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December 18th, 2014

Rotations or scheduling? Which one are you using and what’s the difference?

scheduling spreadsheet

A software implementation is an exercise in communication, and this is most clear when gathering requirements! Using shared definitions can help clarify your scheduling needs. The terms rotations and scheduling have very different meanings from each other, as well multiple definitions for each term. It’s important to know what the differences are to ensure that your team shares a definition. It can help you to better detail and explain your scheduling needs. Since people have different takes on these terms, when in doubt, always clarify with the other person to find out which definition they’re using!

Assigning Rotations

Rotations (also called rotas or working patterns) are recurring sets of shifts. A rotation can be simple: working 9 to 5 Monday to Friday. They can also get quite complex, such as 9 to 5 Monday to Wednesday, with Thursday off, and 6 to close Friday and Saturday. These groupings of shifts (scheduled time per day) will repeat in a pattern that could range anywhere from one week to 72 weeks, depending on your scheduling needs.

Because rotations can have multiple weeks, you might assign two people to the same rotation but at different periods in that rotation. A common example is two employees with a rotation consisting of alternating weeks of day and night shifts. Each employee would be assigned different weeks of the same rotation.

Examples of where assigning rotations are often used include:

  • Retail stores for managers
  • Manufacturing plants for full time machine operators
  • Office environments where employees work regular hours such as 9 to 5
  • Part time employees who have regular shifts.

At the basic level, assigning everyone to a rotation in the organization produces a timetable that shows all employees what shifts they are working. Producing this timetable is one definition of scheduling. However, there is another definition of scheduling also commonly used.

Scheduling

Assigning rotations is what most people think of when they consider scheduling. Another definition of scheduling (and the one we use here at LOKI Systems), goes much deeper than that. Scheduling involves variables, variability and needs that need to be catered to when assigning employees to shifts. These include:

  • Factoring the skills and certifications of your employees before scheduling them to work a specific job
  • Scheduling some employees before others due to union rules
  • Having the right number of people working due to predetermined scheduling targets
  • Managing a relief pool
  • Considering availability of employees

Examples of where ‘scheduling’ better describes the process include:

  • Hospitals for part time nurses, pharmacists and technicians
  • Manufacturing plants for maintenance workers
  • Retail shops for store floor employees
  • Restaurants for waitresses, waiters and kitchen cooks

When do I use rotations and when do I use scheduling?

In both cases, daily time-keeping occurs to reflect lateness, overtime or absence. The main difference between assigning rotations and scheduling is the complexity that they handle. Scheduling can be much more challenging than simply assigning rotations, because the scheduler needs adhere to legal and contract rules while creating the timetable.

Most companies will use a mix of rotations and scheduling when putting together a timetable for their employees, such as full time workers with rotations combined with a casual relief pool. An example of this would be a retail store:

  • A clothing store has 2 managers who alternate working night shifts one week and day shifts the other week, plus 15 employees who work on a part-time basis. To create the schedule for the upcoming month, both managers are assigned the same repeating two week rotation on staggered weeks. Employees are scheduled based on business needs and their own availability for every schedule.

 

LOKI Systems offers both scheduling solutions for complex environment, and time and attendance systems for businesses that only need to assign rotations to create a schedule. Want to learn more? You can contact us here.

We look forward to hearing from you!

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