Staffing Blues — Four Ways to Get Your People to Work

“Our basic nature is to act, and not to be acted upon.”  -Stephen R. Covey

I never liked being short-staffed. In college, when I worked in a café, a call-ins meant that I would be working double-duty. It meant stress for me, long lines for our customers, and waste of product. As a line level staff member, I had no way of improving the call-in problem, but I also knew that when I was in management, I would handle staffing problems in a more effective manner.

Fast forward five years and I am a supervisor In the Attractions Department at the LuXor Hotel in Las Vegas. When I was put in charge of scheduling for the motion ride, I became very concerned about staffing. I knew that running the ride with fewer people than were scheduled compromised safety and show quality and could impact the guest experience, but we frequently had call ins that resulted in not having a full staff. But what could I do? I was not in charge hiring, that was the responsibility of another Supervisor. When this Supervisor would check with me asking how many people I needed to be fully staffed I started padding my staffing requirements and requesting 3 or 4 extra people every time. This gave me enough people so that when I was creating the weekly schedule, I was able to schedule 2 extra people each shift to allow full coverage even in the event of call-ins. Having extra coverage not only allowed for the motion ride to be properly staffed, but the extra team members were often available to help out in our other attractions when they experienced call-ins. As a result, all of our attractions were able to operate safely and efficiently while providing an outstanding guest experience.

Even though we were scheduling “extra” people, we never went over our staffing budget. In fact, we kept everyone operating properly. On the rare occasions where we truly had an “extra” person for the day, someone always volunteered to go home.

Here are 4 additional tips that I have used to ensure proper staffing:

Hire for Reliability – Be sure to ask applicants if they have reliable transportation. Also, if they have previous experience, identify if they have ever been released for attendance related issues.

Implement a No-Fault Attendance Policy – Throughout my career, I have used a No-Fault Attendance Policy in which all call-ins are documented for the record, regardless of the reason. A combination of clear communication of the requirements/expectations of the policy and consistent, progressive discipline for violations is needed to successfully administer this type of program.

Post the Next Schedule Early – I would require that all Day Off Requests be submitted at least 10 days in advance of the schedule being posted. This gave me enough time to have the new schedule posted at least one week prior. This allowed my staff to know their schedule in advance so they could confidently make plans outside of work.

Allow Switching of Shifts – When you allow individuals to trade shifts, it shows you are flexible, and it helps to reduce call ins. It is better by far to give your employees the ability to trade a shifts with a co-worker if something comes up than for them have to call in.

Ensuring that you are well staffed is part of being a Leader. Rather than making do with what you have, strive to make what you have better. While staffing isn’t everything, it is a huge part of being prepared; and being prepared is what makes for a smooth operation!

Have a great week,