How To Schedule Staff Effectively & Avoid Mistakes: 10 Top Rostering Tips, Hacks And Useful Tools

Article updated on the 13th of March 2024

A well-designed staff roster will help your company reduce costs, boost staff morale and improve service quality.

It will ensure you have not just the right number of staff on each team but also the right team members. In turn, this will keep your staff and customers happy while reducing labour costs.

But what are the most crucial things you need to know to roster staff effectively? How can you avoid common errors? And which tips, tricks and tools will help you not just create better schedules but do it quicker and easier?

We’ve helped over 1,300 organisations roster and schedule staff, and we love what we do, so here are our top recommendations for building better schedules and not only ensuring not only that your shifts run smoothly but that your teams are engaged before they even commence their shift.

1. Select The Most Efficient Software

Not all rostering software is made equal. If you’re using outdated software that can’t handle modern awards, or even worse, an Excel sheet, you are likely spending more time than you actually need on rostering. What’s more, there’s a high chance that you’re overlooking ways to maximise cost-efficiency.

Some key features that can increase efficiency include drag-and-drop rostering, replicating rosters, micro-scheduling, automated shift costing, qualifications and award requirements checks, and shift swapping. Every team is different, so ask yourself: what is it exactly that you need to do, what  format works best for your team, and which scheduling software features will help you achieve this?

2. Communicate Well For Hiccup-Free Shifts

“Teamwork makes the dream work”, as the old saying goes. But, your team can’t work together if everybody is on different pages. As Sydney-based The Rose Hotel says, “On a busy day when a million and one things were going on, you’d find someone hadn’t turned up. And then you’d realise the reason they hadn’t turned up was because you hadn’t told them to.” It happens. But, it also doesn’t have to.

You need to understand and communicate with your team to know what’s going to help them the most. Fortunately, technology like the Humanforce Mobile App will ensure that staff members receive their shift details immediately and can contact managers directly if they have any questions about the roster.

3. Automate Rostering To Reduce Stress, Bias And Errors

Saving time on laborious tasks gives you more time to excel in other areas and connect with your team, and automating is an easy way to reduce your manual workload. It’s not just about freeing up your time though. Noah’s Hotel found that switching from manual, to automated rostering helped them cut down on human errors, track progress and monitor budgets.

4. Make The Most Of Your Rostering Tools

Workforce Analytics, shift bidding tools, mobile apps: modern rostering software comes with a host of extra features that can help you roster more effectively. 

With Workforce Analytics, for example, you can trace how seasonality affects the number of sick days and build that into your scheduling. Shift bidding tools will give your staff greater autonomy while reducing your workload.

You might find that some features are more useful for your company than others. Request a full demo from your rostering software provider, and ask yourself what tools you need to keep up with your competitors. Consider which features and elements you will need at each stage of rostering, from costing and drafting the schedule to approval, sharing it with the team and finding cover.

5. Create Protocols For Time-Off Requests

You’ve just signed off on a fully costed and compliant staff roster when someone requests a day off. Do you redo the schedule, refuse the request or ask the staff member to organise a shift swap?

Knowing how you’re going to manage sick leave, holidays and shift swapping before you start, along with what roster functionality you need to manage this, will help avoid stress later on. 

With modern rostering tools like Humanforce, you can set it up so that workers request time off and shift swaps via a mobile app. Plus, the software will automatically find the best cover when someone calls in sick. The only thing you’ll have to do is sign off on the changes.

6. Be Clear About The Rules And How Much Leniency You Allow Staff

Setting parameters or rules early on avoids miscommunication. Make sure staff are aware of the protocols surrounding punctuality, shift swaps, and time off. It’s important that they know who to raise any issues with, as well as the company’s policies.

Also, always ensure that all staff get treated the same. If you have different teams with different managers, monitor what managers are letting teams have in terms of breaks, shift patterns or holidays. The last thing you want as a business owner is favoritism or teams not being aligned which causes internal frustrations. The more transparent you are about rules, and communicating company guidelines more efficiently (like scheduling holidays) through using digital software, the smoother things will run.

Of course though, things won’t always go according to plan sometimes. Workers will sometimes be late or fail to turn up. Consider ahead of time how you will handle these situations, both from a compliance and a shift management perspective. Understanding where staff pain points are with rosters will help you plan ahead, while analysing your Workforce Analytics can enable you to spot attendance and impunctuality trends.

7. Fully Cost Your Roster

Modern awards can make costing rosters tricky. The Hospitality Industry (General) Award in Australia alone has over 500 pay points that depend on the staff classification and shift time and date. However, costing your roster is essential for maximising profits and assigning the appropriate staff members to each shift. Make sure your rostering software is capable of both costing rosters and implementing modern awards.

8. Estimate Labour Demand

One of the most common mistakes when creating and managing a roster is failing to accurately estimate labour demand. Under-scheduling will stress staff out and reduce the quality of service, while over-scheduling can be costly and inefficient. With AI rostering software, however, you can input historical POS data, bookings and more to improve the accuracy of your labour demand estimates.

9. Create Balanced Teams

To create balanced teams, roster roles rather than names. Work out what each shift requires and then fill the schedule. At the same time, it’s important to take into account individual staff members’ strengths and weaknesses as well as their preferred shifts.  Pair experienced and inexperienced employees, and pay attention to which staff members work well together. With AI and Machine Learning you can create schedules that can automatically create optimised labor plans as well as cater for your team schedule preferences.

10. Microschedule For Increased Productivity

Micro-scheduling has been favoured by CEOs for years, thanks to its positive effect on productivity. It’s not just a good idea for managers, though. Modern rostering software can allow you to microschedule activities, breaks and assignments for all team members. Not only will this allow you to boost productivity and efficiency, but you can control per-activity as well as per-shift costs and ensure that breaks are staggered.


The right tools will help you avoid common scheduling mistakes when rostering your staff. Make sure you know how to use all the features of your rostering software, from data analysis to Micro-scheduling. Prioritise automations and strong communication channels wherever possible; know your policies around taking time off; and plan ahead. Don’t forget to always cost your roster, and make sure your teams work well together. 

At Humanforce, our automated rostering software will help you create a staff roster effectively and efficiently while cutting down on human error. To find out more, get in touch or schedule a customised demo.