The Case for Improving Shift Schedules with Digital Tools

by Isioma Daniel, 7 minutes read
HOME blog the case for optimising and improving shift schedules with digital tools

In shift-based businesses, time is a precious commodity. Every minute counts - you must juggle your high labour needs with a tight labour market and your staff's demands for more flexibility

Rota planning decisions can significantly impact your business operations and staff’s earnings and well-being. Shift scheduling is a critical and challenging yet often overlooked aspect of operations. Thankfully, digitisation promises to transform the time-consuming process of creating rotas and offer more efficiency and flexibility. 

By embracing digital scheduling software, your business can streamline its processes and significantly enhance its operational efficiency. Before diving into the benefits of optimised rota scheduling, let’s look at the pain points of manual scheduling. 

The Challenges of Manual Scheduling

Businesses operating with manual scheduling often encounter these challenges:

1. Time-Consuming Processes: Crafting schedules and managing changes becomes time-intensive, diverting focus from core business activities.

2. Inefficient Communication: Lack of real-time updates results in miscommunications and confusion among employees.

3. Unplanned Costs: Over or understaffing due to manual errors can increase labour costs.

4. Employee Burnout:  Constant scheduling changes can lead to fatigue and disengagement among your staff.

Harnessing the Power of Deputy’s Digital Scheduling Software

Deputy’s scheduling software offers a comprehensive solution to these problems, providing an intuitive platform that simplifies shift management. Deputy’s key scheduling efficiency benefits are: 

1. Cost optimisation:Schedule all the right people and avoid overspending on labour. There’s no need to manually produce a schedule based on availability while trying not to exceed budget. 

2. Time efficiency: Schedule the right people at the right times across your business and easily fill shifts based on employee availability, training, cost and your budget – all with a few clicks. 

3. Harness automation: Use artificial intelligence to create cost-efficient rotas in seconds. Managers and owners can auto-build schedule templates that match forecasted sales, delivery orders, foot traffic and other demand trends. 

4. Real-time communication: Easily share schedules with your team to ensure they get all the updates. Deputy also allows you to publish schedules instantly from desktop or mobile with smart alerts and reminders

5. Recruit and retain:  Hit your retention and recruitment goals by providing existing and new staff with a great work-life balance. Deputy helps you provide flexibility and forward planning that is otherwise rare in the hospitality industry.

Accurate Payroll and Less Manual Admin: A Hospitality Small Business Case Study (1-50 employees)

Chai Guys Customer Story Case Study

Gabriel Unger, owner of Chai Guys, says scheduling was a messy business before going digital. “A couple of years ago, I set up an Excel spreadsheet for scheduling”, says Gabriel. “I knew it wasn’t great, and it became frustrating as we grew”. 

“Alongside the spreadsheet, we used screenshots of dates with people’s names next to them, showing where they need to be and when. It wasn’t a ‘living thing’, so it created a lot of manual work when we needed to change things or add hours. Our manager who did the schedules was annoyed by it.” 

Payroll, too, had become stressful, admits Gabriel: “Paying each person the correct amount based on manual timesheets was difficult – especially if we have to make retrospective changes to schedules manually.” 

Gabriel didn't have to go far to research different ways of doing things. Asking around at Spitalfields market soon brought recommendations. When fellow business Humble Crumble showed them Deputy, Gabriel immediately thought: “This is fantastic – it’s time for us to implement it.” 

Once Chai Guys had Deputy up and running for scheduling, it became obvious how much admin time it saves. 

Gabriel says, “Having it on everyone’s phone so they can look at where they need to be at any time instead of finding a message on a WhatsApp group with a screenshot of an Excel sheet – it’s a big-time upgrade!”

Reduced Labour Costs and Precise Demand Planning: A Hospitality and Entertainment Business Case Study (50 - 200 employees) 

For Tommy Giraux, Head of Project Management at Honest Burgers and Stuart Macnab-Grieve, Operations Partner at Honest Burgers, managing costs was a major factor in considering a digital scheduling solution. 

