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Overcoming The September Staffing Slump

JodyP 27 September 2019
Overcoming The September Staffing Slump

By James Lintern, co-founder, RotaCloud

Hospitality’s summer rush is over. Your temporary staff have gone back to university or college, and you’re back to planning the rota with far fewer staff on hand. Suddenly, that healthy-looking shift plan starts to look quite bare.

September’s staffing slump can have quite an impact on business. Full-time, permanent staff may suddenly feel that their workload has increased. To make matters worse, these same staff may no longer get the first choice of shifts, since their temporary co-workers are no longer around to fill the less-preferred slots in the rota.

Even when it’s anticipated, a shrinking team can impact staff morale and even customer service quality. And with the complex staffing challenges faced by hospitality businesses, such as last-minute bookings and walk-ins, that much-needed rota resilience is diminished with fewer temporary staff.

To avoid this post-summer staff slump, here are some top tips to keep your regular staff happy with the shift patterns, while you provide the quality customer service your customers expect.

1. Easing the pain of a split shift
Over the summer months, your regular staff members may have grown used to the fact that they could avoid working split shifts, since the temporary staff would be there to pick them up. As the bane of most hospitality workers’ lives, split shifts are rarely popular, since unless a staff member lives locally, they often find themselves having to hang around work killing time until their next shift starts.

One sure-fire way to boost morale with permanent members of staff is to give them the power to claim or ignore split shifts as they see fit. By publishing a set of ‘open shifts’ that aren’t assigned to anyone, employees can then claim both halves of a split shift if they fancy it, or take just one depending on their preferences for that week.

If, after making them available for staff to pick up, there are shifts going unclaimed, it might be time to think about taking on a new member of staff — that or asking employees who live locally if they’d consider taking on split shifts since they’re easier for them to handle.

2. Forward planning
For those working in hospitality, it can be frustrating trying to make plans when you don’t know which shifts you’re going to be working the following week. Publishing rotas as far in advance as possible not only gives staff plenty of notice to plan their lives around their shifts, but also gives managers more time to deal with things like leave requests, shift swaps or any clashes.

3. Last-minute staffing emergencies
When staffing levels return to normal, if one member of the team suddenly calls in sick, it can have a massive impact on customer service. Equally, large, last-minute bookings can also cause mayhem if there aren’t enough staff around to adequately look after a big party.

Taking the time to figure out a contingency plan to accommodate any last-minute changes to staffing is essential in the hospitality business. Rota planning software can be used to notify staff of last-minute changes to the schedule or if a shift is up for grabs. Alternatively, it’s worth asking a few staff who live physically close to the business to be on standby during busier periods so you can fill gaps quickly.

4. A standardised process
If there’s more than one manager planning staff shifts, sometimes employees won’t know when to expect to their rota, or who to ask to request time off or swap a shift. Standardising the rota process can be beneficial all round, so consider joining forces with other managers to agree a typical process for planning and distributing the rota, as well as coping with any changes.
Some points you’ll want to consider include:

● How far in advance staff the rota will be created
● How it will be distributed
● How employees should submit holiday or unavailability requests
● How employees will find out if a request has been approved or declined
● What happens if a rota change occurs, and how staff will be informed

The post-summer staffing slump is, sadly, unavoidable. But it is possible to ease staff back into a natural working rhythm with a little forward planning. The more efficient your rota management planning is, the better — not just for you, but your employees and your customers too.