How to build a good staff schedule

There are a few basic things you should keep in mind when building a good staff schedule.

The schedule
If you are in the staff management business, by the end of the day what you are doing is resource management: managing your resources in the most effective way possible. Creating a staff schedule is not a hard task, but in order to excel you have to keep in mind the subtle nuances.

The right tools
In this time and age where there is a number of tools to choose from, each should choose the ones that fit one’s working environment. For example, if you have an open office, with the personnel of up to 10, you don’t usually need any specialized tools to manage the staff. Even if there are different shifts and you need to be on top of things, a piece of A4 (paper) will suffice. 

It usually has no copies, is hard to forge, in the possession of one person (the manager) and is easy to archive and retrieve if needed. A piece of paper requires no need to learn new things and is easily understandable. On the other hand, this kind of solution is ‘local’ (you cannot share the same document with anyone elsewhere) and when lost, has no backups and damaged easily (a big splatter of morning coffee in the center of the schedule smudging everything together).

The overwhelming abundance of digital tools (‘apps’), on the other hand, offers a wide range of different ways to manage your staff: online, offline, sharing, collaborating, copying, backing everything up etc. The possibilities are usually limited only by the imagination of the people who designed it. But there’s also the problem: if the variety is so vast, which one is suitable for me?

On one hand the tool might end up coming short. On the other hand, it might have more features than you would ever need, in which case you would end up spending more money than you actually would have to.

What to keep in mind
You can start by narrowing down your selection: what do you want your tool to do?
Is the app for simply helping you manage your staff or would you like the app to track overtime as well? What about reporting? Is that relevant? What about utilization of your staff? What about the comfort of user interface?

The most important features are the following:

  • a quick way to make changes (commonly known as drag&drop)
  • a sufficient overview of all your staff
  • utilization
  • reporting
  • limited access
  • price
Drag&drop (allocation of objects using your mouse cursor) is a feature commonly used, but for some reason many apps that pride themselves as being ‘simple scheduling tools’ have actually made this unbelievably hard. That means you have to learn to use it and if there are several people using it, you have to teach them, which all sums up to wasted time.

Overview is important from a managerial point of view as well from the staff point of view. The best decisions are made when everyone is up to date and have an understanding of what is going on.

Is your staff under or over utilized? Which staff members in specific? This is something only the utilization feature can reveal.

Ah yes - reports. Who wouldn’t love reports? It seems that the ‘higher’ you move within an organization, the more reports you have to file on a daily basis. That said, I think it’s only good to have a feature, that provides reports with just a few clicks.

Regardless of the size of your team, it is seldom that everyone should have the access to the working schedules, so make sure the app you choose has the ability to limit people’s access to the system. More advances apps even have the possibility to limit access within the app itself.

And then, make sure you don’t overpay. Like I mentioned before: many organizations offer all kinds of softwares, with all kinds of nifty features, but by the end of the day, it’s the price/quality ratio that makes all the difference, doesn’t it?

By Indrek Kuldkepp