Skill Balance

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The smooth operation of your business depends on having the right number of people with the right skills to meet the workload demands each hour that you are open. The challenges of running your operation don’t go away just because it is no longer day-shift. An efficient multi-shift operation must have skill balance. This means that the evening, night, and weekend hours must by covered by crews that include at least a minimum number of skilled personnel.

Skill balance is often difficult to accomplish because of the disparate attractiveness of different shifts. More than 75% of the shiftworkers that we have worked with would prefer to work a day-shift only schedule. Yet, depending on the schedule, only 33% to 50% of shiftwork positions typically fall on day-shift. This creates competition for day-shift jobs and often results in the most senior and most skilled personnel ending up on day shift; while the most junior, least skilled personnel end up on either afternoon or night shift.

The Classic Solution – Rotating Shifts

Rotating shift schedules have been the classic solution to ensuring skill balance on all crews. On this type of schedule, everyone works the same number of day, afternoon, and night shifts. Crews typically rotate to a new shift periodically — as often as every week to every several months. Since everyone has an equivalent shift assignment, there is much less movement between crews. There is also less resistance to moving from one crew to another, and therefore skill balance is relatively easy to maintain.

The Monetary Solution – Shift Differential

Shift differential is compensation to personnel working on an undesirable shift. It is usually paid on both fixed shift and rotating shift schedules. While some shiftworkers are attracted to the night shift premiums (usually amounting to 10% or less of the average wage), most are not – limiting the success of shift differential in maintaining skill balance. Most people find that it is much easier to volunteer for a little bit of overtime to make more money than it is to restructure their lives around a night shift schedule.

Other Solutions

Some companies have succeeded in maintaining skill balance by assigning personnel to shifts based on skills first, and other factors second. In fact, many companies try to do this, but they find that their night shift employee satisfaction levels are much lower than they are comfortable with. We have found that the following non-monetary incentives can help you attract and retain skilled personnel to your non-day-shift positions:

  • Put an attractive shift schedule on the night shift.

    Tailored shift schedules that maximize time off can allow night shift personnel to spend needed time with their families. For example, a food processor that needs to operate 80 hours/week might use the schedule below to attract personnel to night shift. The plant operates 18 hours/day (with the remaining six hours available to sanitize equipment), four days/week, and 8 hours on Friday. Night shift personnel work 208 days/year with 52 3-day weekends, while the day-shift personnel work 260 days/year with 52 2-day weekends.

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  • Increase night shift compensation by building more overtime into the night shift schedule.

    This often results in attracting the overtime “hounds” to the night shifts – putting them where it is most difficult to get overtime support. Adding another night shift on Friday to the above schedule results in the night shift getting 37.5% plus shift differential more pay than the day shift, while working 25% more hours.

  • Provide dedicated training resources to the night shifts.

    Companies with dedicated training programs for new personnel often find that their night shifts are more productive than their day shifts.

    Maintaining skill balance in a shiftwork operation is not easy. Contact Shiftwork Solutions today to find out how we can help you achieve skill balance in your organization.