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Shift Bidding: Definition, Benefits, Strategies

6 min read
employee having a discussion with human resources manager about the work schedule

Handling HR shifts and employee scheduling needs is a complex duty that organisations have grappled with for years, constantly testing new methods and seeing what would work best for them. But according to a 2021 survey by Deputy involving 1,400 shift workers, flexibility was rated the top benefit for 66% of respondents. 

One popular practice that can incorporate flexible scheduling for employees is shift bidding. Here’s everything you need to know about the practise and its benefits.

What is Shift Bidding?

Shift bidding is a scheduling method that involves employees actively participating in the process of selecting their preferred shifts or work hours. Unlike traditional scheduling methods where managers or supervisors dictate the shifts, shift bidding empowers employees by giving them a say in their shift scheduling.

employees sitting beside eachother to discuss shift scheduling and availability for work

Shift bidding is commonly implemented in industries requiring round-the-clock operations or where shifts must be staffed based on demand fluctuations. This includes hourly employees across healthcare, hospitality, manufacturing, retail, and customer service sectors. However, the benefits of shift bidding can extend beyond these industries and apply to any organisation that values employee engagement, satisfaction, and work-life balance.

How Does Shift Bidding Work?

With shift bidding, employees are typically presented with various available shifts or time slots. They can bid or express their preferences for specific shifts based on their needs, preferences, and availability. The bidding process can be structured in various ways, such as through an online platform or manually submitting preferences, whether week scheduling or monthly.

Shift bidding presents a distinctive shift assignment process because rather than relying solely on shift management decisions, it considers employees’ preferences and allows them more control over their work schedules. This approach acknowledges that employees have diverse needs and preferences regarding their work hours, and by involving them in the scheduling process, organisations can create a more flexible and employee-centric work environment.

Benefits of Involving Employees in Scheduling

While shift bidding has its differences from traditional scheduling solutions, the flexibility and control it offers brings a strong benefit to organisations. Future Forum’s survey data finds that employees with flexible schedules exhibit higher scores for productivity, connection, and company culture, reporting 29% higher productivity and 53% greater ability to focus than those without control over shifting their schedules.

With that said, here are some of the main benefits shift bidding can bring to your workplace.

Enhanced Employee Satisfaction and Engagement

Shift bidding fosters a sense of empowerment and inclusion. Employees have a say in their work hours, and organisations demonstrate that they value their input and respect their individual needs. Moreover, organisations tap into their valuable insights and experience by involving employees in scheduling decisions.


Improved Work-Life Balance and Employee Retention

By allowing employees to select shifts that align with their commitments, such as family responsibilities, education, or other part-time jobs, organisations demonstrate a commitment to their employees’ well-being. This can result in higher employee retention rates as individuals are likelier to stay with a company that offers flexibility and respects their work-life balance needs.

Increased Flexibility and Adaptability in Scheduling

Tapping into your employee availability and preferences ensures that your business can more effectively manage staffing needs during peak hours or periods of high demand. This can lead to better resource allocation and cost optimisation, ensuring the right number of employees are scheduled for each shift.

Reduced Absenteeism and Improved Overall Productivity

Employees with a say in their schedules are more likely to be motivated and committed to showing up for their assigned shifts. By aligning work hours with their preferences, organisations can minimise scheduling conflicts and reduce instances of unplanned absences, resulting in increased productivity and smoother operations.

Strategies for Shift Bidding

Shift bidding must be embraced as a cultural shift for it to work. Some of the things you always have to keep in mind are collaboration, autonomy, and data-driven decision-making. However, it’s also to your organisation’s benefit to promote employee development and foster a sense of ownership.

Let’s look at some effective strategies every shift bidding solution should have.

1) Team Communication and Transparency

Establishing clear guidelines for the shift bidding process from the get-go will help you lay the groundwork for a transparent scheduling solution. It will guarantee that your employees understand the objectives, rules, and criteria for shift bidding, and regularly updating employees on the progress and developments of the shift bidding system will allow them to feel engaged and involved. Moreover, keeping employees informed about the timeline, upcoming shifts, and any changes in the process contributes to a positive shift bidding experience.

Creating channels for employees to express their concerns or ask questions about shift bidding is equally important. Companies can improve the process by actively listening, addressing their concerns, and making employees feel valued. Providing feedback on employees’ inquiries and suggestions demonstrates that their voices are heard, further enhancing engagement and trust.

employees having a meeting about improving team communication surrounding time off requests

2) Technology and Employee Scheduling Software

Leveraging technology can significantly streamline the shift bidding process and enhance its effectiveness. There are a handful of digital software platforms that can offer features such as automated shift allocation, handling time off requests, real-time updates, and employee self-service portals. On top of that, selecting platforms prioritising data security and providing user-friendly interfaces for employees and managers is crucial for seamless integration.

