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What Is Shift Bidding and How Does It Work?

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Shift Scheduling is a complex process for any workplace, especially for businesses that operate for extended periods each day. To simplify this task and schedule the resources efficiently, businesses can go for the ‘Shift Bidding’ approach.

Shift bidding is a scheduling practice that allows employees to participate in the process of scheduling. Unlike the traditional approach of scheduling, where managers are responsible for selecting the resources in all shifts, shift bidding allows the employees to bid for their preferred shifts.

In this article, we’ll delve into what shift bidding is, the best practices for its implementation, the benefits of shift bidding, and its potential downsides as well.

What Is Shift Bidding?

Shift bidding is a practice where multiple employees express interest in working a particular shift, which is open to everyone. The employees actively participate in the scheduling process by showing interest in their preferred shifts via bids.

Here, the employer or manager sets the qualifying criteria for these open shifts. After the bid submission, they review and accept the most qualified bid.

There are mainly two reasons why this is done:

  • Managers want to offer employees the liberty to pick their favorable shifts
  • The manager needs a substitute to fill in the shift for an employee who is on time off

Regardless of the reason for using shift bidding, the management mostly has a say in selecting the bid for the shift. Still, this process offers more flexibility compared to top-down fixed scheduling methods.

Shift bidding is somewhat similar to self-scheduling, but here, the manager reviews the bids of each employee who has expressed interest in the open shift and assigns it to the one who fulfills the qualifying criteria rather than giving it on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Thus, shift bidding is a win-win solution for both employees and employers.

The best way to implement this system is by leveraging any scheduling software that empowers the scheduling manager to streamline the shift-bidding process without undertaking back-and-forth communication with employees.

Here, employees can bid for their favorable shifts, and then the software can accept the most qualified bid for those shifts. Moreover, if employees work on different pay rates, this software helps employers find the lowest bid (employee with the lowest pay rate).

“Shift bidding system offers flexibility to employees to work the shift they prefer while rendering control to employers in the schedule-making process.”

How Does Shift Bidding Work?

In the shift bidding process, the manager or employer creates an open shift or a pool of open shifts. These open shifts may include timings, requirements, and applicable job roles.

  • The scheduling manager sets the eligibility criteria to qualify for that particular shift. For example, suppose a shift requires resources with specific skill sets, seniority, expertise, or experience. In that case, the scheduler can specify such requirements so that the shift isn’t assigned to employees who don’t have the required qualifications.

Note: The main objective of setting parameters for shifts is that the open shift can be assigned to the most qualified employee who has expressed interest, preventing ineligible employees from being booked for that slot.

  • Once the open shift is ready for bidding with all qualifying criteria, the scheduler sends notifications to all the employees to submit bids for that particular slot.
  • Employees can view and bid for only those open shifts where they’re fulfilling the qualifying criteria. Also, they can only bid within the designated bidding time set by the scheduler.
  • Now, eligible employees will submit their bids for the open shifts.
  • Once employees have submitted bids for their preferred shifts, the scheduler reviews and assesses the bids based on the qualifying parameters set, such as skill sets, seniority level, experience, bandwidth, previous shift assignments, and hourly pay rate (if variable), and accepts the bid that fits the bill.
  • In automated platforms, the system itself can auto-fill the open shift based on the parameters set, thus eliminating manual intervention.
  • The final schedule is communicated to the employee whose bid has been accepted.
  • The automatic system can fill shifts for which no one has shown interest, or the manager can fill them manually.
steps of shift bidding process

Difference Between Shift Bidding and Shift Swapping

Although shift bidding and shift swapping may sound similar, these practices are quite different. In shift bidding, the scheduling manager invites employees to bid for the open shift and then reviews all the bids to accept the one that matches the qualifying criteria.

In contrast, shift swapping is a practice where workers exchange shifts with each other.

Organizations with a top-down management system find shift bidding the best fit, whereas businesses where employees work independently and are provided with great autonomy use shift swapping more.

