The Complete Guide To Shift Planning For Managers

Manager working on shift planning for his team

Managers and supervisors wear several hats to ensure things run smoothly, but one of their most important roles begins before the workday even starts. When it comes to shift planning, organizing schedules the wrong way can yield unfortunate consequences.

In this article, we’ll discuss the overall importance of effective shift planning and how to create an exceptional method that will work every time.

What Is Shift Planning?

Very basically, shift planning entails making and organizing a schedule that fits with the given roles and responsibilities of employees. Aside from roles and hours, this schedule might often include things such as:

  • Employee vacation time
  • Holiday PTO
  • Dedicated training time
  • Shift overlap consideration
  • And more, depending on the industry

A consistently manageable schedule keeps business operations running at an ideal pace and helps keep staff morale high. However, on the opposite end of this spectrum, regular changes and a poorly organized schedule can have a long list of undesirable impacts.

Results Of Poor Shift Planning

Manager stressing due to poor shift planning

It’s important to remember that poor shift planning is not necessarily the result of poor planning in general. A highly skilled manager can still experience schedule backlash with the wrong tools — more on this in a bit.

Below are just a few of the ways that poor shift planning results in negative outcomes.

Overstaffing And Understaffing

When determining how many employees to have for a certain shift, it’s easy to end up with too many bodies or not enough. The former will result in an unnecessary loss of income, while the latter means the quality of customer service decreases.

To understand the perfect amount of employees to work a certain shift, predictive analyses can take out most of the guesswork. These models take into account schedules and revenue from previous years so you can schedule more or fewer individuals when needed.

To do this, it’s helpful to have all of the necessary information in one place. While some managers might opt for programs like Excel to document such data, this can take countless hours, be calculated incorrectly, or ultimately be changed.

All-in-one solutions, like Inch, make it easy to keep track of important data and schedule the right amount of people every time.

Limited Availability

A nightmare for many managers is when the number of people asking for specific days off outweighs the number of employees needed for the shift. This is especially common around the holidays, and the issue is only further fueled by poor shift planning.

Whether it’s forgetting which employees asked off for which date or asking for submitted time-off requests at the last minute, not having enough employees can put you in a difficult and unpredictable position.

High Turnover Rate

Staff wanted sign

When poor shift planning remains consistent and nothing is done to fix it, the impact will begin to show in the bottom line. Soon enough, employees start to seek out new opportunities where organization is not an issue.

Along with hurting staff morale, high turnover rates require more training and other investments such as time. After a while, this will turn into an expensive dilemma.

Tips For Ideal Shift Planning

Ideal shift planning and creating a schedule that makes everyone happy is the result of team communication and access to the right tools. Even the most highly qualified manager can make mistakes, so it’s important to have systems and programs in place that reduce human error.

Read on for how to be successful in any shift planning circumstances and the tools needed to do so.

Hire The Right Employees

This one might seem obvious, but hiring a person who excels at their job does not always mean they will be a terrific communicator.

Once the search has been narrowed down to a few candidates, a great way to better understand each person’s communication style and skills is to reach out to their previous employers.

Knowing that candidates check off the following is a good sign that you have the right employees:

  • Meets the job requirements
  • Can be independently successful in their role
  • Can clearly and effectively communicate

Having employees that communicate effectively right away makes shift planning easier for you as a manager. And rather than having to mediate, you can shift their focus toward other work priorities.

Make Communication Seamless

Man checking his schedule from his phone

Without the right tools, proper communication can be a problem for managers and employees alike.

The solution is to ensure that everyone has the same resources when it comes to knowing the distribution of work and the process of determining employee hours.

Today, the quickest and most convenient tool to accomplish this is work management software. This will help regulate schedules and provide a simple way to submit work preferences, time-off requests, and any shift swaps.

When deciding which software to use, start by checking whether they have necessities, including:

  • Task management for scheduling employees
  • Labor cost management for optimizing finances
  • Streamlined team communication
  • Time tracking
  • Notifications

Clarify Your Shift-Swapping Policy

Having clearly stated guidelines when it comes to employees changing shifts will help avoid a mess of confusion. A lack of structure can lead to employees not knowing their new schedules or working on tasks not suited to their strengths.

This policy will change depending on the type of business, but a good rule of thumb is to have requests be timely (as soon as the respective schedule is available if possible) and to explain any consequences that come with an employee failing to commit to their swapped shift.

Keep Things Organized

Organization is key when it comes to shift planning. Once everything is in one easy-to-access space, be sure to define the roles and responsibilities of the workforce so everyone knows who has which task and what the expectations are.

One of the many reasons that spreadsheets do not work, especially with larger companies, is that you risk the possibility of multiple schedules being shared or changes being made that were not approved.

A single online schedule that can be changed accordingly with a supervisor’s consent removes this issue entirely to avoid confusion and keep everything organized.

The Sooner, The Better

Team doing shift planning

On the note of organization, planning ahead when it comes to workforce scheduling is a great way to maintain a healthy workflow and quickly spot and resolve any issues.

An employee who expects their schedule to be visible two weeks in advance is more prepared for their work and their life outside of it as well. Being able to provide this balance is critical for maintaining talent.

The earlier the shifts are set, the less likely someone will request off at the last minute or not show up. Falling into the habit of publishing schedules a day or two before a workweek begins can result in no-show employees, frustrated workers, and unhappy customers.

Of course, there is such a thing as planning too far ahead. Employees shouldn’t have to take into account several months’ worth of schedules in one sitting. Two weeks is ideal for most workers, and any more than three can do more harm than good.

Shift For The Seasons

Whether the industry is construction, catering, cleaning, or the like, there are going to be times of the year when business slows down and other times when it picks up.

Retail workers, for example, experience the most foot traffic around the holidays, and managers need to shift for the influx of customers. This often means hiring seasonal workers or asking part-time employees if they are interested in additional seasonal hours.

Establishing seasonal labor should be done well in advance to avoid being short-staffed once the holiday season hits. This allows extra time to coordinate the schedule layout with added employees.

And hiring the right employees applies to seasonal workers as well. Although they might only be there for a short time, these individuals are a key part of business.

Be Flexible

Man worker fixing the flexible tube and preparing the cargo for loading

Following these tips will help ensure that you have a successful shift planning experience, regardless of shift swaps or holiday seasons. But sometimes, things can happen that are outside of anyone’s control.

Requests for time off can be managed in advance by adding available employee hours to the schedule. Still, what happens when an employee is in an accident on their way to work or a sudden emergency arises that needs their immediate attention? How can this be planned for?

Depending on the industry, some managers might allow for this flexibility anyway if a job does not have to be completed on that particular day. Others have someone on call for situations like this or have a list of employees who have stated they are willing to work on short notice.

If no one is available, then it is often up to the shift manager to make sure the responsibilities of the position are completed. This should only be a seldom occurrence, but accounting for that flexibility is essential.

Successfully Shift Plan With Inch

Team using Inch for Shift Planning

Shift planning can either be a simple task that fosters a team’s effective communication or a painstaking chore that requires constant revisions and leads to high turnover rates. Choosing functional and innovative management software will turn the guesswork into your best work.

If you’re looking for a better way to create schedules and give your team a quality experience whether they’re on the clock or planning the weeks ahead, you can trust Inch for ideal results every time.

As a voice-operated workforce management software, Inch seamlessly combines communication, task management, and time tracking to ensure the most efficient and enjoyable work environment for every industry.

To find out how you can save countless hours each week managing your employees and streamline internal communication, visit and get started for free today!

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