Thinking about a new shift pattern? Don’t fall foul of these five common pitfalls | EEF

Thinking about a new shift pattern? Don’t fall foul of these five common pitfalls

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Our team of Workforce Planning Consultants work with companies wanting to address their shift schedules, so they can make smarter decisions for their organisation. Here is their advice on what to avoid:


  1. Number of people at work does not match the workload. The primary reason for a shift pattern is to deploy the staff as efficiently as possible, this means matching the people on shift to the workload / demand. This first step is to understand your workload by collecting data; this might be by hour, day or week depending on your operation. If there are seasonal fluctuations in demand, you will need to make separate calculations for each season.


  2. Trying to find a solution before the problem is identified. Do you know what the issue is? You may want to increase productivity but have you looked at why you are not able to hit the output you need with the resources that you currently have? Creative thinking around the problem and identifying the root cause, such as excessive overtime, may remove the requirement to change shifts or employing more people. What you initially thought was the solution may not be the case once you take a step back at look at the problem.


  3. Limited employee involvement. Do you know what your employees want? What is important to them may not be important to you. Finding out how much flexibility employees are able to offer at the start of this process will facilitate any changes later. Employee involvement is critical in any process that will change their working patterns; you may have a contractual clause that allows you to change shifts but poorly managed changes to working patterns can impact on staff morale, productivity, staff retention and your reputation. Employees like having a predictable working pattern, with a fair amount of weekends off work with the opportunity to have a good work life balance. Companies that involve employees in a change very early in the process achieve better employee satisfaction.


  4. Rushing a change and setting unrealistic timescales. Making a change to working patterns may be critical to the operation of the business however can you afford to rush the process? Planning a change to shifts can at times be straight forward in the case of introducing a new shift because of an increase in demand for example. Where there is a change to an existing working pattern with existing employees, you may face resistance, especially if the process is rushed with limited employee involvement. Set yourself realistic timescales that allow for employee consultation through your employee representative and Trade Union groups. Let the employees suggest solutions once you have identified what the problem is. Change programmes that have allowed time for employee buy-in will be much more successful than those that have been rushed though and poorly thought out.


  5. Failing to understand the flexibility in your current terms and conditions. Do you have a flexibility clause in your employees' contracts that allow you to make reasonable changes to their current working patterns? Check what terms & conditions your employees are engaged upon as you may already have consent from employees to make changes to their working patterns; however, remember you must consult with employees if you are going to be making changes failing to do so could have consequences. Employees may have concerns about the changes you are proposing; therefore, listening to their concerns before the changes have been made makes good business sense, as you may be able to reach a compromise that works for the company and the employee.


Attend a shift design seminar near you

Shift design and implementation: the business case for change

Our HR team take you through the business case for reviewing and changing your existing shift patterns. From understanding your utilisation rates to strategies that reduce overtime, whilst staying compliant and keeping your workforce on-board. Find out more and book.


Senior HR Consultant

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