Building shift schedules that are fair, effective, and ensure coverage of all needed personnel and ranks, can be time-consuming and frustrating, and mistakes can be costly in terms of the impact on the department budget, and in the morale of our first responders. Schedules have to account not only for regular operating personnel of different types/ranks (how many supervisors vs employees) but also account for coverage of special events and lack of availability due to illness or vacation. Those in charge of scheduling, typically supervisors, must also pay attention to shift swaps, overtime, preferred shifts, and many other factors that consume the bulk of their time.
Shift-Bidding and Scheduling
Schedules, whether planned monthly, quarterly, biannually (most common), or annually must balance staff based on certifications and agency needs. Known events requiring additional coverage (parades or festivals) are also on-schedule.
Staffing needs are posted and shift bids and vacation requests are made in order of seniority, department, or job category. There will be rules around how many people can select a particular shift. Once it's full, it is closed. Agencies may adjust the bid process so not one shift gets piled with seniors.
One agency, with a staff of 400, had everyone fill out a sheet with their top 3 shifts. Shifts were then selected by seniority and put on the shared calendar. Other agencies use an online calendar. Each employee has a designated day/time window to go into the calendar and select the shifts they would like. Since this is online, you can see in real-time what shifts are getting taken, which is helpful for employees who have not selected yet.
Long-term scheduling gives personnel the stability of knowing what their shift/hours will be for the duration of the schedule, whether they can make those vacation plans, if they’ll need to line up child care, etc. However, traditional schedules also require dedicated personnel (senior leadership or HR) to build and oversee these schedules rather than using these valuable assets for other mission-related tasks.
Whether created on a sheet of paper and posted in the station, or on a Google Calendar or Excel Sheet and posted online, these shared calendars don’t push information out, requiring personnel to check back for changes. In dynamic situations, changes can happen quickly and schedule changes are missed or paper requests misplaced, resulting in a lack of coverage and risking public safety.
These bid-schedules done “by hand” require a lot of oversight by leadership/HR to manually update and build everyone’s schedule fairly, ensure coverage in case of illness, prevent excessive overtime, adjust for unplanned events (natural disasters, protests, emergency events), and to push out updates and changes to personnel promptly.
How automation can help
Moving to an automated scheduling software can save time and money – ultimately freeing leadership to focus on where it matters most. With Schedule Express, the system is configured based on your agency’s rules and staffing parameters, and has the ability to automate your vacation and shift bidding processes. Staff can bid for shifts faster and everything is tracked in real-time, removing human error. Each employee’s calendar is automatically updated and notifications pushed out when changes are made, eliminating confusion. That said, the shift bidding manager will still need to give final approval.
Check our website for some more information on the features and functionalities of Schedule Express. Schedule a demo to discuss how SafeCities™ can provide custom solutions tailored to your agency’s scheduling needs.