I manage a team of people who work shifts. My responsibilities to the company (meetings, interviews, administrative work) require that I am at the office during business hours on a fairly consistent basis. I make an effort to come in very early some days and stay very late on others in order to communicate directly with as many of my directs as possible, but I don't feel that that communication is nearly enough.

The departments is comprised of 20 front-line staff who report directly to 5 supervisors. I see the supervisors as my direct reports, while the operators report directly to the supervisors. Given the shift work, however, the reporting structure gets obscured because the front line staff may report to as many as three different supervisors in a week.

I've recently rolled out the trinity with my 5 directs and have had excellent returns. The difficulty that I have found is consistent communication with the front-line staff. One-on-ones between supervisors and staff seem flawed to me because either the O3s are delivered by a different supervisor each week, or the staff would be meeting with only one of his/her supervisors.

I can't realisitcally meet with each of my staff every week and fulfill my regular working hour obligations. I'm sure that other managers with staff working shifts have had similar issues, I'd love to hear suggestions.

Main issues:
Ineffective (infrequent) communication with staff - How can I get them the feedback/coaching/relationship development they need?

Unclear reporting structure - Do you recommend that I consider the front line staff to be direct reports as well as the supervisors?

johnf's picture

While my situation is less complex than yours, I find myself in a similar situation. I supervise 10 directs who also work rotating shifts, and I am usually required to work during business hours.

The way our shifts work out, I can meet with everyone except two people each week. During those weeks when the shifts don't coincide with the O3 time we skip them. This still allows us to meet three out of four weeks. And that is three more O3's than I did before.

It is required for everyone to attend the weekly staff meeting no matter what shift they work, but those on "off" shifts can call-in instead of attending in person.

I don't know if this is the best solution or will even work for you, but it is working for my team and still allowing each of us (including me) to get some sleep every once in a while.

Another thing--we also experimented with different shift schedules and rotations. Some of them didn't work well. And O3's or the work suffered. The current schedule seems to do well at getting the work done and allowing for team relationship building.

If anyone else has suggestions, I'm interested in hearing them.


bflynn's picture

I would get back to the core purpose of O3s in looking for an answer - to facilitate communications and provide a known point for some administrative things like coaching.

O3s are working with your directs. You're doing a good job at them.

Don't take on 20 additional directs. Unless you think you have 10 additional hours in your day. I would direct the supervisors to solve the scheduling problems and have their O3s weekly with the same people. As John pointed out, you might have to let them skip a week once a month - thats fine, just be fanatical about the others.

Basically, don't try to do the manage your skips. Let your directs do it. Have them roll out the trinity to their directs and give them coaching on it. The rest is just scheduling.


RobRedmond's picture

One of a manager's responsibilities is to create structure to encourage superior performance.

Add structure. Even though your folks work shifts, and various supervisors are in charge, break them into teams so that they have one supervisor to whom they report as their boss. They can be "dotted line" to the others.

The current structure sounds like your operation is covered as far as scheduling of people's work, but your people are not being managed. They are being supervised.

fchalif's picture
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Is it possible to keep the Supervisors and the same staff on the same rotation?
Is it possible that Supervisor will have Staff 1-2-3-4 more often on their shifts, and Supervisor B have Staff 5-6-7-8 etc, etc.

Whether the above scenarios are possible or not, you can require that a direct relationship exist between a Supervisor and 4 Staff members. If they are not always on the same schedule, then encourage your Supervisors to share their experience with staff behavior amongst themselves. After all, it is not anything you are not required to do to manage them. There are casts on Peer Feedback, Managing in a Matrix Environment, etc. that may be particularly helpful.

The bottom line is for your Directs (the supervisors) to work out scheduling issues that will ensure that the Management Trinity can be implemented throughout the team.

denisagiles's picture

Perhaps a set One-on-One delivery and topics can be created, as well as detailed notes on forms/worksheets be kept to make the one-on-ones consistent no matter who is in the meeting.

If part of the O3s is getting updates on projects, then having the supervisor fill out documents about those updates, the next supervisor next week won't need to hear it again, since it would be read during the week or before the O3.
Also, if the reports/forms/worksheets are done digitally, you can easily check them and add notes yourself to be brought up at the next meeting.

Hope whatever you try works.