“Before Deputy, we were running the business blindfolded. We had no idea what our labour costs would be until we started paying people,” says Tommy. “We needed a system that would allow us to plug in forecasting to see our staff availability and when demand for staff is likely to be high. This was important for me. Knowing the challenges we’ve got with recruitment and retention, having visibility and a data-led approach was key for me,” says Stuart. 

"Deputy gives us the ability to visually see on a graph when our demand is coming

based on real data from each restaurant, not just an average of our 45 restaurants. I’m pleased we’ve got a system now that does this because it’s made my life easier," says Stuart. 

Winter Wonderland Hyde Park in bustling London is another business benefiting from the digital schedule's power. Deputy helped the popular holiday destination reduce labour costs by 12% in the first year of use.

Increased Productivity with Better Planning: A Hotel Business Enterprise Case Study (over 200 employees)

Sometimes, you don’t realise how unproductive you are until a new solution comes. Pay disputes, missed shifts and low morale are often the result of an inefficiently managed team. Leaning on automation and robust processes is a solid way to boost your business’s productivity.

Luxury hybrid hotel chain citizenM was plagued with inefficient staff scheduling before it found the answer in digital scheduling. Scheduling was spreadsheet-based and a whooping four-hour job. The spreadsheet-based approach caused other snags. “We had issues around compliance and the equality of shifts and around having a single source of truth,” says Matthew Bell, Hotel Operations Director Europe. “If someone changed the shift in Excel, did everyone see an updated version? And we also had trouble integrating the shift data with payroll.”

On top of that, Matthew wanted to create a better employee experience. “It would help us democratise the scheduling process so our Ambassadors could manage their own leave requests and shift swaps,” notes Matthew. “Ultimately, we could use algorithms to automate scheduling. Why should someone good at creating brilliant guest experiences spend time figuring out how to write the most efficient schedule?” 

After partnering with Deputy, citizenM now has a single source of truth for all their schedules across all their European hotels. Scheduling time dropped from four hours to just 15 minutes. And that makes management a whole lot easier.

Stronger Employee Retention and Engagement: A Large Hotel Business Case Study (200 employees)

Atlas Hotels Deputy Shift Scheduling Workforce Management Case Study Customer Story

Building a solid team and a positive company culture has multiple benefits. Happy employees mean less staff turnover, better customer service and a more productive business. A digital scheduling solution could be just the thing you need to drive engagement and improve employee satisfaction. If businesses want to succeed, they need to start listening to the needs of their employees. 

People are your greatest asset, and retaining good staff is well worth the effort. Businesses with high staff turnover rates experience poor productivity, high recruitment costs and lost sales. According to Deputy’s 2023 State of Shift Work report, 50 per cent of staff want more focus on employee wellbeing, and one in three want a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion. 

Implementing a digital scheduling solution is a proven way of empowering your staff and ensuring they’re fully supported in their role. With a central platform to view schedules, request time off and cover any extra shifts, your employees will have more control over their work/life balance. Scheduling apps also make life easier for managers by removing the headache of creating, printing and changing schedules. This will save time and give your team a better experience. 

Atlas Hotels had an uplift in employee wellbeing after they implemented Deputy. “Before Deputy, the recurring complaints in our Employee Engagement Survey were around a lack of work-life balance. We can’t control the external labour market conditions we’re all facing, but we can control doing everything we can to make our existing employees happy. And I’m pleased to say that since implementing Deputy, those complaints have reduced to 5 comments from 766 employees,” says Sub Iyer, Head of Operations-South at Atlas Hotels.

Empower Your Business with Digital Scheduling

If you’re still running your business on paper-based timesheets and manual processes, it’s time to unlock the power of the digital schedule. Remember, the key to a smooth transition lies in involving your team, providing thorough training, starting small and being ready to adapt. 

By integrating digital scheduling into your operations, you’re not just adopting a digital tool, you’re empowering your workforce, enhancing productivity, and shaping a more dynamic and responsive business environment. Digital scheduling is a step towards greater business success and employee satisfaction. Don’t hesitate to harness the benefits of digital scheduling. Download our guide, “The Power of Digital Scheduling”, and start your journey towards a more efficient, responsive, and successful shift-based business.