The importance of costing rosters before publishing them

by External15 Jul 2013

Trying to fill every role across every shift, ensuring the right coverage of skills, acknowledging WHS requirements regarding shifts and fatigue, and then remembering who's available or who's on leave is far from easy. Darren Covington provides his top tip for smoothing the process.

Creating an effective roster can sometimes seem like a black art. Trying to fill every role across every shift, ensuring the right coverage of skills, acknowledging workplace health and safety (WHS) requirements regarding shifts and fatigue, and then remembering who's available or who's on leave is far from easy. 

Just when you think you've wrestled the roster into submission and published it for all and sundry to view, you discover the mix of people you've scheduled has blown the budget yet again. When this happens your only choices are to upset everyone's plans by making changes, or wear the costs.

Unfortunately, the complexities of modern day workforce management make this a problem common to many organisations. There is, however, one thing you can do to simplify the process and ensure you end up with a workable, compliant and cost-effective roster that makes the most of your available staff: Cost the roster as you prepare it.

That way, there should be no surprises. When you cost as you go, you can accurately and instantly understand the impact of every employee on every shift. If any changes need to be made, you can immediately see and consider their impact on costs.

Spreadsheets, one of the traditional tools for roster creation, may help a little by adding up and displaying costs, but they are limited as they can't interpret awards or prompt you with personnel options to fit your budget. The manager creating the roster is still going to have to take the time to note awards and conditions as they go.

A more efficient alternative is to use a real time decision support tool designed for roster creation. Known as a workforce management solution, these systems manage labour costs by establishing and automatically applying comprehensive payment rules. They allow companies to design rosters, model costs, and easily compare actuals to planned expenditure.

Displaying costs while developing the roster assists managers to take control of their labour costs and enforces a budget responsibility before finalising rosters. The ability to model also allows managers to simulate, understand and manage labour variables such as costs for overtime, casual staffing, subcontractors and leave.

Capturing data down to cost centre level, a workforce management system provides valuable management information by breaking down the pool of labour costs, making it available for analysis by business unit, tasks, shifts and positions. It brings greater oversight one of the business areas of greatest expenditure, providing historical labour cost reports and enabling forecasting for future needs.

But the biggest difference between a workforce management system, the spreadsheet and even pen and paper, is the system's ability to offer automatic award interpretation. This facility not only calculates labour costs according to your industrial agreement; it automates payroll data entry, bringing greater accuracy to the process by removing the potential for manual error that could lead to over- or under-payment.

It is this functionality, combined with the rules-based nature of the system, that allows managers to automatically create lowest cost rosters on an ongoing basis, and when trying to fill one-off labour requirements such as a scheduled leave or unplanned absence.

Designing a roster will always be a headache due to the human element. You can never please everyone all the time. But, with the right real time tools, you can achieve significant benefits by reducing administrative time, simplifying the design effort, delivering more certainty in rosters, and creating lowest-cost rosters that deliver substantial savings for the business. 

About the author 

Darren Covington is Chief Operations Officer, ComOps



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