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Interview: Between theory and practice

To find out how we can help companies, we don't just look at the facts and figures - we also talk to employees. What insights do they have to contribute? What problems can they be relieved of? An interview with an employee and a shift planner.

shyftplan: Hello Ms. Nöldes, hello Mr. Rogall. Let's start off very simply: where do you work?

R: At a large automotive supplier near Stuttgart - I think we currently have around 1000 employees. Including me, of course.

N: I'm head of workforce scheduling there and am responsible for the duty rosters for half of the employees.

So almost 500 people?

N: Exactly.

Do you like your job?

R: Oh, that's direct (laughs). Well... I'm actually quite happy, yes.

N: If everything goes as it should, then yes.

And if not?

N: Then I keep looking for a solution until it works.

What are the biggest challenges in your job?

N: We have to create a roster with three shifts for 1000 employees. Every month anew. That's complex enough. And then we also have to keep it up to date. That's a new challenge almost every day.

R: Challenges... well, of course we have to do the work that comes up. But when you mention the shift schedule - we sometimes struggle with that too.

In what way? Does the shift work bother you?

R: Well... Who doesn't mind it, late shifts, night shifts... but it's just part of the job, you get used to it. What's actually annoying is all the organizational stuff.

Organizational? What do you mean by that? Ms. Nöldes, that should actually fall within your remit, shouldn't it?

N: Yes, of course. But that's what I meant by the challenges: We can't just make a plan and then say to employees like Mr. Rogall: That's your plan, that's it, that's it - how you manage it is now your problem (laughs). Then you'd be up in arms, wouldn't you?

R: (laughs) Hehe, yes... Well, let me put it this way: if you have to cover for a colleague or want to swap shifts yourself...

Then it's chaos?

(both laugh)

R: Yes, it can be very stressful if someone is ill who is the only person on the shift who can operate the machine, for example. Then you just have to get a replacement.

And how do you do that?

R: Well, it's actually the shift supervisor who does that... we don't get to see much of what's going on in the background.

N: You're lucky! (laughs)

Why? Is a case of illness the worst-case scenario?

N: A case of illness? No - that's more the "normal case", it happens all the time. But even that is costly enough. We planners then have to look: Where is a suitable replacement? Who can even operate the machine? And we also have to consider all kinds of other things: Has the replacement had enough rest? Is he even available now? And who will take over their shift if necessary? Does the shift supervisor agree to this?

That sounds like a lot of coordination work.

N: Yes, definitely. But it's actually mainly about obtaining and distributing information.

What do you mean by that?

N: Well... We need to know: Who can work then and then, who can't. Who is available? Who has which authorizations, and so on. We work with Excel, but you don't always know whether everything is up to date. In the end, you have to ask the shift supervisors or even the employees directly whether what's in the plan is correct.

Do you also know these lists, Mr. Rogall?

R: (scratches his head in embarrassment) Oh, hehe... yes, I know them. But I don't really want to have anything to do with them. The shift supervisor always does that for us.

What exactly?

R: Yes, entering the working hours and so on. Or if someone is on vacation... or if you want to swap shifts.

How does that work for you?

R: The shift swap? Well, you just go to your colleagues and ask... or some of us are also in a WhatsApp group, and then you ask them: who can swap when, who can swap? And if it's a good fit, you just let the shift manager know.

As a planner, do you like it when people "swap around"?

N: As I said, you can't forbid people from doing it. We also want our employees to be flexible.


N: But... yes, sometimes everything can get mixed up. Especially if we don't know that something has been swapped. And if someone is absent and we need a replacement - then it all gets chaotic. Then we have to reshuffle, make phone calls, update... And because you just mentioned that: You write this in your chat group?

R: Yes, not me personally, but...

N: Well, then you're lucky that the works council doesn't find out...


N: Because these chat groups actually violate all data protection regulations.

How could you prevent this chaos?

N: Well, if every employee always entered all the latest changes in the Excel spreadsheets, that would help us a lot. But we can't ask employees like Mr. Rogall to confirm their shifts on the PC every morning.

R: (laughs)

What would you both wish for in terms of shift planning?

R: Well, that everything would be a bit more flexible. Or that you could perhaps say sometimes: I'd like to work such and such a shift. You also have to plan your private life a bit accordingly, don't you?

N: And we would also like to make that possible for you! I'm the last person to say: "That's my plan, nobody should have a say in it!". We usually only see our task. And that is: we have to draw up a plan for 500 employees. We simply can't cater to everyone's wishes. At least not with the options available to us.

Do you have any ideas on how something could be done better?

R: Well, not that specifically. I mean - nowadays there are apps and programs for everything. Maybe you could do something with the shift plan. An acquaintance told me that the other day. That they do everything on their smartphone at the company.

N: The duty rosters?

R: Yes.

N: Hmm, of course that would be a good solution. If you had programs that could make everything clearer. Then we would have less chaos - and you would benefit too, wouldn't you? Yes, I think that would be quite conceivable. But unfortunately I don't know much about that.

So it's "on with Excel and phone calls?"

N: (laughs) Yes, I'm afraid so.

R: Or just don't get sick, then you don't need all that.

(both laugh)

Then we wish you all the best and thank you for the interview!

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