Intro: Efficient & fast shift planning with our versatile rota tool

In this article, we will quickly go through the main structure of the Smartplan Rota Tool and introduce you to 4 different strategies of planning in Smartplan that you can choose according to your needs.
Our main objective here at Smartplan is to make the planning of your business’ everyday workflows as easy as pie. You shouldn’t unnecessarily be spending time on endless repetitive manual work. That is why we created an intuitive tool for shift planning, that can be flexibly applied to all different kinds of sectors and situations.

The basics

In Smartplan, all you have to do to create a rota is to define the period in which it is valid. When you create a new rota, it will be in the planning phase. During this draft mode, regular users (meaning your employees) will not be able to access it. This way, you can set up your rota in peace.

In the rota tool, you will see an empty schedule. The horizontal axis shows the days of the week, while the vertical axis constitutes the time of day. Within this table, you can create shifts. A shift always consists of:
  • A start time and end time
  • A “job position”
  • The staffing (you can either leave the shift unoccupied or assign it to someone on your Smartplan account)
Creating a shift.jpg
Creation of a shift
Job positions are a way of differentiating your shifts. They are indicating a certain work task, qualification, or company division: “Cleaning”, “Team Lead”, “Sales”. You can adapt these job positions as you like. You can assign one ore more job positions to your employees and they will then only be able to take over shifts with a matching job position.
When several shifts are created on a day, they will be listed in chronological order, based on their starting times. Shifts with the exact same start and end time are being clustered in time blocks. This gives you a better overview and the possibility to edit in bulk:
Shift Timeline.jpg
Shift timeline
Do you want to learn more on how to create shifts? Click here.
In the side bar at the right, you can keep track of how many hours you have yet created and assigned to your employees in each individual week:
Side bar overview.jpg
Side bar overview

Take scheduling to the next level with our user-friendly tools

The rota editor contains a number of useful tools to execute your planning process faster and reduce any errors or contradictions to a minimum.

You can apply and combine these functions as you like:
  • Template: Are your shift patterns similar to each other from time to time? Then the template tool can save you lots of clicks and time. First, you can save time in your current shift planning, because everything you create in the template will be automatically copied over to the rota. In the rota, the template will then be repeated as often as the length of the rota allows. Second, the template saves you time in your future planning as well, because it can be saved and inserted again in another rota.

  • Quick copying:  Copying shifts, time blocks, days or even whole weeks is a quick and easy way to save you from repetitive manual work. Apart from shifts you can also copy and thereby “pick up” an employee. By clicking on the shifts in your rota tool, you can then quickly distribute the employee onto the available shifts.

  • Employee rules: Smartplan can keep track of your teams’ individual requirements and life circumstances for you. You can set up employee rules regarding their working hours, daily/weekly/monthly hour limits, work days and days off. Our digital Smartplan Assistant will continuously make sure that the set conditions are being met during your planning and you will be made aware of any transgression of said rules.

  • Collect employee requests: While you can specify in the employee rules, when your employees are generally not available, there is also the possibility to collect your employees’ work requests for the specific rota that you are working on. Enable employee requests and the employees will be able to tell you at what times during the rota period they are not available for work.

  • Automatic staffing: This is where all the above tools come together. With this feature, our Smartplan Assistant can suggest the staffing for your rota. All it needs from your side is a basic rota with a couple of free shifts. However, the Assistant can include various parameters (job positions, absences, employee rules and employee requests) in his calculations, so the more details you have provided beforehand, the better the Assistant’s result will become.

One tool, many possibilities

Now that we have learned about what the Smartplan Rota Tool has to offer you, the question is: How do you best adapt it to your individual planning processes and your employees’ needs?

Broadly speaking, we can categorize the different approaches to planning in Smartplan into 4 types of people:

  1. “The traditional one”

Some people might easily get overwhelmed with all the automation tools that are available for shift planning nowadays. Or they might simply prefer to be in full control of the planning process. But that should not be seen as an insurmountable obstacle to using modern rota tools. In fact, in Smartplan it is possible to create every single shift manually and assign it to an employee of your liking. At the same time, you can still enjoy the advantages of a digital rota:
  • In their accounts, your employees can view their scheduled shifts and hours at any time. That reduces confusion among the Team.
  • Any changes you make are processed immediately and visible to anyone connected to your Smartplan account.
  • You and your Team can profit from several communication channels across your account. This way, all your work-related communication is gathered in one place.
  • Documentation and reporting: All past rotas and hours are securely saved, which will make the subsequent reporting and payroll accounting a lot easier.

  1. “The automatization geek”

Maybe you are looking to optimize your workflows and planning processes as much as possible and are therefore looking for a higher degree of automation in an employee scheduling tool. By combining all the different tools available in Smartplan, you can streamline your processes and reduce the time spent on planning to a minimum.
Imagine this: You create a new rota and insert a saved template with unassigned shifts (20 sec). You would then open the rota for employee requests for a couple of days (15 sec). When all the requests are in, you just hit the button for the automatic staffing and publish the rota with a few adjustments (5 min). With this strategy, you are basically letting the Assistant taking over all the work and just give it a final check in the end to make sure everything looks alright.
Don’t worry, automation doesn’t mean that you loose control over the process. Our features are simply supporting your work, they will not take over completely. You will at any point be capable of making changes to the rota.

  1. “The first-come-first-served”

Another strategy is to simply indicate the staffing need by creating unassigned shifts and then let the employees take over their desired shifts on their own. If your shift patterns often look alike every month, you could additionally create and reuse a template to spend even less time on planning.
When the framework of your rota is set up, publish it. Now you can just lean back and see how your employees slowly begin to take over the shifts. Whoever is first, gets the shift. You can enable shift swaps without admin approval for the employees, so that they can sort out any conflicts themselves as well. This way you save yourself time and be less liable for any frustration that might arise during the staffing process.
However, if you do like to have the final say in the distribution of shifts, you could make admin approval mandatory. This means that employees will only be able to request the takeover of a shift and an admin could then, out of all the requests, pick the most suitable person.

  1. “The laissez-faire”

In some industries and businesses, the work times of the employees might not be very predictable, which makes it close to impossible to set up beforehand. Or maybe there is a business owner that does not want to spend time on scheduling the employees’ working times and gives them the freedom to manage their work day on their own.
Although a big part of the Smartplan system is centered around shift planning, even these companies can still accommodate their needs in Smartplan. This requires the use of the Smartplan Punch Clock. First, simply create a rota with a period and publish it directly (without any shifts). When the employees show up at work, they now have the opportunity to create shifts themselves through the Punch Clock. The new shift with its expected end time will directly appear in the empty rota you created.

As we have seen, Smartplan is very flexible in its use. Which approach you apply in the end is totally up to you. If you are in doubt how exactly you could/should adapt our rota tool to your specific planning needs, do not hesitate to contact us.

Publish your rota and let the magic happen

No matter what approach you have chosen, at the end of your planning it is time to publish your rota.   To publish a rota means that it will be in an active or “live” state and, thus, available to all the (activated) users on your Smartplan account. Now your employees can start interacting with it and swap shifts with each other, for example.
But don’t worry: As an Admin, you still have the possibility to make changes to literally anything in your rota. Nothing is set in stone. Most edits can be done while the rota is still published, however, sometimes it might be necessary to put the rota back into editing mode. More on this here.

Further reading

Publishing your rotas is the base for most of the other functions in Smartplan. If you are open to it, Smartplan is so much more than just shift planning! If you are interested, you can dig deeper into our other manual collections on topics such as:
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