Example of Shift BiddingBruce, a retail store worker, has to visit a bank during his shift on a particular day, so he asks for time off. To fill in the shift, the scheduling manager announces to the other workers that there’s an open shift up for grabs. Then, interested workers can express their interest in that shift, and managers accept the bid that aligns with the requirements.

Example of Shift SwappingDavid has an appointment with a doctor at noon and has a day shift. Sophie has an evening or swing shift the same day but has a dinner planned with friends. So, David can swap his shift with Sophie; this way, they can attend to their personal commitments without taking the day off.

Who Can Use Shift Bidding?

Shift bidding is useful for businesses that:

  • have variable schedules
  • use multiple shifts per day
  • use a roster system
  • use shifts that are staffed based on fluctuating demands

Industries where shift bidding is used frequently:

  • Manufacturing
  • Healthcare
  • Audiovisual industry
  • Security
  • Housekeeping businesses
  • Call centers
  • Restaurants & bars

Benefits of Shift Bidding for Employees

Improved Morale and Job Satisfaction

When employers offer their employees the flexibility to choose the shift they prefer, it gives employees a sense of autonomy, which leads to increased morale and satisfaction. Thus, shift bidding is key to happier employees and helps increase their morale, satisfaction, and engagement.

Improved Productivity and Performance

It has been observed that when employees are given the chance to work their favorable shifts, they tend to work more productively, show exuberance at the workplace, and take ownership of their work.

Employees with a say in the scheduling process are said to be more committed to their work responsibilities.

Thus, shift bidding reinforces positive behavior and helps increase overall productivity and efficiency in the organization.

More Flexibility and Better Work Life Balance

‘’According to a survey conducted by the International Workplace Group, 80% of the respondents revealed that if they have two similar employment offers, they will turn down the offer that doesn’t offer flexible working.’’

Shift bidding allows employees to pick their preferred shift, improving their work-life balance and job satisfaction. For instance, if an employee has an appointment with a doctor in the morning, with shift bidding in place, he can try to bid for the evening shift. If his bid is accepted, he can visit the doctor and work the evening shift.

This way, shift bidding offers employees flexibility and a better work-life balance to plan things outside of work.

Spheres balanced on a scale with the words work, life and balance

Opportunity to Enhance Skills

In shift bidding, employees are required to bid for the shifts they prefer to work.

So, employees who are looking forward to enhancing their skills or improving their work experience can try to bid for the shifts that may help them achieve this if the qualifying criteria are not stringent.

Benefits of Shift Bidding for Employers

Better Scheduling

Shift bidding helps create a schedule that’s feasible for both employees and employers, eliminating any guesswork in the schedule-making process.

Shift bidding provides insight into the pool of workers who are interested in taking up that particular shift. Thus, scheduling managers and employers can find the most qualified workers with relevant skills, experience, and expertise for the right shifts.

In an automated system, the scheduling manager can configure the tool with required parameters so that it can detect the most qualified employee for the open shift.

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Easy Way to Find Backup

With shift bidding in place, finding a backup for employees who are on time off becomes pretty straightforward. They’ll just have to notify employees about the open shift and request them to bid if they want to take it up. This way, they can get backup for any shift in no time.

In addition, shift bidding can also work as a substitute for shift swapping. For instance, if an employee can’t find any coworker who is willing to exchange shifts, then that employee can use the shift bidding process to ask coworkers to express interest in the shift exchange opportunity.

Time Saving

Communicating with each employee back and forth, putting everything on a database, and then creating a schedule is very time-consuming and cumbersome.

That’s why shift bidding is the best alternative that eliminates back-and-forth communication, as workers can bid for their preferred shifts. With scheduling software, this process becomes more streamlined and hassle-free, as managers can save time on scheduling and utilize it for other productive work.

Lower Turnover Rate

When an employer offers employees the flexibility to pick their favorable shifts, it increases their morale and job satisfaction. Involving employees in the scheduling process gives employees a message that their inputs are valued and their work-life balance is respected.

