Extraordinary Team Blog

Handling Scheduling Duties for Team Requires Time and Effort

Posted by Kristin Arnold on November 29, 2009

If you are sick and tired of trying to accommodate everyone to create a work schedule with continuous coverage, 24 hours, seven days a week, it sounds like you have been the scheduling sovereign for way too long.  You need to give the responsibility over to the team, but not before you think through a couple of key elements:

Staffing Needs.  Know your staffing requirements and priorities.  Which positions must be filled upon pain of death if there is a “no-show?”  Which positions are important, but not critical to your operations?

Allocation.  How many bodies do you currently have on board?  How many are you allowed to have on the payroll?  Are you in the process of hiring someone?  Are you using temporary agency help?  Do you allow overtime and for what reasons?  Do you intend to increase or decrease your staff and/or dependency on the agency?

Staff Readiness.  Can your current staff handle this responsibility?  Are they mature adults who can have a rational discussion or will it be a free-for-all mud wrestling that you’ll end up refereeing anyway?  If you’re absolutely certain it’s the latter, you might want to build their team skills before you introduce this concept!

Due Dates.  When is the schedule due and for what length?  I suggest giving the team two weeks to build the next month’s schedule.

Rewards.  Can you offer the team some benefit for actually planning and following through on a team-based schedule (e.g., pizzas or a small bonus if the unit is fully staffed for the entire month)?

Once you have established the key elements to building a schedule, meet with your team.

Tell ‘Em Why.  Describe the reasons why you want to move to team-based scheduling; how the company will benefit, as well as how they will benefit.  Remember, there has to be something in it for each team member to climb on board this concept.

Build Commitment.  Let the team see the advantages to team-based scheduling.  Let them talk about the pros and the cons, the issues as well as the opportunities involved.  They need to own this idea or it will never work.

Describe the Parameters.  The team must work with the key elements you have already thought about.  Be open and honest about why the boundaries are the way they are (e.g., we only have X amount of dollars for agency help).

Agree on Ground Rules.  All participate, no one dominate.  Be fair and consistent.  Recognize that conflict is part of the process, so have the courage to speak up for what you want, but also the consideration to let others express what they want.  Listen to each other.  Look for opportunities to work with each other rather than against each other.

Be Fair.  The team should develop specific ground rules to ensure fairness among team members (e.g., everyone must work one weekend every month; we deal with “ties” by flipping a coin).  Remember, scheduling is an ongoing activity.  What may not be “fair” during this scheduling period should balance out during the next scheduling period.

Prevent Absences.  When a team member can’t make it in for whatever reason, it is that team member’s responsibility to find their replacement.  Period.  It is up to the team to decide how to deal with recurring absences — not you, as the boss!

Facilitate the Process.  Suggest they use a process to help them develop a team-based schedule: 1) Create a visual schedule or “blank bingo card” that ALL can see and write on.  2)  Each team member grab a pencil and write their name in on the “ideal” schedule.  Don’t worry about several names being in the same block.  Conflicts are part of the process and will be negotiated later.  3)  Ink in the work hours that are not contested.  4)  For those blocks that are empty, facilitate the team to fill in the empty blocks.  Recognize that someone has to “give” at some point.  Refer to the “fairness ground rules.”  5)  While the empty blocks are being filled in, other blocks will be adjusted.

Before you know it, you will have a team-based schedule that everyone is committed to following!

Question:  Have you been able to implement team-based scheduling and how is it working?

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