What does a shift manager do? (With duties and skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 9 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

For workplaces with long opening hours or a 24-hour operation, shift work is typically the ideal approach to staffing. Shift managers supervise specific shifts and usually work under the supervision of more senior managers to ensure that employees have support and each shift is efficient and productive. If you're considering a career outside of standard office hours, working as a shift manager may be ideal for you. In this article, we answer 'What does a shift manager do?', look at where these individuals work and outline the required skills for this role.

What does a shift manager do?

In answer to 'What does a shift manager do?', they're a supervisory professional who oversees other employees during a shift. In some environments, shift managers may always work the same shift, while in others, their shifts may change weekly or monthly. While most businesses have managers that oversee all operations and employees during their working hours, shift managers handle responsibilities that relate to staff during particular shifts when the main manager is absent. For example, a shift manager working from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. would be responsible for supervising employees, handling management tasks and setting goals for that period.

In most workplaces, shift managers are fully trained and experienced in their staff's specific responsibilities so they can manage and teach them effectively. Due to this, if an employee calls in sick, the shift manager can also take on their duties to maintain an organisation's output. Shift managers also monitor staff performance and provide guidance when necessary. Some of a shift manager's key responsibilities include:

Supervising and supporting staff

Supervising and helping the staff on shift is a shit manager's primary responsibility. For example, they may support junior or newer team members with their duties by providing guidance and support. During a shift, employees may also ask the shift manager questions and the shift manager would typically delegate tasks to staff.

Reporting to company managers

Shift managers are usually junior management team members who report to more senior members of management. For instance, a restaurant shift manager may report to the owner or restaurant manager to outline any issues during their shift. Depending on the environment, a shift manager may at times encounter specific problems or responsibilities, which may require them to seek input or approval from senior management team members to complete.

Tracking inventory and stock levels

In environments where maintaining sufficient stock levels is essential, such as retail or hospitality businesses, the shift manager may monitor stock levels and track what's coming into the business, alongside expected levels of demand to ensure nothing runs out. For example, in a pub, the shift manager may order extra wine if they have less stock available than what they had on the same day of the week as the previous week. Inventory tracking during each shift can also help to prevent theft or loss.

Related: A guide to inventory manager responsibilities (plus salary)

Balancing tills and managing finances

Many shift managers work in environments that involve taking payments from customers, such as restaurants or retail outlets, which requires cash management. In these environments, a shift manager is responsible for balancing tills when a staff member finishes or when the business closes. When doing this, the shift manager may record sales figures or input information into a database or spreadsheet as part of this process.

Opening and closing

Businesses with set operational hours may require a shift manager to open or close. For example, a shift manager in a coffee shop may open the doors for staff at 6 a.m. to prepare for opening at 7 a.m. This responsibility requires good time management skills to ensure that the business opens and closes at defined hours each day.

Communicating tasks, policies and issues to staff

As the point of contact between management and other employees, shift managers are responsible for conveying policy changes and communicating other information from management to staff members. For example, they may provide staff with information on a new uniform policy after attending a daily management meeting. To perform this responsibility well, effective communication skills are essential.

Setting goals and motivating employees

Shift managers that work with a specific team each day may be in charge of assigning goals and motivating staff to reach targets. In environments where shift patterns change, all shift managers may work together to help employees achieve defined goals. These goals can include anything from completing training to improving performance.

Where do shift managers work?

Below, you can find out more about where shift managers work:

Food service

The food service industry is a common environment for shift managers. For example, restaurants may operate from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., with shift managers covering different hours of the day to ensure staff are meeting customer needs. Some fast-food restaurants may also operate for longer hours, or on a 24-hour basis, which requires shift managers throughout the day.

Related: What does a food server do at work and what do they earn?

Retail

Certain retail businesses, such as supermarkets, may hire shift managers to ensure that there's a management team member present during the outlet's opening hours. In larger stores, shift managers may focus on supervising certain staff members, such as those who stock shelves or checkout employees. Shift managers in this industry often provide help to employees so they can assist customers effectively with their purchases, which may include resolving till or POS issues or customer problems that require a manager's input.

Related: 7 shift work benefits (plus industries that use shifts)

Hospitality

The hospitality sector is another traditional environment for shift managers. In this industry, a shift manager may assist with serving customers, oversee staff to ensure high levels of service, perform training when necessary and complete opening and closing duties. During quiet periods, these shift managers may also complete restocking duties, in addition to planning rotas and other administrative tasks. As hospitality businesses typically operate throughout most of the day, a shift manager in this industry might work during the day or in the evenings.

Related: What are the typical night shift hours? Plus pros and cons

Manufacturing

Manufacturing environments can often have long shifts and different hours when compared to other roles. For example, a shift manager in this industry may work from midnight to 7 a.m. and supervise a team of employees for continued operation through the night. In these environments, a shift manager helps to maintain health and safety standards surrounding the use of heavy or dangerous equipment.

Related: A complete guide to manufacturing jobs (with examples)

Call centres

Call centres often operate on a shift rota, with staff working set hours each week at different times. Environments with 24-hour shifts, such as emergency call centres, have shift managers on-site at all times to help employees with complex queries or to provide expertise. A shift manager may also have specialist training to provide services in these environments, such as a nursing qualification when working for a medical support helpline.

Related: Q&A: What is shift work? (With types and benefits)

Required skills for shift manager roles

Below are the typical required skills to succeed as a shift manager:

Management

Management skills are essential for shift manager roles. The ability to oversee multiple staff members at once is critical for many of these positions, with some shift managers guiding and supporting dozens of team members at the same time. Moreover, management skills are helpful for delegating tasks, completing administrative duties and providing feedback to help employees improve.

Related: 25 management core competencies to develop in the workplace

Leadership

Leadership is a valuable skill to possess when working as a shift manager. For example, motivating employees to do their work promptly and meet their goals is crucial to improving team productivity. Effective leadership can also be helpful for advising team members, providing training and demonstrating solutions to problems, which results in the team having everything they require to succeed.

Related: 7 leadership interview questions (with example answers)

Communication

Effective communication with staff members and other members of management can help shift managers achieve their goals. For example, good communication with other shift managers can ensure that there's no confusion over rotas and that all shifts are properly staffed. Strong communication skills can also help shift managers to build trust with staff by being honest and approachable.

Related: A comprehensive guide to workplace communication styles

Customer service

Many shift manager roles involve frequent interaction with the public, such as those in the food service or hospitality industries. Due to this, strong customer service skills can be helpful for these roles. For example, shift managers in these industries may help to resolve customers' problems if they ask to speak to management. A key part of this skill involves the ability to help customers swiftly and effectively, which is typically a priority for customer-facing businesses.

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