This way, shift bidding helps retain valuable employees, ultimately reducing the employee turnover rate. With the lower turnover, organizations won’t have to invest time and money in recruiting and training new workers.

Better Staffing

Shift bidding helps allocate appropriate shifts to resources who are:

  • interested in taking up the shift
  • matching the requirements of the shift
  • experienced enough to handle the workload of that shift

Thus, shift bidding helps optimize the staffing needs of the businesses, eliminating the chances of understaffing or overstaffing.

For example, suppose a new employee is allocated for the experienced level shifts. In that case, it’s likely that they may not be able to handle the workload properly, and some additional resources may be required to pick up the slack. This can be avoided with shift bidding.

Reduced Absenteeism

A shift bidding system can help businesses that face employee absenteeism. It’s because increased flexibility to choose the shifts they prefer allows employees to plan their personal commitments without being absent from work.

Cost Saving

With shift bidding in place, you can check if any employee is close to the overtime, i.e., whether their bid has been repeatedly accepted for the recent open shifts.

Simply put, you can leverage the shift bidding process to ensure that all available slots are filled with the right candidates without over-assigning to the same employee who is close to working overtime. This way, you can make a prudent decision on which bid should be given preference to save yourself from the additional expenses of overtime pay.

“Shift swapping helps employers minimize unnecessary overtime shifts, examine shifts that are most preferred and least preferred by employees, and book shifts with the most qualified resources, thus helping in better resource utilization and schedule planning.”

The Downside of Shift Bidding

Increased Competition

Shift bidding can create excessive competition among employees, especially when many of them want to work the same shifts. Such a competitive environment can give rise to conflicts and employee rivalry, disturbing workplace dynamics.

Businesses must use a transparent and fair approach when using shift bidding in the workplace setting. They can have a written policy that’ll work as a touchstone for all workers. It can include rules such as the most qualified person wins the bid, employees with similar qualifications will be given preference based on a first-come, first-served basis, etc.

Scheduling managers can also propose a system where an employee whose bid was accepted more than four times in a row will be given less priority in the next bidding.


In shift bidding, there can be chances that shifts are mostly assigned to employees who hold references from upper management. Such unfair practices can create workplace tension and lead to employee dissatisfaction.

Thus, it’s recommended that employers should follow a just and fair approach when using the shift bidding system. If some conflict arises among workers, the scheduling manager should be able to give a cogent reason why a certain bid was given preference over others.

Increased Frustration in Junior Employees

Shift bidding gives preference to the lowest bidder, i.e., the one with the lowest pay rate, right skill set, and required experience.

Thus, in this case of a variable pay rate system, workers with moderate to high pay rates may be given less priority than those with lower pay rates. This way, such systems may cause dissatisfaction and frustration in some employees.

Impact on Employee Relationship

Organizations that rely on shift bidding entirely for scheduling may face this problem. When a company fully embraces the shift bidding culture, then its employees will most likely work on different shifts every day; as a result, they’ll work with different colleagues each day. This changing shift pattern can impact coworker relationships and workplace dynamics.

Tips to Implement Shift Bidding

Be Fair

When the bids of the same employees are accepted repeatedly, whether due to their qualifications, seniority level, or favoritism, it can become an unfair practice, which can undermine the morale of other employees. Thus, practicing equity is necessary to maintain employee morale and retain loyal employees.

To sort this issue, the scheduling manager can use shift bidding software or scheduling software that gives visibility into those employees who are doing overtime or are close to it. This evaluation can help them find out which employees might be getting frequent open shifts by default.

For the system where scheduling managers assign the shifts manually, they can set certain restrictions. For example, if a candidate’s bid has been accepted 4 or 5 times earlier, other candidates with similar qualifications will be given priority for the next bidding process.

