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Implementing a new schedule at your public safety agency

On December 19, 2022

The research is done, operations were evaluated, and now the decision is made – your agency’s old schedule likely met your needs for a long time which deserves recognition, but it’s time for change. 


Once your agency arrives at the conclusion a new schedule is the right solution to improve the efficacy of your operations, it’s time to implement. This final blog in our series assumes you’ve built your base schedule; decided on 8-hour, 10-hour, or 12-hour shifts (or a mix); made plans for overtime and training; have worked with your union to honor the current contract to ensure compliance and equity; and finally, spent time testing the new schedule


How we roll out new procedures matters. Staff buy-in is essential to morale, and ultimately retention, and it shouldn’t be undervalued when making any changes – and there isn’t anything much more significant than a schedule which impacts the lives of everyone involved. A clear transition timeline supports a smooth process, allows time for questions and feedback, and gives staff and leadership time to adjust and feel comfortable.


Plan a comprehensive staff meeting

Present the new schedule in person. Plan sit downs, shift by shift per the current schedule, and use visuals such as PowerPoint to make the presentation accessible for personnel to review later if needed.


Many of the topics that should be covered will include:


The why and the when

What is the rationale for the new schedule? What goals are being met by implementing this change? How does the new schedule benefit the department? How does it benefit the employee? Be sure to also address items specific to your agency, such as how this will impact overtime, or any changes to covering a specific part of the day that was historically free or open.


Give clear timelines for when the new schedule will go into effect, as well as details on how it will be phased in – covered in more detail below.


How to read new schedule

What’s on the calendar, and how will shifts, vacation, overtime, or other important items look on the calendar? Any differences should be covered, ideally with examples for your staff to see at that moment.


How shifts and PTO are arranged and approved

If there will be any procedural changes to shift or vacation bidding, this is a critical topic to address to ensure clarity and understanding. Are there any anticipated effects on time-off use and scheduling? These are all essential items to discuss and set expectations.


Rotation changes and breaks

When needed, will your agency utilize 8- or 12-hour forced call-ins? Or a 4-hour on-call time? Will there be changes to breaks or lunches? However you plan to address these needs, make sure to cover it with your staff during the scheduled presentation times.


Ongoing staff expectations

Can staff trade shifts on the calendar themselves, or is approval required first? How will staff access the calendar? How will they be alerted to changes in shifts, notified of overtime, and other similar events? One of the most important steps you can take to ensure a seamless transition is ensure everyone knows and understands their new schedule before the transition.


Final thoughts

This presentation should cover a fair portion of questions you can anticipate your staff having, though be sure to leave a generous section of time for live questions where everyone feels heard – and not rushed. 


Phasing in the new schedule

A trial phase-in is recommended in order to allow the old schedule to finish its cycle. Remember, those on the final shift of the previous schedule will need time to sleep, or time off to accommodate for conflicts with the new schedule, as the old schedule sunsets before changing shifts. Ideally, a 24-36 hour buffer should be planned into the day the new schedule goes into effect. The last people on the old schedule will need time off before starting the new schedule, and people coming in will be doing so from their time off. 


In the first days or weeks, plan to actively seek to mitigate issues and maintain open feedback as people settle into the new schedule. That said, don’t revert back, and don’t make panic changes – remember why you made the decision and the research you did to prepare, anticipate challenges, and know it will be worthwhile in the end.


After a few months, revisit to ensure goals are being met. Is it sustainable as-is, or are adjustments needed? This is the time to be open to small changes, rather than the initial implementation period which is almost sure to have a period of uncertainty. Run some reports and gather data to see if  the new schedule is tenable, or if other factors have impacted the effectiveness of the new schedule. For example, it may become clear that two more employees are needed in order for the schedule to operate effectively. Be open to discoveries, and to solutions, while working to build the most optimal schedule for your agency.


A new schedule is a commitment. It wasn’t a decision made lightly and every person at your agency deserves recognition for being open throughout the process, making changes, and participating in making it a success. SafeCities™ is always available to advise agencies and help build a custom schedule, designed to meet unique departmental needs, using our scheduling solution – Schedule Express. Contact us to learn how we can benefit your unique agency.



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