Common challenges facing your workforce planner

Common Challenges Facing Your Workforce Planner

Roster Managers and Workforce Planners face the difficult task of planning and formulating rosters which are efficient but also address changing shifts and team member preferences and availability.

Assigning shifts can be a time consuming task that requires a lot of thought and consideration to achieve an optimised and efficient roster. Rosterers must assign the correct shift by skill and qualification all while considering staff preferences and availability, team dynamics, training requirements and enterprise agreement rules. In addition, the roster needs to deliver high overall utilisation and cost efficiency. A poor roster can result in dissatisfied employees and have a negative impact on the organisation’s bottom line. 

Here are a few common challenges that Roster Managers and Workforce Planners face when rostering and also some ideas on how these challenges can be overcome.

Managing Staff Preferences 

As a Roster Manager it can be difficult to capture and keep track of changes to employees preferences and availability. Simply rolling forward a prior period roster will not ensure that new requests can be met and worse may mean any issues or frustrations with previous rosters are repeated.  

Team members are one of the most important aspects of any organisation. When individuals can see their preferences and availability are being considered in the rosters produced it can greatly improve staff retention, job satisfaction and performance

In addition, rosters which repeatedly ignore staff preferences can lead to ongoing shift swapping and roster changes as employees find ways to structure their work to better meet their needs.  

Are your team members making the same shift swaps month after month to bend the roster to accommodate their preferences?

Shift work allows for employee flexibility, given there is often a range of shifts available. Flexibly considering employee preferences when rostering can enable parents to attend their children’s upcoming events, allow for staff members’ special occasions and remove the need for complex chains of shift swaps by employees once the roster is published.

Capturing staff preferences is the first step in solving this problem, followed by smart rostering to take account of many often competing preferences. This can be very challenging to get right, especially when roster teams are often equipped with nothing more than personal experience and excel roster spreadsheets

Using Biarri Workforce, managers and rosterers have the ability to capture all types of staff preferences and availability and take them into account when auto-generating rosters.  

Biarri Workforce has an open and flexible rules and preference interface which allows the rosterer to define preferences and availability in many ways. 

  • The structure of our rules interface means every type of roster preference a team member might have can be captured. Some examples of this include:
  • attaching preferences to individuals, groups or across the whole roster (e.g. David prefers nights but Steve, Damian and Lilibeth prefer to work weekends, whereas everyone on the roster must comply with the legislated fatigue thresholds);
  • making a rule for a once only event in that roster period, for a defined period of time or ongoing if it is recurring in nature (e.g. can I have next Thursday afternoon off to take my kids to the Shrek Matinee, or I would like every Monday morning off to play golf with my mates);
  • defining the rule as a hard constraint (e.g. must occur) or a soft constraint (would be good if it could occur) and enabling different weightings to be set on soft constraints;
  • creating rules to support team environments (e.g to prefer a team to be rostered together and to work together on a series of consecutive shifts); 
  • by reference to other team members (e.g. prefers to work with or not to work with other individuals – this can accommodate spouses or partners who work on the same roster to ensure they will always have someone at home with kids, or alternatively both can have does off together)

The preferences, availability and other rules defined in the rules interface are then considered when Biarri Workforce auto-generates the roster.   

Last Minute Shift Swapping 

Managing and dealing with last minute shift swaps by team members can be difficult to ensure that skills, fatigue and qualification requirements are met and to ensure the changes are recorded and updated to the master roster for payroll purposes.

Life happens, events outside of our control pop up and staff will need to miss work. The next challenge is finding a suitable replacement who is available, has the necessary skill set but also a replacement who will not breach any fatigue, EBA and workplace rules.

The lines of communication can be frantic, back and forth with text messages, emails and calls searching for a replacement. Finding someone to cover the gap is often hard enough.  But wouldn’t it be great if the process was automated to not only make finding a replacement easy, but also this is seamlessly reviewed and approved and automatically updated to the master roster.  In addition, the substitute should be equivalent or lower cost and not create issues (e.g. fatigue thresholds) later in the roster period.

Biarri Workforce has an in-built shift swap feature that assists managers and employees to best manage shift swaps. Available through the Biarri Workforce Mobile App, employees can easily Swap Shifts or Offer Shifts to other available employees and management can see this activity and approve a swap before it is finalised – keeping visibility and control over the execution of the roster.


Speak with a consultant today and remove the panic of finding a suitable replacement with the right skills and availability, with the Biarri Workforce shift swap features. Equip your Workforce Planner and Roster Manager with Biarri Workforce. Whether you are currently manually rostering or looking for a more accommodating solution, the team behind Biarri Workforce are dedicated to making Biarri Workforce work for you.

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