Be Specific While Creating Open Shift Criteria

Before you set the eligibility criteria for an open shift, you should evaluate its requirements. To do this, ask the following questions:

  • Is this a busy shift?
  • Does this shift require someone who has experience in handling peak hours?
  • Does this shift require a specific skill set or expertise?
  • Can this shift be assigned to new employees, or should it be allotted to senior employees only?
  • Can this shift be open for employees looking to upgrade their skills?

The more specific you are about the shift, the more relevant bids you get from the employees. Plus, you’ll be saved from the accusation of favoritism as you select employees who are fulfilling the tailored requirements of the open shift.

Keep Transparency

There’ll always be some employees who would find it hectic to vie with their coworkers for their favorable shift, or some would barely participate in the bidding, considering there’s favoritism at the workplace.

Thus, as a fair practice, keep employees apprised of the shift bidding approach you follow.

Let your employees know – why you have defined these requirements for any open shift and how you accept the bids from the pool.

For example, if any shift is prioritizing senior employees, you can explain its necessity to them, such as it’s a busy shift, and a newbie may not be able to handle the workload.

Make it a practice to communicate publicly about the bids that get accepted, along with the reason for acceptance. Keeping transparency regarding shift requirements and being just to everyone will minimize the feeling of favoritism and discrimination.

Check the Competence of Shift Bidding

To check the efficiency of your shift bidding approach, you can consider taking feedback from the clients and customers of that shift. You can consider these questions for better evaluation:

  • Were customers satisfied during that shift?
  • Are there any complaints from colleagues/managers/clients?
  • Is the performance meeting the expectations?
  • Is productivity increasing or decreasing?

This short survey will help you optimize your scheduling approach and reveal if you’re on the right track.

Have an Open Door Policy

Active listening, addressing concerns, and making employees feel heard and valued can subside their feelings of low morale and dissatisfaction.

Thus, employers should have an open-door policy at the workplace so that employees can communicate with the management about any issue.

For example, some employees may feel that the management is biased towards some people or the shift bidding system is unfair. In that case, they shouldn’t hesitate to contact their management and express their concerns.

Managers should listen to their issues proactively and take necessary actions to resolve them.

woman discussing and explaining something to employees

Use Appropriate Tools for Shift Bidding

Using email, phone, or some other texting system to perform shift bidding will lead to a lot of back-and-forth communication between the scheduling manager and employees.

To avoid this, you need a system that streamlines the scheduling process, notifies employees about open shifts, and helps you find the most qualified fill-in for the open shift. You can leverage any efficient system, such as Replicon’s Workforce Management Software that automates the entire process of shift bidding and helps you select the most qualifying bid for any shift.

The Workforce Management software helps execute this process in a fraction of the time, allowing employers and schedule managers to assign the most qualified resources to the shifts in no time.

Furthermore, such software can help you access data that you need for better scheduling, such as:

  • Total bids that have been received for any slot
  • Employees who are the best match for the shift
  • Employees who are qualified for the shift
  • Employees who are close to overtime

Once the shift is booked, the worker whose bid for the open shift is accepted gets the notification to see their schedule.

image showing elements of shift bidding

Bottom Line

Shift bidding is a versatile scheduling practice that benefits employees and employers both. This approach ensures employee inclusion by allowing them to participate in the schedule-making process and get the opportunity to work their favorable shifts. This promotes greater job satisfaction, improved productivity, and enhanced employee engagement.

To streamline this process, employers can leverage any scheduling software that can automate the entire shift bidding process and help management find the best candidates for the shifts based on the qualifying criteria.

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Sonika Malviya


Sonika Malviya


Sonika is a Marketing Communications Specialist at Deltek | Replicon, specializing in covering topics related to time tracking and workforce management software. With her in-depth knowledge of these topics, she translates technical details into understandable and relatable content to empower businesses to optimize their productivity, improve their workflows, and achieve greater success in managing their time. Beyond her professional role, Sonika finds solace and inspiration in her travels. She also practices meditation and has a flair for culinary experimentation, always eager to try her hand at cooking new cuisines.


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