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Shift management: challenges and best practices

What is shift management?

Shift management is the process of rostering hourly employees and ensuring adequate staffing. It may also require knowledge of labour laws that define:

  • maximum daily and weekly working hours

  • how managers must communicate roster changes

  • terms of rest and meal breaks.

What are the challenges of shift management? 

Accurately predicting staffing needs

Managers need to strike a balance between rostering enough employees to serve customers without over-staffing and undermining profits. However, demand can be hard to predict. 

For example: A tavern manager expects a large crowd on Saturday night and rosters 2 bartenders, 6 cooks and 4 servers. But unexpected bad weather keeps many customers at home. As a result, the tavern is paying 12 employees for a full evening’s work when 6 employees would’ve been adequate. 


Manual rostering can be a time-consuming process. If a business isn't using shift management software, they’re probably using Excel spreadsheets or some other calendar system to plan rosters and either emailing them or making them available for the team to view. However, rosters may need to be changed several times if the manager doesn't have visibility of the shift worker’s availability.

For example: A retail manager is creating a roster 2 weeks in advance. The employee who regularly works 5pm to close will be on holiday for 3 days that week. The manager rosters another employee for those shifts, not realising that employee takes classes at university those evenings.

Covering unplanned absences

Many businesses don’t have a process for covering a shift when an employee calls in sick. That can leave managers scrambling to find an available employee with the right skills to carry out the work. Not having the right capability or capacity rostered on can increase a business’ workplace health and safety risk, while also negatively impacting customer service.

Combining the right people

While you need staff with the right skills to work the shift, it’s also important to make sure you’re not breaching any Award or collective employment agreement around time off between shifts or other working conditions. When creating the roster manually, you may lack the visibility you need to keep track of availability and avoid any compliance breaches. 

Best practices for shift management

Be consistent

Try to roster employees for the same shifts each week. A consistent roster helps employees plan their lives around their work, and also reduces the risk of no-shows that can occur with unpredictable schedules.

Understand employee commitments

Ask employees about their personal obligations — like education, childcare or a second job — so you don’t inadvertently roster them for shifts they can’t work. 

Develop a system for swapping and covering shifts

Empowering employees to trade shifts, where necessary, can help lighten your administrative load. You may, however, want to create some rules around shift swapping so you always have people with the right skills, certifications and experience rostered on. 

Use shift management software

Shift management software makes it easy to create rosters. You can plug in everyone’s role, level and availability and use the software to create and publish rosters. Some shift management platforms also enable real-time notifications via a mobile app when shifts are published, changed or someone needs to swap a shift. Workers may also be able to clock in or clock out of their shifts via their mobile app. 

Review your data

If you’re using shift management software, you can get data insights that'll help you get your resourcing right to maximise profitability. For example, a workforce management solution may allow you to: 

  • Monitor the efficiency of labour costs to sales

  • Compare the actual cost of the shift to the budget

  • View total costs across shifts or for specific employees

  • View the variance between budgeted and actual labour costs and hours

This type of information can help you further improve business efficiency. 

An integrated solution with MYOB

With MYOB Advanced Workforce Management, you can take care of your shift management alongside your employee onboarding, timesheeting and payroll requirements. By bringing these critical workflows together, you can:

  • Gain visibility of your workforce for scheduling, tracking and reporting

  • Maintain compliance with labour laws and enterprise agreements

  • Improve your employee experience

  • Increase efficiency in core business processes

  • Help your business achieve its potential

Find out more. Contact a solution consultant today.

Disclaimer: Information provided in this article is of a general nature and does not consider your personal situation. It does not constitute legal, financial, or other professional advice and should not be relied upon as a statement of law, policy or advice. You should consider whether this information is appropriate to your needs and, if necessary, seek independent advice. This information is only accurate at the time of publication. Although every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of the information contained on this webpage, MYOB disclaims, to the extent permitted by law, all liability for the information contained on this webpage or any loss or damage suffered by any person directly or indirectly through relying on this information.

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