How To Schedule Staff Effectively & Avoid Mistakes: Top Rostering Tips

Theory-wise, effective staff scheduling is simple—make the best work schedules to combat understaffing. Although In practice, it is not. 

Creating a schedule with different shift types can be a considerable challenge. And once you’ve made a schedule, it’s not a guarantee that it’ll stay optimal, given that you have to cope with last-minute time-off requests and shift swaps. It can be a pain in the neck. 

But wait, there is always a light at the end of a tunnel, yes? 

In this post, you’ll know the secrets to an efficient staff schedule that’ll help achieve a “perfect match” regarding employees and their shifts. This, in turn, will keep your team satisfied so as your customers, all while minimising labour costs. So, if you’re ready, let’s go! 

Step 1: Understand Your Staff’s Line of Work 

Part of creating an effective team schedule is to know what an employee is expected to do and fulfil in their shift. Depending on your business, you can gauge their work quantity in a myriad of ways. 

For example, if you’re managing a restaurant, you can check how many covers a server completes during their shift. Do the same process for each scope of work and specify the tasks for different job roles across your organisation. Don’t forget that these duties vary depending on your business type. 

Step 2: Observe the Time When You’re Busiest … and Sluggish

To help you predict activity levels in the future, use the present activity levels. Consider sales cycles under the daily, monthly, and yearly data. For example, if your data shows that certain times of the year or day are usually buzzing than others, you can, somehow, foretell that such a pattern will likely repeat per se. From this, you can plan accordingly. 

You’ll now have a clearer view of how many employees you need, and start dividing the production standards by the number of customers. For example, if your restaurant frequently does 150 covers on a Tuesday and does 30 covers in an 8-hour shift for a server, you’ll probably need five servers then. 

Remember that not all employees are built the same; some are more productive than others. You don’t want to overstress your employees with work; thus, avoid extended overtime on their shifts. Lastly, assess the results with your intuition and make changes that fit you.

Photo by: Ivan Samkov | Pexels

Step 3: Anticipate Activity Levels

Another essential aspect to heed is the pace of your current activity—how hectic your workforce is on certain days and hours of the day. Doing so helps you determine the right amount of employees needed throughout the working hours.

As the owner, you know your business better than anyone else, so it might be tempting to make staffing choices based on hunch alone. However, as much as possible, don’t. It can be dicey, given your intuition may be wrong, leading to inefficient schedules that leave you either under or overstaffed. 

One effective method to curb and make smarter staff schedules is to check business data from labour and sales reports. For instance, sales reports can tell you how many covers restaurant owners do on days when operations are busy and which months are slow. This is beneficial as it helps you determine work schedules that need more people and vice versa. 

Step 4: Take Into Account the Needs of Your Staff

Another practical step to scheduling effectively is to consider staff needs. With this in mind, make sure to balance your team's need for an optimised schedule. Make sure you: 

  • Match the right staff with the right shifts

  • Notify your staff in advance of any changes in the schedule

  • Distribute per employee an equal amount of shifts

  • Provide employees with the option to swap or switch work schedules easily 

  • Be transparent and delineate roles to staff to avoid confusion and ambiguity

  • Let your employees manage their leave requests themselves

  • Always anticipate unforeseen events to happen—plan accordingly for last-minute shift swaps and absenteeism

  • Finally, to ensure you’re constantly adhering to labour laws, work closely with your HR team

Step 5: Choose a Staff Scheduling Method 

After you’ve tackled the above steps, time to create a staff schedule. When creating your staff schedule or roster, there are three ways to choose from: Spreadsheets, pen and paper, and a staff scheduling app. When deciding which is more suitable for your organisation, analyse the pros and cons of each method.

  • Pen and paper

While using a pen and paper is the most cost-effective method, it is also very time-consuming. Plus, it’s more prone to errors.

  • Excel or Google spreadsheets

Of course, this is way more advanced than the typical pen and paper, yet it requires more of your time when creating schedules. Another downside is that you can’t automate the scheduling process, making it more irritating. 

  • Employee scheduling software 

This saves you more time making and managing employee shifts—and even money. It’s easier to make amends, and you can share it seamlessly across your workforce. 

