7 Tips for Effective Staff Planning and Scheduling in the Field

Boon Edam Blog | November 2018

People Behind the Products - Andre Mutsaers | Boon Edam

No matter how large your business, effective staff planning and scheduling is key to ensuring that tasks and actions are carried out by the right people at the right time. It may sound like a simple process, but with different roles, abilities and availabilities, not to mention people off sick and on holiday, the process can end up being far more difficult than anticipated. It is therefore important that you are doing all you can to streamline the process and ensure work is completed quickly and effectively. To help you with that, here are our top 7 tips for effective staff planning and scheduling in the field.

1. Get to Know your Staff and their Timetables

As a staff planner, you will want to know everyone in the business, what their skills are, and some of their weaknesses. Obviously, the smaller your business, the easier this is to achieve, but doing so will allow you to pick the right people for the task at hand.

As well as learning people’s skills, you will also want to know people’s availability. Some of your staff may work the regular 9-5 Monday to Friday, but how many of them work part-time? Are there any days that some people are unavailable to work? These are all important questions to consider when planning out tasks for staff members. One simple yet effective way of keeping track of who is entering and exiting the building is through using a smart entry solution, like a security portal with access control system, or a speed gate. Using this data can allow you to pinpoint exactly who is where and when, giving your planning an informed edge.

2. Getting the Right Roles

However, understanding your staff members skills and availability is only one half of the equation. You will also want to know which roles are best suited for certain staff members, as well as how many people will be needed for the role in question.

There is nothing worse than assigning too few people to a job, but it can be equally bad if there are too many people working on the same task. Having a better understanding of the staff available, as well as a complete understanding of the task itself, can help eliminate this problem.

3. Plan in Advance

In the world of staff planning, time is most definitely not on your side. With the possibility of last minute covers, people being on holiday or not being equipped for the role, it is vital to plan in advance to ensure tasks are completed to time.

Planning ahead is also beneficial to your employees. Staff want to know their hours in advance so they can plan out their other priorities accordingly, and it also helps avoid any mix-ups by having everything organised prior.

Here at Boon Edam International, our very own staff organiser, André Mutsaers, plans and assigns staff tasks up to three weeks in advance:

“The planning is critical… we have to be flexible for the customer. To plan each job, I have to look at the door, the type, the size, the weight so that I can put enough mechanics − and the right mechanics − on the job. Every Monday morning, we sit with the office team to talk about last week and to talk about the three weeks we have planned. The planning is critical because we have to meet the tight deadline and the expectations from the customer.”

4. Effective Communication with Employees

Planning is important, but it is not going to be very effective if you cannot communicate your plan effectively to your employees.

Do not just rely on word of mouth - use the tools at your disposal, such as emails and texts, to let people know of any important changes.

You also want to make communication easy from the perspective of your employees too; for example, asking for time off should not have to cause unnecessary administrative problems. Asking in person is an option, albeit a non-reliable one, so opt to use an HR software system, such as People HR, to streamline the process.

Put simply, anytime there is a change to the rota; everyone needs to know - to ensure there is not any overlap or conflicts with timing and availability.

5. Use a Rota Planning Tool

There needs to be a system in place to track who has been assigned to which task and to log any changes. Pen and paper might work for small businesses, but when you begin to work with more than ten people things can start becoming more challenging.

Many businesses use spreadsheets to manage their staff rota - typically either Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets. Both are great choices for managing and changing large amounts of data, but they cannot communicate these changes with staff easily. One option is to give viewing access to the sheet to all members of staff, but there is no guarantee that everyone will be active in routinely checking it for changes.

Another option is to use a rota management system. These are powerful pieces of software that can help manage your staff rotas and alert people to any changes that directly affect them. The only downside is they can be expensive, although most will offer some sort of free trial period. Popular options include Rotacloud, Deputy and Quinyx.

6. Know Who is Responsible for What

Smaller businesses may have one sole staff planner responsible for assigning tasks to staff, but larger ones may have some planners responsible for different things.

It is therefore important that everyone knows who is responsible for what. Who is responsible for approving and signing off annual leave? Who is in charge of approving shift swaps? Do not just assume someone in the team will handle it; give people specific roles within the planning team, so people know who to talk to and to help improve accountability.

Remember, staff planners may fall ill or require time off as well. Ensure you have a backup plan in place in case anybody is not available to manage the rota at a specific time.

Certain emergencies will be specific to certain businesses; for example, a restaurant may need to have a contingency plan in place if their head chef falls ill before an important shift. If you work within a business or location which hosts secure information, like a data centre, then it may be that you need to ensure that you have plans in place which prioritise security - and a strategy for if a breach does occur.

Make a note of possible emergencies unique to your business, and plan for them accordingly. It may not be possible to plan for every emergency, but identifying them and having possible solutions in place ahead of time could save you a lot of trouble if one does emerge. In the example of a data centre, it may be that planning ahead around protection could save you time and energy in the long run. High security portals use weight systems and biometric identification to ensure that only authorised people are allowed access - reducing the likelihood of a breach and giving you more time to focus on the tasks at hand.

Contact a Member of our Experienced and Dedicated Team of Entry Experts

When it comes to staff planning and scheduling, it is vital that businesses adopt a proactive approach - rather than a reactive one. There are, however, areas where Boon Edam can help to ensure that this focus is maintained. For efficiency that is prioritised in every area of your business, contact a member of our experienced and dedicated team of entry experts today. 

© Royal Boon Edam International B.V.