.
  • Most importantly, at the end of the month, check with employees if any problems occurred with scheduling and look for a way to solve them.
  1. Do not forget about health and safety

You can say that COVID-19 left no business untouched. Reduction of direct contacts between employees, disinfection of the workplace, and maintaining physical distance turned some jobs into a challenge. To alleviate at least some of it, here are recommendations on how to make your workplace Corona-free (or as free as it can be):

  • Organize shifts so that they don’t start and end during rush hour to help your employees avoid being stuck in public transportation.
  • Extend the overlap between shifts; that way, departing workers will have minimal contact with the arriving ones.
  • Reserve time for cleaning at the beginning and at the end of shift (and during work hours if necessary).
  • Avoid sharing tools – pens, devices, materials – if possible. If sharing is a must, everything must be adequately cleaned before being passed to the next worker.
  • Use physical barriers to separate workplaces. Curtains or transparent plastic screens can help with minimizing face-to-face contact.

Using these strategies will help you minimize the stress and make your shifts far more productive. Look for feedback from workers and managers to improve the procedures and introduce new ideas for organizing work. And remember, in times of pandemic, all employees’ health and safety should be of top priority.

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