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Taking A Fresh Approach To Staff Planning And Shift Management

JodyP 5 April 2019
Taking A Fresh Approach To Staff Planning And Shift Management

By James Lintern, Co-Founder, RotaCloud

As a 24/7 business, organising varied and complex shift patterns from front of house through to cleaning and kitchen staff is a constant juggling act for time-strapped hotel managers. Planning the weekly rota on spreadsheets and trying to keep track of employee shift patterns, annual leave requests, sickness absences and last-minute shift swaps, is often the cause of staff rostering headaches.

A hotel’s staff is its greatest asset, and the customer service delivered by said staff can massively influence TripAdvisor ratings. Without a clear and carefully planned rota – and adequate numbers to cover each shift – it’s easy for the guest experience to suffer.

In such a busy, fast-paced industry, recording staff working hours can also be difficult – especially during peak periods. Hospitality businesses face a unique set of staff planning and management challenges, thanks to:

  • A high proportion of part-time staff with different hourly contracts
  • Temporary or seasonal staff employed on an ad hoc basis
  • Daily fluctuations in staffing requirements (e.g. lunch and evening service for a
    hotel’s restaurant)
  • Last-minute bookings that can cause havoc with staffing requirements, forcing
    managers to call in extra help at short notice

In addition, staff swapping shifts, unplanned absences, and employees working late to cover events make it difficult to ensure that hours worked are accurately recorded. And without clear visibility on staff working hours, accurately forecasting labour costs becomes almost impossible. This lack of visibility on working hours can be a consistent source of frustration for staff too; if hours aren’t accurately tracked, it could lead to discrepancies in staff’s pay packets, while waiting for the weekly rota can make it difficult for those working flexible hours to plan their week ahead, impacting morale and even resulting in lateness and no-shows.

Taking a digital approach to staff rota planning can help resolve these issues, however, offering hotel managers improved visibility over staff availability and working hours. The Royal Victoria Hotel in Snowdonia did just that, turning to rota planning software to get to grips with its staffing challenges.

The Royal Victoria Hotel is a busy, 104-room hotel located at the foot of Snowdon. A popular venue for tourists and business travellers, and catering for weddings and other functions throughout the year, the deputy manager is responsible for planning rotas for 75 staff, with an additional 20 during the summer months. Using a combination of Excel-based spreadsheets to plan rotas and paper timesheets for staff to sign in and out of their shifts, the deputy manager found it difficult to ensure that working hours were tracked properly and absences accurately recorded. Calculating the cost of manning — a big expense for a hotel the size of The Royal Victoria – was also hard to predict without a clear picture of hours worked.

Rather than continuing to rely on Excel, the hotel decided to adopt a web-based rota planning system to help manage its staffing challenges. All working hours, annual leave, sickness and absences are now managed online, meaning no more trawling through piles of paper to access the information needed. Manning costs are also automated by the software, which is a huge timesaver, while clocking in and out of shifts is now easier for staff as they can do this via a smartphone app or logging into the system from a dedicated terminal.

Having this level of visibility over staff availability, the hours they’ve worked, and shift patterns across all departments provides a host of time-saving and resourcing benefits for both the business and staff. It gives employees real-time access to their shift patterns for the week ahead, while managers can easily plan and arrange staffing numbers based on the hotel bookings as they come in. Forecasting staff costs and forward planning becomes quicker and easier, all while offering hoteliers the peace of mind that the right mix and number of staff are on hand to deliver the best possible guest experience.