Besides taking advantage of a given employee scheduling app for tracking and overall management, AI in workforce planning can help solve scheduling challenges, such as predicting demand and optimising staffing levels. According to McKinsey, companies using smart scheduling can see a boost in the productivity of field workers by 30% and schedulers by 20%.

Automation plays a significant role in identifying varying shift patterns and simplifying the allocation of shifts based on employee preferences and qualifications. It allows companies to reduce manual errors, save time, and ensure fairness in shift assignments. With automation handling administrative tasks, managers can focus on strategic aspects when they schedule employees, such as analysing data and optimising resource allocation.

3) Ensuring Fairness and Preventing Conflicts

Companies should design the shift bidding system to ensure equal opportunities for all employees and prevent potential conflicts or biases. Factors such as seniority, skills, availability, and individual preferences should be considered to create a balanced approach.

In these circumstances, being proactive is the first step in the right direction. Anticipating issues such as conflicting preferences, unavailability, or overlapping schedules enables companies to establish protocols for resolution. By defining clear guidelines and communicating them transparently, companies can mitigate potential disputes and ensure a smooth shift bidding process.

In the event of disputes or conflicts during shift bidding, companies should designate a point of contact or an impartial mediator who can objectively handle conflicts. And to make things even better, encouraging open dialogue and collaboration among employees will likely maintain a harmonious work environment while resolving conflicts fairly and efficiently.

Tips for a Smooth Transition to Shift Bidding

So you want to introduce shift bidding in your workplace, but you’re unsure how. In that case, what must you do to ensure a smooth transition and that everything is set up to succeed? Here are some effective tips to keep in mind when getting things going.

Educating Employees about the Benefits and Process of Shift Bidding

During the transition, start by clearly explaining the benefits of shift bidding, emphasising how it can improve work-life balance, enhance flexibility, and promote employee engagement. Address employees’ concerns or misconceptions and emphasise the new system’s positive impact on their work experience.

To complement the above, also make way for comprehensive training sessions or workshops to familiarise employees with the shift bidding process, offering opportunities for them to ask questions and seek clarification on how your shift bidding system works.

employees talking about shift scheduling and availability for work

Training Managers and Supervisors on Shift Bidding

Managers and supervisors play a crucial role in overseeing the shift bidding process, so it’s to the organisation’s benefit to provide them with the necessary training and resources to manage the new system effectively. This training should include the following:

  • Familiarity with the shift bidding software or tools: Ensure that managers and supervisors are proficient in using the technology solutions employed for shift bidding. Provide comprehensive training on how to navigate the system, approve or reject bids, and handle any technical issues that may arise.
  • Leadership skills development: Help managers and supervisors develop the skills to facilitate the shift bidding process. This includes promoting fairness, addressing conflicts, and fostering a positive work environment. Guide how to communicate with employees throughout the process, including constructive feedback and support.
  • Conflict resolution strategies: Equip managers and supervisors with strategies for addressing conflicts that may arise during the shift bidding process, adequate training on conflict resolution techniques, active listening, and mediation skills. Furthermore, an open-door policy will make employees feel comfortable expressing and addressing their concerns promptly.

Ongoing Evaluation of the Shift Bidding System

Transitioning to a shift bidding system is not a one-time event. It requires continuous evaluation and improvement to ensure its effectiveness. Consider the following:

  • Regular feedback loops: Establish mechanisms to gather employee and manager feedback regarding the shift bidding system. This can be done through surveys, focus groups, or regular meetings. Actively listen to their suggestions, concerns, and experiences to identify areas for improvement.
  • Data analysis: Leverage the data generated by the shift bidding system to identify patterns, trends, and potential issues. Analyse the data to optimise scheduling processes, identify areas of high demand or low participation, and make data-driven decisions to enhance the system’s overall effectiveness.
  • Iterative refinement: Based on the feedback and data analysis, make iterative improvements to the shift bidding process. Communicate these changes to employees and managers, ensuring they understand the rationale behind the adjustments. Continuously refine and evolve the system to meet your organisation’s changing needs and demands.
Sergio is a seasoned copy and content writer who has worked directly with company founders, CMOs, brand executives, and marketing directors from multiple industries. He's an HR geek and humble terpsichorean.

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