Shift planning: why it’s important to get it right + 4 steps

steps of shift planning

Table of Contents

Shift planning is an essential part of business operations, primarily in organisations that rely on hourly workers. When managed efficiently this process can enhance your bottom line, but it can end up costing you if not handled correctly. Take a look at why it is essential to get shift planning right and our top 4 steps for effectively managing this process below.

shift planning

Shift planning overview

Shift planning is the process of scheduling your employees work hours in line with the work that needs to be done and the hours required to complete this work. Shift planning is essential to workforce management in industries that solely rely on shift work and hourly workers, like healthcare, cleaning services and security companies. 

Over the years, the shift planning process has transformed from the use of timesheets to innovative solutions that utilise technology and employee scheduling software. This has become necessary to balance all the different elements related to shift planning, including employee time off, overtime, vacation requests, payroll elements, and customer demand. Today shift planning requires integration across all business operations to effectively manage and track productivity, efficiency, overhead costs, and profitability. 

When the shift planning process is managed correctly, your business will reap the following benefits

  • Effective control over labour costs – poorly planned shifts have a massive impact on labour costs, especially where understaffing and overstaffing are concerned. For example, if a shift doesn’t have enough workers, you will end up paying more over time. On the other hand, if you have too many workers per shift, you are paying more than you need to which will increase labour costs. Each of these scenarios impacts your business’s bottom line and profitability as well as customer experience. 
  • Enhanced employee productivity – one of the most significant benefits of good shift planning is enhanced productivity. In this case, you have enough workers with the right skills to meet your customer’s demands and expectations. Your team can effectively and efficiently get the job done. 
  • Meet customer expectations and increase flexibility – with effective shift planning, you can meet your customer’s expectations and their needs and requirements for the job within time and budget constraints. This leads to a great customer experience, repeat sales, and referrals, which ultimately enhance profitability. 

Shift planning is essential to many businesses and, when managed correctly, can positively impact your bottom line. The key to achieving the benefits mentioned above is to ensure that you are following the proper shift management best practices and steps to meet your business needs and goals for success. We outline our top 4 Shift Planning Steps for you below. 

steps of shift planning

4 Shift Planning Steps 

As mentioned above, there are many shift planning steps that need to be followed to ensure that your shift planning process is as efficient as possible. These include: 

1.Align shift planning with your business and operational requirements

You need to have a clear view of your business and operational requirements when shift planning. This means knowing your clients, their requirements, your employees, their skill levels and availability. This will allow you to create optimal work schedules to ensure that you always have the correct number of employees working, ensuring labour costs are kept under control  to drive profitability. If you are utilising an employee scheduling software to manage this process, you need to ensure that it can be integrated into your current systems to allow you to manage turnover and payroll efficiently. 

monitor demand

2.Monitor demand, historical data and utilise forecasting 

To produce efficient work schedules, you need to analyse historical data and monitor demand to forecast and plan your employee schedules ahead of time. This requires looking at elements related to your business’s busy times, quiet seasons, regular events you work at etc. You can utilise this to predict the number of employees you will need to ensure that you can work around your customer’s needs and requirements for your services. 

3.Know your staff, their availability and create open lines of communications

Get to know your staff and their availability to get your employee scheduling right the first time. Make sure you check their availability and communicate schedules long in advance. This allows your employees to alert you to any scheduling conflicts, issues or problems. This reduces employee absenteeism and also enables you to ensure that all shifts are covered. For this process to run smoothly, you will need to: 

  • Provide your employees with notice about any shift schedule changes in advance
  • Match the right shifts with the right employees who have the correct skills needed to complete the task
  • Ensure that you allocate a fair amount of shifts per employee
  • Clearly define employee roles and responsibilities
  • Provide employees with an easy way to manage shift swaps
know your staff

4. Utilise the right tools to enhance employee scheduling and planning 

When you have a business with many moving parts keeping track of employee shifts is often tricky, especially if you are still using spreadsheets. Many business owners are now turning to technology and shift planning software solutions to automate this process, enhance scheduling, and keep up-to-date information on hand about their employees and customers. This type of software is revolutionising the scheduling process and is reducing the amount of time that you need to spend building templates and managing schedules, allowing you to focus on driving business success. One such solution is Adapt IT’s EasyRoster software.

EasyRoster and shift planning 

EasyRoster is an innovative solution specifically designed to assist managers in ensuring maximum labour efficiency, of which shift planning is an essential part of this process. This software platform facilitates the following: 

  • Contract management – Details regarding each site or location are captured and maintained in EasyRoster.  When roster and attendance hours or shifts are registered for a site, they are compared to the requirements of the contract or site – providing you with a bird’s eye view of all jobs and operational requirements. 
  • Personnel management – Details regarding each person to be managed are captured and maintained in EasyRoster.  This allows you to choose and assess the right employees for the project, site or job. 
  • Staff scheduling per location – Scheduling (rostering) of personnel shifts is done per location and may be done manually or automatically. This allows you to ensure that the right employees are at the right locations, enables you to track and get overtime alerts, monitors non-productive time, and provides sales data that you can use to determine the profit per site.
time and attendance tips
  • Time and attendance per location – The capturing of actual attendance details is done per location and may be done manually or automatically. This allows you to pull reports and make the necessary adjustments to attendance to ensure that sites are correctly covered and that wage costs are kept to a minimum.
  • Minimise wage costs – The most crucial functionality provided by EasyRoster, is the power of the management information and reports that are provided. These reports highlight incorrect rostering and attendance in terms of the number and/or grades of personnel rostered or posted at a site, projected and actual wage costs, overtime, non-productive time, site profitability, etc. This enables an operations manager to keep day-to-day real time control of operations to ensure that costs are kept to a minimum, and personnel requirements are precisely met.
  • Flexible business rules – EasyRoster is highly customisable and flexible, allowing for the creation of customised business rules according to your requirements which could include shift type definitions, wage rules, grades/rank, allowances, earnings and more. 
Free Shift Roster Excel Template Download


Shift planning is an essential component for many businesses. Technology, like Adapt IT’s EasyRoster solution, is making this process even easier for you to manage your business on a day to day basis, allowing companies to reduce labour costs, enhance productivity and profitability.

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