Shift planning is a fine art at the best of times. However, when external influences and unforeseen circumstances change the landscape, it becomes a huge challenge to keep businesses running as usual.

Shift planning specialists, WhosOffice, have put together guidance on coordinating your workforce in times of crisis management. This is for any company leaders and senior managers who are currently struggling to optimise staff scheduling,

Reacting to bumps in the road

No two days are ever the same in business, but there are periods that prove more testing than others. From financial fluctuation to peaks and drops in demand, sometimes difficult decisions need to be made. Yet, business leaders can’t let bumps in the road to impact the bottom line.

As the recent, unprecedented COVID-19 crisis has shown, companies can be blindsided by events beyond their control. This can impact people’s ability to come to work. At moments like this, a quick and confident response is essential. Essential to ensure that staffing requirements are covered, and that lack of availability doesn’t start to impact productivity.

Plan ahead at all times

Even in reliable operating periods, it’s hard for some employees to access clear information. A recent university study of the retail industry found that only 39% of staff are issued with regular work schedules. What’s more, those expected to attend work at short notice are significantly less happy than those with foresight over their rota.

The number one problem that companies experience in times of crisis is lack of access to accurate information. If shift plans are compiled ‘on the fly’, it’s hard to see where gaps have opened up in order to address staff shortages. By planning ahead, managers have a framework from which to make changes if the going gets tough.

Planning ahead can also help organisations put interim restrictions in place. This will help employees understand how company policies may change in the short term. For example, business leaders may want to putt a temporary halt to annual leave requests, until the situation settles down.

Having a Clear People Plan will help to plan ahead and drive success. Read more on this here

React quickly to real-time events

Putting clear shift plans in place is one thing, changing them is quite another. If companies rely on manual processes such as spreadsheets to schedule staffing requirements, it can be hard to update these based on real-time events.

In times of difficulty, agility is critical. There are two things that organisations can do to increase their shift planning flexibility. The first is to switch over to online planning software, which makes it easy to change and adapt rotas as staff availability evolves.

The second thing companies should do is integrate annual leave and other types of absence into their shift plans. This should also include personal appointments and sickness. This centralises critical business data into one system, so senior leaders to take informed action based on both shift requirements and an accurate record of people’s availability.

Clear communication is key

The first two pieces of advice we’ve shared are based around transparency, which is paramount to companies’ decision-making capabilities. However, there’s another element to shift planning during crisis management, and that’s communication.

Rapidly updating upcoming schedules will only prove effective if staff understand what’s required of them. We’ve mentioned how much happier employees are when they know what lies ahead. Even when the landscape is fluctuating, regular updates and reissuing of the latest rota help them to feel informed and prepared.

Strong communications also enable team leaders to fill any gaps appearing in the shift plan. This is especially the case if they are using online planning software. Open shift opportunities can be advertised to staff members who have not yet been scheduled to work. This gives employees the change to ‘play their part’ – and potentially earn overtime in the process.

Read How to Improve Communication within the Workplace

Show your workforce what you’re made of

Internal and external challenges can be unnerving. But when the going gets tough, companies need to prove to their workforce that they are stronger than ever. One way of instilling confidence is to develop a clear response plan. This should take into account the changing situation, shared widely with your team so that everyone knows where they stand.

As the events of early 2020 have shown us, nobody knows exactly what is around the corner. But with the right shift planning technology, companies have the tools to react to any scenario and adapt your shift set-up effectively to weather these temporary storms.

This article was contributed for Petaurum Solutions by WhosOffice. WhosOffice is an online staff management software with integrated holiday planner, designed to enable agile shift planning.