7 Ways to Effectively Lead a Team on Different Schedules

Written by: Karin Hurt and David DyeHow do you build a high-performing, cohesive team when people are working on different schedules? Clarity is even more important as you get everyone working toward the same goals and it takes extra effort to build relationships with little face-time.Here are tips that can help.

7 Ways to Effectively Lead a Team on Different Schedules

1. Show Up to Help When They Least Expect It

When Karin first started her retail sales exec role, one of the best pieces of advice she received from her predecessor was “Show up in the stores during the times you would most rather be at home.” The logic being, the employees working those shifts would ALSO rather be at home. When you show up on a Sunday at 11 am, or Friday night at 8 pm you gain credibility and build trust with the team.

2. Spread Out Your Talent

When schedules are chosen by seniority or performance, the least desirable shifts often fill with lower-performers who can drag one another down. Find creative ways to recruit great talent for your tricky shifts to raise the bar. If this is a challenge, look to non-traditional segments of the workforce, offer part-time work, or pay differentials to help you ensure you have high-performers on every shift.

3. Clearly Define Success

You can’t have a high-performing team without a clear definition of what success looks like. When people are working different schedules it’s even more important to over-communicate what winning means.Spread out your 5 x 5 communications (five times, five different ways) and checks for understanding to cross all shifts.

4. Schedule Team Huddles on the Overlap

Nothing beats face to face communication now and then. Schedule at least a brief overlap of shifts and make the handoff with a well-structured team huddle. From time to time, increase the overlap for a more strategic staff meeting.

5. Build Community Through Social Media

One of the biggest complaints we hear from team members working different schedules is that they miss being part of a cohesive team. This is challenging when team members feel isolated on an overnight shift. How can you create a virtual watercooler? A private Facebook page can be a great way for team members on different schedules to get to know one another as people and to have fun.Related: How to Help Your Team Recover After a Downsizing

6. Share Ideas Through Asynchronous Brainstorming

One of the biggest challenges of leading a team on different schedules is that it’s hard to pull people together for a quick brainstorm. With just a little extra effort you can tap into the power of asynchronous brainstorming.It can be as simple as a few easel sheets hanging in a designated place with a question of the week that employees respond to at the beginning of their shift. Technology can really help. Some of our clients like to leverage our learning lab technology to ask and collect answers to strategic questions via text, or to conduct a quick poll to gather input.

7. Spread out the Recognition

In pretty much every focus group we’ve done on a night shift, we’ve heard this common complaint, “We just don’t get enough recognition.” Sometimes this is because performance is just not as good (see number 2), but mostly it’s the out-of-sight-out-of-mind dynamic. Be sure you’re around enough to notice the good happening on all the schedules. Recognize it.Having your team work on different schedules is tricky, but not impossible. Communicate more than feels necessary, show up when you can, and stay curious about how you can best help.