The 5 most common rostering and scheduling mistakes new managers make


A well-designed roster forms the backbone of an organisation’s operations. It will optimise labour usage, minimise labour costs, ensure compliance with awards and employment agreements, and improve both staff satisfaction and customer service levels. However, efficient and effective rostering is easier said than done – especially for those new to an operations or roster management role. 

Rostering and scheduling can be complex, with managers required to consider multiple components. For example, mandated staffing requirements, staff certifications and qualifications, the time between shifts for individual, budget considerations including overtime, and so much more.  

Requirements also vary according to industry regulatory requirements and the awards/agreements in place, where the guidance is often extremely long and detailed.  

New managers, who are possibly new to the company and are still learning the ins-and-outs of working there, are prone to making mistakes. In most cases, those mistakes are preventable. 

Let’s explore the most common rostering and scheduling errors made by new (and sometimes not so new) managers and how your organisation can avoid them. 

1. Inadequate Communication 

Good rostering and scheduling is useless if staff aren’t aware of their shifts. Whether it’s because someone didn’t check the schedule, it was sent out late or a manager forgot that a worker had booked days off, lack of communication is often the root cause of so many issues.   

As one general manager explained, “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.”   

Prior to the digital revolution, getting word out about new rosters, or communicating changes to existing rosters was limited to physically posting the work schedule to a wall in a common area, talking directly with staff in-person, and phoning suitable staff to fill gaps caused by absenteeism. It was inefficient for both managers and employees. 

A common complaint from frontline, shift-based workers is that important communications do not reach them in a timely manner – and that includes information about rosters. The earlier a roster can be shared with workers, the easier it is for them to plan and balance their other obligations with their work commitments. Of course, plans always change, so both sides need to be flexible and accept that sometimes unexpected gaps need to be filled or additional shifts need to be taken. 

To further complicate matters, there’s no set rule about how much notice employees need to be given for roster changes as it will depend on the rules outlined in relevant awards/employment agreements. For both employers and employees, that is the first place to check. 

As an example, in Australia, the Restaurant and Hospitality awards require employers to give at least 7 days’ notice of a change (unless the employee agrees otherwise). Check the rules for various awards here. 

As a general guide, if an employer needs to change an employee’s regular roster or ordinary hours of work, they must first discuss it with the relevant employee(s) and any representatives they have. They must: 

  • Provide information about the change (e.g. what the change will be and when) 

  • Invite employees to give their views about the impact of the change 

  • Consider these views about the impact of the change 

Here are some tips to improve communication about roster changes: 

  1. Clearly explain the reason why the shift times are being changed. e.g. it might be compliance-related (not enough/too many staff rostered to work), or there might be a need to fill a shift urgently due to unexpected absence 

  2. Address concerns around the change and offer some flexibility in cases that warrant them; this is where open communication channels are so critical 

  3. Use different communication channels. Email, text/SMS, or physical noticeboards are commonly used, but the most effective channel is likely to be via email or SMS notifications, which alert employees to check their mobile app. For example, Humanforce’s Work App enables roster changes to be communicated immediately and empowers employees to accept or decline shifts, or request changes. They can always see where, when and for how long they are due to work. Managers can make bid offers, and staff can bid on open shifts on-the-go. There is also a built-in messaging system that managers can use to check in with staff. 

New managers may assume that people “just know what to do” or are on the same page. On the contrary, assume everybody is unaware of schedules until they “officially” hear from their manager. 

2. Ignoring Employee Preferences 

Good rostering is not one-way. In fact, getting input from your employees about their preferred work days/hours can reap numerous benefits. Managers can quickly assess who might be available (and Humanforce’s Rostering & Scheduling solution will automatically fill shifts based on those preferences), and employees have more say in how and when they work. That leads to better work-life balance and healthier, happier employees.  

Workers can input their preferred work hours, set themselves as unavailable on certain days and times and bid on overtime shifts through the Humanforce Work App. With more than 33% of workers frustrated by a lack of flexibility for swapping, dropping and picking up shifts, this can dramatically improve staff motivation and employee engagement. 

The ultimate in self-service functionality must be the ability of workers to bid on available shifts, and for managers to make shift offers. With Humanforce shift bidding, workers can see all the shifts they are able to take up. It’s ideal for filling shifts a few weeks out. They can also bid on shifts that wouldn’t normally be part of their schedule. For example, they may usually work 12pm-5pm but would prefer to work 5pm-12am for a few shifts in a row.  

Alternatively, shift offers can be made when a manager sees they have an open shift, and they’d specifically like ‘Joanne’ to do that shift. Joanne will see the shift offer in the app, and she can either accept or decline that offer. It’s ideal for filling last-minute holes in the roster without having to resort to agency staff. 

To ensure worker preferences are built into your roster creation process: 

  • Encourage your new manager to get know their team members. Rostering is no longer about dropping a faceless name into a vacant shift and hoping for the best. It’s about knowing your employees, their motivations and preferences, and their personal circumstances (e.g. carer responsibilities, or time required for study, etc.) 

  • Empower workers to input their work time/day preferences into your workforce management platform, and make leave requests easy to track and approve 

  • Educate your new manager on equity and fairness. Always ensure shift allocations are fair and that the same workers aren’t receiving the more desirable shifts every time 

3. Overlooking legal compliance 

Workplace compliance is not a nice-to-have; it’s essential. Compliant rostering is essential in all industries, but especially for employers in industries that have mandated staffing requirements. For example, aged care has mandated care minutes and childcare & early learning has educator to child ratios.  

