Sweden, social paradise. Self-rostering not easely put into practice in the Netherlands

2010 – In Sweden, self rostering is an everyday use. If people can organize their own schedule, the relationship between work and private life will improve, and they feel themselves to be able to influence their working conditions. This reinforces their commitment to the organization. When it is not possible to grant everyone’s preferred planning the team itself must solve the problem. That strengthens the team spirit. Managers must learn to let go the schedule and the familiar structure of services and permanent presence and to trust on the team dynamics. Self-rostering is thus an effective part of social innovation.

In the Netherlands, this is just getting started in a painful process. First pilots at NS (Dutch Rail), KLM (Dutch airlines) and GVB (Public transport in Amsterdam) more or less failed, and support for innovation is low. In Sweden, however, self-rostering is the order of the day. The NCSI and Déhora (a consulting firm specialized in workforce planning) organized a study tour visiting a hospital, a police office and a bank in Sweden, in order to get familiar with this model.

Swedish context
The Swedish state acts as protector of the citizens, and unions are strong and powerful. Sweden is also highly emancipated. Husband and wife take care of the children and are entitled to parental leave until the children have reached the age of 12. All women have the right to full-time work, and many women do use that right. Labor productivity in Sweden is high, globally this country is in the top 5 in this respect. Absenteeism is between three and four per cent which is very low.
In Sweden, the Time Care system  is used for self-rostering; this is an online system where the employee can put in his or her schedule-preferences  online. In this system, rules related to occupational health and safety are programmed so that they are respected automatically. Capacity planning and competence management are important conditions for the success of this system.

The Capio St. Görans Hospital introduced self-rostering to get the personnel costs under control. Whether this was successful or not, cannot be detected, because this method of scheduling is already practiced for a long period of time. The hospital has 300 beds. It employs 1650 people, of which 800 employees use TimeCare to plan their working times. Only the nursing is practicing self rostering. One can plan at least 5 hours per day and no more than 11 hours. As a consequence the principle of permanent teams that run shifts has disappeared. 

New regulations from Brussels determined that for policemen  a rest break of at least eleven hours is needed after eight hours of work. In Eskilstuna they choose for TimeCare to solve this planning problem. In the beginning there was much resistance, also from the side of the leadership. Eskilstuna is the center of a police region where  500 police officers work in three districts and where about 70,000 people live. It is the fifth largest police force in Sweden. The police work in three shifts and is 24×7 present on the street.
Since the introduction of TimeCare, overtime hours are greatly reduced, which safes about seven to ten thousand dollars per month on a group of 60 agents. Every six weeks, all roster wishes are exchanged and, if necessary, negotiated in a team meeting. Rarely this provides problems, but it costs a few hours. These costs exceed the saved overtime costs quickly. However, the police can plan the work more flexibly, which is important when they have to deliver services at calamities and events.


About five years ago, the bank wanted more focus on the customer and Swedbank extended opening hours. The roster problem is solved because the teams of 10 to 15 people can determine their own working schedule five to six weeks in advance, now. One of the effects is that the amount of overtime is reduced by half. The bank can achieve even more efficiency, when there is a link between the planning system of TimeCare and the payroll package that pays the employees on the basis of the number of hours worked.
In Sweden, there was much resistance at the introduction of self-rostering, but powerful unions have pushed the system more or less. The remarkable result is that no one wants to return to the former situation. Self-rostering has become inevitable and obvious, as inevitable as salary and taxation.

See the annex for the Dutch article: ‘Zweden, sociaal paradijs. Zelfroosteren komt in Nederland moeilijk van de grond’(Sweden, social paradise. In the Netherlands self-rostering is not easely put into practice) (2010) by Jan Kloeze in: Gids voor Personeels-management, 7/6/2010 (Guide for HRM).