December 04.2017, 6.15pm

15,000 Reasons Rostering Matters More Than You Think

Your rostering process isn’t just a periodic operational necessity; it has an incredible impact on your top and bottom line performance. Is that a stretch?  Well, consider that recently American Airlines’ rostering process somehow allowed multiple pilots to schedule holiday time during December and as a result, approximately 15,000 flights were left without a flight crew. Let’s consider that for a moment – 15,000 flights!

Assuming a small craft with a very modest 75 passengers per flight, this snafu has the potential to impact over 1 million travelers.  Travellers who just want to get home for the holidays, on with their business travel, or arrive safely at their resort destination are now in jeopardy of a future travel day nightmare at the busiest time of the year.

To avoid impending mayhem, American Airlines are offering their pilots 150% of their regular compensation to man the flights. To say they’re between a rock and a hard place is an understatement. If their pilots refuse to accept this barter, the airline may have to offer much more if they want to make sure that they have every flight accounted for.

Air travel in the United States increase between 24% and 55% during the period between the U.S. holiday of Thanksgiving and New Year’s day.  Of course, every airline is well aware of this fact and manages directly against the increase to ensure a successful holiday travel season.  It is probably also safe to assume that because the holiday season is busier, there are policies in place that clearly state the constraints over scheduling time off during this time of year.  Somehow those policies were disregarded by employees, or systems, or perhaps a combination of both.  As a result, American Airlines was splashed across headlines for an entire day.  No company wants this sort of publicity, but the airlines, in particular, do not need additional bad press these days.


If this can happen to a massive business like American Airlines, highly dependent upon the availability of their employees, companies must ask themselves how exposed they really are to rostering inadequacies.  Is periodic scheduling treated as operational busy work, required to just get past the next shift or the next busy holiday weekend – or are rosters evaluated as one of the most critical components of customer-facing employees?  Chances are that the most companies would like to the think the latter of themselves, but when they examine the issue find themselves to be handling their rostering efforts like the former.

So what actions should be taken to determine whether or not you are doing everything you can to mange your employee schedules with as much control as possible?

A good start would be to answer the following questions:


1. Are We Using Spreadsheets?

This question is the very first place to start, because you would be surprised how many organizations today are still relying on spreadsheets to schedule their staff.  And why not? It has worked for them, continues to work and gets the job done. No one disputes the fact that Excel is a wonderful tool – but it has limitations, especially so when used as the sole rostering/HR programme!

Additionally, using Excel or multiple data repositories can prevent you from being able to access an employee’s full data landscape in one place, and so valuable insights can be missed out. This outdated method exposes a company to massive  inadequacies so if you’re still using Excel, perhaps you need to reconsider your strategy, and perhaps indeed the considerable manpower invested in to the time-consuming task of ensuring your roster is a) fully compliant and b) accurate.


2. Are We Aware of All Possible Roster Exceptions?

It is likely that you cannot simply roster and schedule employees in one single fashion.  Many factors impact how you schedule employees and one step to getting more serious about your rostering is to take time to know if you are aware of every single factor that can impact staff scheduling.  Are staffing level requirements consistent and well defined? Are there specific skill sets that you need to account for? Do you track those abilities on employee records, and if so is that data integrated with your rostering efforts?

Ideally, rostering should be run through a system which has predictive analytics. This allows employers to calculate how many staff they’ll need on any given day based on multiple data sources like past customer behaviour, seasonal conditions and peak Holiday times, staff skills, levels and competencies, seasonal conditions, historical trends and much more. This is called ‘Demand Based Rostering’, and lets you anticipate outcomes and have the staff in place to deal with them effectively and efficiently. One of CoreHR’s clients saved on average, 7 days manpower per month based on this model.


3. Do We have Full Visibility Of Information?

You can’t roster employees that are not available, and if you don’t know what availability is down to the hour, your roster is by its very nature inaccurate

Your rostering software should integrate with your HR processes so ongoing absence, issues or annual leave can be easily spotted. Along with that, an integrated system can automatically show you ‘patterns’ of when something may happen – it’s a given, but your HR system should know your busy times of year, and be able to auto roster for you based on demand.

Additionally, with an integrated HR solution, you can see when people are frequently coming in late or sick. It gives you the tools to drill down and identify who is likely to cause a problem – and how big that problem might be.

CoreHR’s intuitive dashboard is easily-readable, mobile-friendly and it puts the power directly into your employee’s hands. It can also save a phenomenal amount of time for HR professionals, both in terms of setting up the employee data landscape and allowing them to easily view and analyse it at a later juncture.


4. Do We Have Anything in Place to Avoid Specific Rostering No-Nos?

If there are specific constraints driven either by business conditions, market conditions, or compliance – you should have a way to confidently manage data and rosters within those constraints.  At the very least, there should be documentation that is easily accessible to managers.  Ideally, your technology should be designed to support your efforts by making it impossible to operate outside the boundaries of specific constraints.

CoreHR’s Workforce Management Software to systemise data. Compliance issues can also be factored in by managers, using CoreHR’s Validation Rules. This lets you tailor the system to meet your organisational demands or industry-specific legislation. So while it is a one-size fits all solution, you can decide the size and shape it takes within your company. Compliance issues are constantly arising in business but this type of system can be set up to automatically factor in legislative concerns.

You can bet that American Airlines, over the years, addressed these issues.  Yet they still woke up one morning to realize that something went wrong.  Massively wrong, and the result was potentially devastating.  At the very least a public relations black eye.  Asking and answering these questions won’t solve everything but will help you take your rostering efforts just a little more seriously.

Switching to a system like CoreHR’s can cut the time spent on drawing up rosters by up to 82 percent. Management can be freed up from admin concerns and given the additional time and information to start making significant strategic and cultural improvements within their organisation. You can learn more about how demand based rostering can revolutionize your business here.


Organisational and structural change can be challenging – but it doesn’t have to be. Download ‘The Role of HR in Change Management and 5 Tips for Success’ to find how what steps you should take to set you on the path to change management success, and why.

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Bruce WalcroftBy Bruce Walcroft

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