Schedule building, while an important business function, is a thankless job. You spend hours developing a schedule that works for all of your staff, and at the end of the week, you’re left to do it all over again. The most effective scheduling will work with each employee’s availability, cut down labor costs and reduce absences. There are plenty of employee scheduling tips, tricks, techniques and other scheduling ideas to guide you when it’s time to look at the calendar and assign employees to shifts in conjunction with your employee scheduling software.
We’ve compiled our own list of employee scheduling tips to help you determine what practices you should implement to build a better schedule:
1. Know Your Business
There are a variety of factors you’ll need to consider when building your schedule. You’ll need to be aware of your employees’ needs, but you’ll also need to factor in various business needs as well. Some of the specific things you’ll need to consider are your employee rates of pay, your budget and what times you’ll need the most staff to be in the building. All of these factors will influence the schedule that you develop and may vary depending on the type of business you own.
For example, if you operate a coffee shop, then you’ll want to plan to have more employees scheduled during the mornings when your shop will see the largest number of customers. You’ll also want to consider what your budget is so that you aren’t spending more on payroll than you need to. However, if you run a restaurant, then your scheduling needs will be drastically different, requiring you to prioritize things like dinner rushes and line cooks.
You’ll also want to consider things like how many part-time workers and how many full-time workers you have. If your business relies primarily on part-time workers, then you’ll want to be aware of how many hours you’re scheduling each staff member for — you’ll want to be sure you aren’t scheduling team members outside of what company policy or state scheduling laws allow.
2. Know Your Team
A good schedule is one that not only works well for your business needs but also benefits your staff members. To build a schedule that benefits both your business and your employees requires more than simply being aware of what their shift availability is. You’ll also need to get crafty with your employee scheduling techniques by taking into consideration their skills and work preferences.
One of the best ways to avoid scheduling issues is to account for your team members preferences. While not always a possibility, the best practice is to schedule employees for their preferred hours. If you know that some of your waitresses prefer to work the lunch rush, then you’ll want to plan to have them work the lunch shift whenever possible. You’ll also want to make sure that if all of your staff prefer to work the lunch shift that you’re giving them equal opportunities to work those preferred shifts.
While all of this coordination sounds like a bit of a puzzle, there are plenty of tools available that can help streamline the process. Many business owners are electing to implement a scheduling app that can automatically generate schedules that take all of these factors into consideration. You may also develop an internal system that allows employees to give their input on the schedule or trade shifts.
3. Develop an Effective System for Communication
Your team will work together best if you have an effective system for communicating with each other. You want to be sure that all members of your team are aware of what’s going on so that they’re fully prepared for each shift.
For example, if you are a closing manager and one of your employees called in sick, then you’ll want the opening manager to know that certain tasks weren’t completed due to staffing issues. Or perhaps your team would like to organize a potluck so they have snacks in the breakroom on especially busy days. Being able to communicate these things will contribute to a more positive work environment.
If you have a small organization, you may only need to provide your team with sticky notes so that they can easily leave notes about how their shift went the night before. Another solution might be communication via text messaging for which the most you’d have to do is encourage your team to swap phone numbers and create a group chat. If you’re looking to implement employee scheduling software, then you’ll want to be sure you choose one that has a feature that can assist with this.
4. Build the Schedule Around Your Employees Skills
Creating an effective schedule will require that you not only know when your employees are able to work, but also what job duties they’re best equipped to complete. Ideally, you’ll want to schedule your most skilled workers for every shift. Sadly, those top employees won’t be available for every shift. However, by scheduling strategically, you can ensure you have a strong team overall.
Each member of your team will have different strengths and weaknesses. You’ll want to do your best to schedule staff with different skills so that you always have a strong team of employees working. For example, if your business is a restaurant, then you’ll need a variety of staff scheduled throughout the day. Not only will you need servers, cooks and bar staff, but you’ll also want to consider scheduling a more experienced bartender with a newly hired bartender so that your maximizing training opportunities for your newest team members.
5. Be Innovative
No matter how good your schedule is, there will always be unexpected issues that arise. When those issues do arise, don’t be afraid to think outside the box and try new things. Creating an effective schedule is a lot of work and involves many moving pieces. When faced with new issues, don’t be afraid to test out new scheduling solutions.
Perhaps you have full-time employees who would prefer to work four 10-hour shifts, which could help if you find there are certain days when you don’t have as many staff available. You might also see if you have employees who are interested in working a split-shift, which can also help to address coverage issues.