Beyond those mandates, new managers must also navigate a highly complex industrial relations landscape.  

For example, Australia’s modern awards system is convoluted. The general Hospitality industry award alone has hundreds of different pay points, while the general Retail industry award includes countless pages of minutiae.    

Pay rates depend not just on the worker’s role and status, but also on the number of hours worked, the days and dates worked, the time of day, the number of hours since their last shift, and more. Mandated break times may also need to be considered when rostering. It’s no surprise that mistakes are made.    

For new managers, it’s all too easy to overlook requirements or miss opportunities to reduce labour costs. For example, they might schedule staff members in a way that results in overtime rates or additional allowances for food, when a small tweak to the roster – an extra hour between shifts or finishing the shift 30 minutes earlier – would remove this necessity. 

Even more worryingly, they can overlook the maximum work hours, which can result in hefty fines for awards non-compliance.   

With the Humanforce workforce management system, which includes our Awards & Compliance solution and is fuelled by a powerful awards interpretation engine, workers’ award/agreement status can be input into the solution. The software will take this into account when auto-scheduling staff members and calculating shift costs, plus it will alert managers of potential compliance issues. 

Another element of compliance is ensuring workers have appropriate and up-to-date qualifications. A good example is first aid certifications or responsible service of liquor certificates.  


Our Compliance Management solution avoids the need for managers to chase employees for certifications, licences, immunisation records or visa details and keeps everyone in the loop about pending changes. Managers receive work rights expiry reminders and can track qualifications for job roles, including automated reminders when qualifications need to be renewed. Our sophisticated Rostering & Scheduling solution can even prevent employees who have expired qualifications from being rostered. 

4. Underestimating Workload And Staffing Needs 

Scheduling too many staff members can eat away at profit margins, with labour representing many businesses’ biggest cost. Yet under-scheduling can leave staff struggling with their workload and customers frustrated. In the long term, it may result in a lower staff retention rate and decreased morale.   

Managers need to accurately predict the required number of staff and introduce efficient processes for handling no-shows. For new managers, who can’t draw on previous experience at your company, this isn’t easy.   

Workforce management systems should analyse past absenteeism and compare that to service level requirements to accurately predict how many staff members you really need to schedule. Additional external data such as PoS, site or booking systems data can also be utilised in roster creation to help managers meet demand and stay within budget.   

If someone doesn’t show up for their shift, not only will the manager get instant notice, but the software will automatically suggest the most appropriate cover based on availability information. If your workforce management software doesn’t allow you to do this in seconds then you should review its appropriateness for your business.    

As the Queensland Hotel Grand Chancellor says, “With Humanforce, we now always have the right amount of staff on each shift.” 

We’re only at the start of data-driven rostering. The future of rostering will utilise AI and leverage all available data sources to create demand-driven, fully optimised and cost-effective rosters. Read more on the future of rostering in our blog.  

5. Failing To Adapt And Adjust Schedules 

Effective rostering and scheduling is equal parts carefully considered planning and being flexible enough to make quick decisions. When unplanned absences happen, it falls to the manager to fill that shift with whoever is available to work, with the right qualifications and experience. 

 The world of work is constantly changing, and so too are your staffing needs. That’s why you need to re-evaluate your staffing needs every few months as well as after any major change in your business.  

For example, legislative or regulatory changes may alter how many staff are required at any given time, or business conditions may mean that production needs to increase, meaning a different roster pattern may be required.  

Another example might be if multiple new employees have joined the organisation. How will that impact scheduling? For example, these new hires might need to be paired with more experienced workers during the onboarding phase so they can learn the ropes.  

 With real-time and historical reports, like those found in Humanforce’s Workforce Analytics, it’s easy to spot trends or identify where simple rostering changes may improve business performance. For example, being able to see where and when excessive overtime is occurring may save thousands of dollars each year. 

6. Supporting new managers 

There’s no doubt that frontline managers spend a great deal of time on administrative work. Chasing up forms, handling employee queries and ensuring compliance obligations are met are all part of the job. However, rostering doesn’t need to be the drain on time that it has traditionally been. Give managers the technology required to make this part of their job as automated and pain-free as possible.    

 Humanforce Rostering & Scheduling enables new managers to: 

  • Accelerate the roster creation process by automatically accounting for all staff preferences, leave dates, availability and qualifications 

  • Boost compliance with industry and government regulations, thanks to integration with Humanforce’s Awards & Compliance solution, a sophisticated interpretation engine that takes the complexity out of paying people according to the details of their award or EBA 

  • Instantly see on screen the financial costs of rostering decisions; and control minimum and maximum hour limits across timeframes, date ranges, qualifications, awards, and more 

  • Utilise templates to automate manual roster creation processes 

  • Use extensive workforce and business data to predict demand and optimise use of human resources, reducing the need to rely on agency staff 

  • Empower team members to easily bid on and swap shifts, and manage schedules via mobile device 

About Humanforce 

Humanforce is the best-in-one platform for frontline and flexible workforces, offering a truly employee centred, intelligent and compliant human capital management (HCM) suite – without compromise. Founded in 2002, Humanforce has a 2300+ customer base and over half a million users worldwide. Today, we have offices across Australia, New Zealand, and the UK. 

 Our vision is to make work easier and life better by focusing on the needs and fulfilment of frontline workers, and the efficiency and optimisation of businesses. 

 Contact us today to learn more about the potential ROI of adopting a HCM suite and discover how Humanforce can automate and simplify all aspects of people management in your organisation.