By Emma Simpson
Business correspondent, BBC News
19 September 2017
From the Department Business
Staff holiday scheduling headaches can be aided by technology
Getting the ideal workers when they are needed by you. Sounds simple.
Staff rotas are the stuff of nightmares, especially if they’re predicated on shifts at all hours of the day and night.
Our rota manager here in the BBC’s Business Unit deserves a trophy.
She’s already started the Christmas rota. There’s hours of output to fill, although her TV want the whole week off.
Her spreadsheets are vast and multicoloured.
She is often the first to learn about births, deaths and marriages, along with all our foibles.
Like many workplaces, it’s a mundane but mission-critical undertaking.
Here’s a few examples of how it can go wrong:
A major professional services firm that managed staff holidays with newspaper leave cards somehow managed to send the documents to be shredded, with no listing of any staff depart
A health sector company that used whiteboards for record holidays and rotas, that were filtered over a weekend by new cleaners
A company where four out of five directors all booked their summer holidays at the exact same time and told each other verbally. It wasn’t recorded anywhere, and it had a significant effect on the management of client projects and decision making.
“For any company to run smoothly, as this situation with Ryanair shows, vacation planning is absolutely critical,” says Adrian Lewis, director of Activ Absence, a cloud-based software provider for staff holiday planning and absence management.
“With modern cloud technologies today available cost effectively, there’s absolutely not any reason at all that any business should have problems managing annual leave.”
He is not the only company offering software solutions.
For Planday, a software provider that is Danish, the UK is its fastest-growing sector.
“We reckon 80 percent of businesses in the UK are still relying on old-fashioned tools, particularly small and medium-sized [companies],” Planday’s chief executive Christian Brondum told the BBC.
Many workers have at least two jobs and do shift work, but businesses are still using paper and pencil, or Mr Brondum explains.
“We’ve seen companies get into deep financial problems because they can’t treat employees well,” he says.
One of Planday’s clients is the Truscott Arms pub in London.
The manager used to spend hours trying to figure out which staff he needed and how best to fill the gaps.
But by using an program, he can track in real time who’s available for work, for the shift at the ideal time.
Separately, the UK’s biggest retailer has been using mobile programs to allow store managers to determine which staff members have called in sick, and also also to see if demand picks up, who’s available for work.
Applications that is app-based is being used by Tesco in 200 of its stores, which means managers can scan a tablet computer.
Tesco says it is not only more efficient, but also means workers can attempt to have schedules that match their lifestyles.
According to one professor of psychology, it’s all about getting the balance right.
“Rotas look simple, but they’re complicated things. Communicating online can depersonalise the procedure,” says Prof Cary Cooper from Manchester Business School.
“It’s all about the essence of the relationship between management and the employees.”
Ryanair’s problems, he says, are shocking: “If you have the right culture in the workplace and your employee feels valued, then usually people are prepared to give up vacation time to help their business out of a problem. “
Ryanair’s got plenty of those now.