6. Use the Best Tools
Clearly, there are a lot of factors to consider when creating a schedule. You must assess when your business will likely see the highest volume of customers, consider rates of pay, employee availability and use all of that information to plan and develop the schedule — a task which becomes even more difficult when all of those factors can change on a weekly basis.
Fortunately, you don’t have to do it all alone. There are a variety of tools that can help you create a schedule that benefits both you and your employees. Businesses no longer rely on pen and paper scheduling practices or even Excel spreadsheets. There are plenty of employee scheduling software options available to help you streamline and automate your scheduling process.
Implementing a scheduling solution is increasing in popularity as managers grow tired of all of the work involved in building a schedule. There are plenty of software options to choose from. Some managers choose to use a full HRIS system that can help to streamline and automate a multitude of HR tasks. Others choose to use staff scheduling software rather than pay for all of the extra bells and whistles that come with a full HRIS system.
Whatever type of solution you choose to implement, it will undoubtedly be able to help streamline the basic tasks involved in schedule building. Many systems even offer features that can help you implement some of the tips we have listed. For example, some systems have a predictive scheduling feature that can use forecasting tools to plan for your future business needs. Whether you have advanced needs or just a helping hand when it comes to scheduling, finding the right software can ensure that you always have the best schedule possible.
7. Allow Your Employees to Request Schedule Changes
Remember when we talked about developing an effective system for communication? This is where that system will be particularly useful. As much as you’d like your employees to be able to work every shift they’re scheduled for, they won’t always be able to. Life happens, and good managers will be able to accommodate when something comes up that affects your employee’s ability to work.
Of course, we aren’t implying that your employees should be able to pick and choose when they come to work. However, you’ll want to be prepared for when life events come up that affect whether or not your staff will be able to come in for their scheduled shift.
One solution might be to have a handful of workers who have enough flexibility in their schedule that you can move them to a different shift if someone needs to trade their shift. Or perhaps you’ll want to implement a policy that allows your staff to adjust their schedule by an hour or two when they have life emergencies. Whatever the case, allowing your employees to have some control over their schedule decreases the likelihood that they’ll call out of shifts they’re scheduled for.
8. Allow Your Employees to Contribute to the Schedule
Responding to life events by allowing your employees to request changes is great. However, the work shouldn’t always fall on you. Your staff members can also do some of the work. Implement a system for your employees to find their own coverage for shifts that they can’t work. This will be another time when effective communication will be important.
If you’re considering implementing scheduling software, then this is another area where you will see a benefit. Some systems have a built-in function that allows employees to post shifts they can’t work so that they can find their own coverage. This kind of help makes it easy for every team member to see an updated schedule and makes it more likely that you’ll be able to find coverage for open shifts.
9. Ensure the Schedule Is Both Predictable and Flexible
Your employees will appreciate a level of consistency within their schedule. When creating weekly schedules try your best to ensure that your employees don’t have wildly different schedules from week to week. Giving your staff a level of stability within their schedule from week to week will allow them to have a better work-life balance, which is important for all workers.
However, your staff also have lives outside of work, and things will come up that require your schedule to also have some flexibility in it. You’ll want to assess the best way to meet your business needs and judge how you can blend both predictability and flexibility into your schedule. According to Forbes, 84 percent of parents stated that flexibility is their top priority in a job — ensuring that there’s some wiggle room in your schedule will make you more likely to retain skilled workers.
10. Make the Schedule Easy to Access
The best way to ensure that your staff members don’t miss their shift is to give them easy access to the current schedule. You’ll want to make sure that your employees see the schedule in advance of their shifts. Consider posting the schedule a couple of weeks beforehand so that every team member has ample time to see the schedule and plan ahead if they need to get a shift covered. You’ll also want to be sure that the schedule is posted somewhere that is easy for everyone to see and that it’s always available.
An app with an automated scheduling feature can assist with this. Automated scheduling will generate the schedule for you so you never need to worry about compiling a plan for the next week at the last minute. Some systems also allow you and the rest of your team to access the schedule remotely, giving everyone a chance to see the most updated version at any time.
The Wrap Up
There are a lot of things to consider when it’s time to start your regular shift planning. Developing an effective scheduling process that accounts for all of the relevant factors is one of the best ways to make sure that all parts of your business are running smoothly. You want to be sure that the schedules you’re building benefit both your business and your employees — a task which can be incredibly daunting. If scheduling software seems like the best way to step up your scheduling game, then you can use our requirements template to help you discover which vendors can meet your specific needs.
What are some of your best employee scheduling ideas and tips? Let us know in the comments!