Why not communicating rota changes is bad for business [Rota Crimes]

Phil Kendall

May 2018 ⋅ 5 min read

While the majority of managers and business owners appreciate the importance of planning and sharing their staff rotas well in advance, things often start to go wrong when they need to tweak their rotas after they've gone live. 

Imagine if a large booking or order were to come in and you suddenly needed more hands on deck than you'd planned.

Perhaps a member of your team calls in sick or tells you that they can't work their shift due to a family emergency.

Even with all the planning in the world, it's only natural that you'll need to adjust your rota at some point.

What's vital, however, is that any changes to your rota are properly communicated to your team. If they aren't, things can go awry pretty quickly...

The Complaint

"Well, of course I have to tell my staff if their shifts change!" you might well be thinking. 

But the thing is, when you've got customers to serve, rotas to plan, and books to balance, it can be easy to forget about things like calling up a member of your team to tell them that they're needed at work from 9 rather than 10am.

In fact, managers adjusting the work rota but failing to tell their staff is one of the most common complaints you'll hear if you run a quick Twitter search for the word 'rota'... 

(We've anonymised the following tweets, but rest assured they're all 100% genuine.)

changed shifts 7changed hours 4

poor communication

changed shifts 8

Changed shifts 9-1

Remember, these are just a few of the tweets that have been posted in just the last few weeks — changes not being properly communicated to staff is a real issue.

And, as we're about to see, it's something that can impact upon not just the lives of your employees, but the future of your business.

The Fallout

The consequences of failing to properly communicate changes to your work rota to staff range from the obvious to the unexpected. All, however, are cause for concern for any business owner.

  • Missed shifts. If a member of your staff doesn't know that they've been scheduled in for a shift, then you can hardly expect them to be there. It's almost as if you never built your rota in the first place.
  • Too many staff. Cancelled someone's shift but they showed up anyway? You're left with a choice to make: send them home or let them stay and work regardless. If you choose the latter, you're paying two people to one person's job. If you choose the former...
  • Frustrated staff. Imagine, like the writers of some of the tweets above, you'd just paid £15 for a taxi to work or got out of bed at the crack of dawn, only to discover that you no longer had a shift. You'd need to have the patience of a saint (or a very scary manager) not to flip out completely.
  • High staff turnover. With each shift that isn't properly communicated to an employee, you increase the likelihood that they'll become so fed up that they'll look for work elsewhere (case in point: the tweet below). This, in turn, will put more demands on your time and resources as you're forced to hire and train new staff to take their place.
  • Disgruntled customers. If one or more members of your team doesn't show up to work, it falls on you and the rest of your staff to fill in the gaps. Can you honestly do that without your business suffering or providing your customers with subpar service?

changes not communicated

"I'm gonna look for a new job" — a conversation between two very unhappy staff.

The Solution

We've seen the damage that can be done by not communicating rota changes to employees, but how can a manager or business own ensure that their staff are always up-to-date with regard to their upcoming shifts?

Here are a few steps you can take:

  • Decide on a system. While you should avoid making last-minute rota changes wherever possible, you should ensure that you at least have an established method for communicating those changes — whether it's a phone call (recommended, as you know they've got the info), a text message or an email to an address you know your employee checks frequently.
  • Stick to it. Shift changes happen, but the way you communicate those changes shouldn't. By always using the same method to update your staff, you can significantly improve the chances that they'll get the info they need in time for their shift.
  • Publish rotas early. We've already discussed the importance of giving your employees plenty of notice of their shifts, but by publishing your rotas well in advance, you'll have more time to make any necessary adjustments and communicate changes.  
  • Have 'on-call' staff. Rather than simply extending an employee's shift by a couple of hours in order to fill a gap in your rota, consider having one or two 'on call' members of staff to whom you can assign — and who can expect to receive — additional shifts.
  • Use a cloud-based rota system. Always-online systems like RotaCloud sidestep the problem of staff being unaware of shift changes by sending out automatic notifications to users whenever their shifts are changed. Plus, since their rotas are stored online, it's impossible for employees to see anything but the most up-to-date version.

Final Thoughts

As a manager, you expect your staff to show up on time and ready to work. In return, it's your responsibility to give them plenty of notice of their shifts and to keep them informed whenever a change has to be made.

Failure to do so can leave yourself shorthanded, and your staff becoming so frustrated that they start looking for work elsewhere.

Be the team player you expect your employees so be, and ensure that every shift gets off to the right start by keeping your people in the loop. After all, if you make changes to your rota but don't properly communicate them to your staff, then you might as well not have built your rota to begin with.

Looking for more tips for growing your small business? Check out the Business Growth section of our blog!