October 12, 2017


Managing complex staff schedules can be a headache – as RyanAir’s front man, Michael O’Leary has been finding out to his cost this week.


Less of a headache, more of a migraine, the spiralling situation over staff rotas led to the budget airline’s announcement last Friday that it plans to cancel up to 50 flights per day for the next six weeks.


Michael O’Leary, who once famously said of apologies “Are we going to say sorry for our lack of customer service? Absolutely not,” told Sky News:

“We sincerely apologise. It is clearly a mess…”


But what could the budget airline have done differently to avoid such a comprehensive demolition of O’Leary’s chutzpah and what lessons could be learned by other airlines and organisations to avoid similar embarrassing situations?


The unfortunate situation for Ryanair arose when a shift in the company’s holiday year – from its financial year to the calendar year, as demanded by regulators – caused a backlog of holiday and a shortage of crews/pilots.


Was there a breakdown of communication? We can only speculate, but connecting the team responsible for flight scheduling in response to customer demand with the team managing staff annual leave entitlement and requests should have negated the issue. Instead, the company found itself with glaring holes in staff schedules.


Sounds obvious doesn’t it? But any breakdown in communication will inevitably lead to under or over staffing, skills shortages and costly inefficiencies.


If it’s any consolation to Ryanair they aren’t the first and probably won’t be the last to suffer from staff rota issues.

When the NHS decided to extend the working week to seven days, they tried to impose new rotas across all staff members that were outside of their employment contracts, without consultation.

There could have been a very different outcome with careful promotion of new ‘alternative’ shift patterns, achieving staff coverage over the full seven days by utilising staff who actually preferred the flexibility of working weekend shifts as a substitute for weekdays


“I buy everything low-cost. I buy cheap shirts. I buy cheap shoes. It’s a philosophy. I’m just cheap” Michael O’Leary.


The man who famously said this would almost certainly have been regretting this approach when it comes to systems governing his staff working hours.


For labour intensive organisations that need the flexibility of last minute or rapid changes to staff rotas, manual processes using spreadsheets, emails or Facebook Messenger create inefficiencies and the inevitability of costly errors.


Why risk the good name of your company and staff retention when you could invest in a staff rota solution that gives you control over scheduling, time reporting as well as budgeting and forecasting? Staff can access their work rota and time records by mobile phone, swap shifts and apply for leave. (CA can help with this).


As customers and employees we all have high expectations in our interactions with companies and strong opinions about what makes a company customer-centric.


By leveraging mobile technology for processes such as staff scheduling, employees feel empowered, and businesses are able to reduce the friction that impacts staff retention.


The spin-off is an improvement in customer experience. There are no gaps in rotas, services are consistent, predictable and businesses fulfil their obligations to their paying customers.


The other benefit? No public apologies needed, shaky share prices or red faces.