Draft Day – Assigning shifts on Your New Schedule

As supervisors and managers go through a process to change the shift schedule, the workforce will experience several different emotions; mostly in a predictable sequence.

First, there will be a surprise, fear or even anger as the news breaks – “We are going to move to a 24/7 schedule.”

Depending on your project’s process, the workforce will likely start to experience less and less anxiety along with an increase in anticipation.  This comes from education; the removal of the speculative or unknown factors associated with a new schedule.

At this point, you will be narrowing down your final choices.  Hopefully, the workforce has been participating along the way.  Things will appear to be “all downhill” from this point.

Then the final schedule will be selected – and everything changes.

Suddenly, the change will become very, very real.  With hiring and training going on, the workforce will begin to realize that this is really going to happen.  Most importantly, they are going to think “Hey, where am I going to end up once this change is made?”  They worry about getting put on the wrong shift or about being put on a crew that they are not familiar with.  They speculate about how their vacations picks will change and they will wonder about the nature of their job; will it change or even still exist.

In some cases, it will appear that some are brainstorming things to worry about.

It’s important to understand that this is perfectly natural.  It happens all of the time.  The good news is that the cure for this period of High Anxiety is simple – answer all of these questions as quickly as you can.

This brings me to today’s topic: Draft Day

Draft Day is the day where you assign people to their shifts and crew.  Here is how I prefer to do it:

  1. Let the workforce express a preference for shift assignment (Days or Nights etc).
  2. Let the workforce add extra considerations (“I want to be on the same shift as my wife” etc)
  3. Use a pre-established plan, making sure it is applied consistently in all instances.  This plan is made public in that the workforce knows what it is and they know before they express any schedule preference.  Typically I recommend something like “We will use your date of hire, your preference, and your current work area to make assignments.”  While it is often more complicated than that, I think this gives you a feel for how we approach assigning people to shifts.  You don’t want to have to cross-train your entire plant so it is important that you do not treat this as “We are creating X new positions and we will be using our current bid procedure.”  If you do, it could take months to fill out your crews, not to mention the expense of retaining everyone.
  4. If you are going from a 5-day schedule to a 24/7 schedule, you will be basically hiring the 4th crew.  This will represent a 33% increase in staffing in the affected area.  Clearly, you can’t hire an entire crew and put them all together on the least desirable shifts.  While you will get some experienced people that want to work the Night shift, you may still find yourself short of skills on Nights if you use pure seniority.  If it becomes necessary to put someone on a shift that their seniority says they should be able to avoid, it is important that you talk directly to that person.  Tell them why you are putting them on the shift they don’t want.  Also, let them know it is a temporary placement until the new hires can stand on their own.  If you talk to them, there will be no problem.  If you don’t talk to them…big mistake.
  5. Once you have all of the preference sheets from the workforce, hold a Draft Day.  This is where the first-line supervisors and managers get together to “slot” everyone in.  I like doing this with everyone in the same room at the same time.  This helps to ensure a consistent application of the policies used to put people on the crew.  (Order lunch in).
  6. After everyone has been assigned to a shift, take a look at the 15% to 20% that didn’t get their first choice (Yes, most will get their first choice).  Review each decision made to ensure that if an individual comes to ask “Why?” you are able to give them a good answer.
  7. Once you slot people in by Preference, Job and Date-of-Hire, you can go back and look at the special requests.  Do not use a special request to bump a more senior person off of a shift.  However, if you have two 12-hour Day shifts and Bob wants to work with Tim, you should look to see if they are both on Days and if you can accommodate their request based on skills.  In short, this is a lower priority but if you can do this, then you should.
  8. Once all of the above are satisfied, you may still have holes in your schedule.  This is likely to be the case if you are moving quickly with the change and the local labor market is tight.  It can take a long time to find and hire an entire crew.  By this time, you will be able to tell your new hires what openings you have on each shift.

As a final note: Do Not implement before you have your crews staffed and trained to a point where they can stand on their own.  If you implement too early, others will have to come in on overtime to

supplement your poor skill sets on some shifts.  This will feel like a betrayal to those that thought they were going to a new schedule that would give them a lot of time off.

Timing is crucial.  Try to get this done within 2 weeks of announcing the new schedule.  Until this final step is done, your workforce will be on High Rumor Alert which is never helpful.

Call Us and We Can Help

Call or text us today at (415) 858-8585 to discuss your operations and how we can help you solve your shift work problems. You can also complete our contact form and we will call you.