What are the Pros and Cons of Shift Bidding?

Explore the benefits and challenges of shift bidding in public safety operations so you can make an informed choice for your agency.

October 16, 2023

Article Highlights

Efficient scheduling is vital for public safety agencies to operate at peak performance and serve their communities effectively. Over the years, scheduling methods have evolved to enhance operational efficiency. Shift bidding stands out as one of these significant advancements.

Of course, like every change, shift bidding has its upsides and downsides. It has benefits like improving employee morale, increasing job satisfaction, and increasing retention rates. But it's necessary to consider both sides of the argument before you make the change.

If your agency hasn't yet made the change to shift bids, a deep dive into their benefits can help you make a more informed choice. This article will review the pros and cons of shift bidding so you can make the best decision for your agency.

The pros of shift bidding

Shift bids help employees have a say in their schedule, and can reduce the burden on scheduling administrators. It can also help agencies run more efficiently. 

1. It improves employee morale

Envision a workplace where employees actively contribute to their work schedules, where their preferences are acknowledged and valued. This is the essence of shift bidding. By allowing employees to bid on their desired shifts, it instills a sense of autonomy, even within the confines of agency policies. In the high-pressure realm of public safety, this autonomy can greatly enhance morale. It paves the path to a better work-life balance, culminating in happier, more contented employees.

2. It strengthens retention

Job satisfaction plays a pivotal role in employee retention and minimizing burnout. Satisfied employees, especially with their schedules, are less inclined to seek other public safety positions or exit the industry altogether. A shift bidding system can help retain your best staff members, reduce training time, and lower recruiting and onboarding costs.

3. It's all about empowerment

Shift bids aren't just about picking days and hours of a schedule. At its core, the shift bid process is about empowerment. Bidding gives employees some control over their schedules, letting them prioritize their personal needs, align their schedules with their personal lives, and feel more in control of their work.

4. It fosters team cohesion

Let's say an employee wants a particular shift but realizes a fellow employee might benefit from it more. By giving up that shift and selecting another, those two employees exhibit collaboration and camaraderie.These gestures build mutual respect and stronger team bonds.

5. It allows continuous improvement.

A shift bidding process can be a gentle nudge for administrative staff. They're pushed out of the comfort zone of a set and monotonous scheduling process, which helps them evolve in their own development and contribute to a better system. 

6. It brings clarity and reduces errors

A shift bidding system can also minimize human errors. Gone are the days of manual scheduling mishaps, trying to keep track of an entire roster with a spreadsheet, or worse, paper and a whiteboard. With shift bid forms and a transparent bid process, every employee can know their schedule, which reduces the potential for confusion and miscommunication.

The cons of shift bidding

Admittedly, there are downsides to shift bidding. But these problems get easier to overcome as employees and administrators get used to the system. Soon they'll find that most of the downsides can be solved, and the system will help the agency thrive overall.

1. Added administrative tasks

Giving more autonomy to employees often means more work for administrators. Overseeing the shift bidding process, ensuring fairness, and answering questions can add to the administrators' plate. They'll definitely be busy once the shift bidding process begins, but as more people come to understand it, that extra work will drop off.

2. Juggling regular duties with the scheduling process

Administrators may find they're balancing daily responsibilities with the initial influx of shift bid forms during each bid period. This has the potential to affect their primary duties, which may lead to temporary inefficiencies. But as they learn how to do their scheduling, and the ins and outs of the system, scheduling will become easier than previous systems. 

3. Increased conflicts

When two or more employees' preferred shifts overlap, and they both really want that shift, it can result in some disagreements. Certain shifts, like nights, weekends, or special events, can become hotspots for such conflicts. Having rules about the selection process can help avoid these conflicts.

4. Personal and professional balance can affect choices

Public safety work intertwines with employees' personal lives – it's not just a 9-to-5 job. Shifts will change and vary, and their personal lives will march on while they're at work. And when personal commitments influence preferred shifts (and vice versa), fairness becomes critical. Every employee should feel the system is just and fair, and that they're not being overlooked or cheated. Putting proper policies in place and communicating those will help enforce expectations and reduce the amount of conflict that may otherwise arise.

Final thoughts

There are many positives that can come from a formal shift bid process, but there are also ways they can negatively affect your agency. Make sure to get feedback from your employees and do a full evaluation before making the switch. 

Ensure open communication channels with your team. Listen to their concerns, anticipate possible roadblocks, and evaluate whether shift bidding aligns with your agency's values. This way, you can overcome the perceived downsides and even work to prevent them from ever happening in the first place.

For further insights into scheduling solutions, explore PowerTime. Discover a future of scheduling that's more efficient, equitable, and designed for the distinct demands of public safety agencies.

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