Creating a staff roster has never been quicker, easier, and more streamlined—time to take your scheduling game to the next level and boost your business’ performance. RosterElf’s scheduling software makes it more convenient to create effective employee schedules. 

Photo by: RosterElf

Step 6: Disseminate the Work Schedule to Your Staff 

Once you’ve settled and are satisfied with the outcome, distribute it to your employees. This way, they’ll know their schedule and adhere accordingly or make necessary changes ahead of time. If you’re utilising Excel, send it via email. 

Give your employees a heads-up for whiteboards or notice boards when the new shift is set up. Inform them that they have to check it regularly for possible changes. You may want to schedule meetings regularly to discuss changes in work schedules or other updates. 

And if you’re using RosterElf rostering software, you can publish the schedule on the app. Employees can then get notifications via their mobile devices about the new schedule and changes in the future. This approach significantly reduces manager input because of fewer in-person meetings, thus maximising your staff's overall time and productivity. 

Step 7: Build a Scheme for Team Communication 

No matter how thorough you are, there will always be at least a single change you have to make after the schedule is completely set up and final. To prevent the “change” from turning into more issues, the best way is to build a team communication strategy for schedule swaps and revisions. 

Whatever it is that works best for your business, either staff making shift swaps unassisted or they need approval from the manager, ensure policies are placed and properly relayed. This helps prevent further headaches and troubles. 

To make it hassle-free, schedule-making-wise, set up a dedicated channel for team communication about work. RosterElf has built-in staff communication together with rostering for a better schedule-making experience. 


Crafting an effective employee schedule isn’t as simple as you think, but with the help of automatic scheduling software, it has become uncomplicated and straightforward. More and more businesses are now shifting their gears and adopting automated staff rostering. 

And if you’re planning to streamline your rostering, RosterElf does the job for you. Our rostering tool can help you save time, create a business budget you can stick to, and optimise team productivity. 

What are you waiting for? Time to take your scheduling game to the next level and boost your business’ performance. Call us now at 1300 353 000, and our team will be more than happy to assist you. 

To get a clearer view of how our app works, enjoy 30-day access to our tool for free!

Have Questions?

We Have The Answers

What are the first steps to creating an effective staff schedule?

Start by understanding your staff's roles and responsibilities. Identify the tasks and the quantity of work expected for each position. This knowledge helps in assigning the right employees to the appropriate shifts, ensuring efficiency and job satisfaction.

How can I predict future staffing needs?

Use current and historical reports to forecast future activity levels. Analyse daily, monthly, and yearly sales cycles to anticipate busy and slow periods. This allows for better planning and allocation of staff to meet demand effectively.

Why is it important to consider employees' needs when scheduling?

Considering employees' needs promotes a balanced and fair work environment. It ensures that shifts are evenly distributed, staff preferences are respected, and last-minute changes are managed smoothly. This approach helps maintain morale and reduces turnover.

What are the advantages of using scheduling software over traditional methods?

Scheduling software streamlines the rostering process, saves time, and reduces errors compared to pen and paper or spreadsheets. It allows for easy adjustments, real-time updates, and better communication with staff, enhancing overall efficiency.

How should I communicate the work schedule to my team?

Once the schedule is finalised, distribute it via email if using spreadsheets or directly through scheduling software. Ensure employees are notified of new shifts and changes promptly, and encourage regular checking of notice boards or digital platforms for updates.

How can I handle last-minute changes to the schedule?

Establish a clear communication strategy for schedule changes. Whether employees can swap shifts autonomously or need managerial approval, ensure the process is well-defined and communicated. This helps manage unexpected changes smoothly and keeps operations running efficiently.

Important Notice

The information contained in this article is general in nature and you should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs. Legal and other matters referred to in this article are of a general nature only and are based on RosterElf's interpretation of laws existing at the time and should not be relied on in place of professional advice.

RosterElf is not responsible for the content of any site owned by a third party that may be linked to this article and no warranty is made by us concerning the suitability, accuracy or timeliness of the content of any site that may be linked to this article.

RosterElf disclaims all liability (except for any liability which by law cannot be excluded) for any error, inaccuracy, or omission from the information contained in this article and any loss or damage suffered by any person directly or indirectly through relying on this information.