Creating a work schedule that takes your employees’ needs as well as business objectives into consideration can be a real balancing act. A flawless work schedule that makes everybody happy is something many managers strive for, but some have more difficulty than others achieving that perfection. If that second person is you – no matter if you use a spreadsheet, the tried and trusted manual schedule, or automated software – your road to a great schedule requires you to keep a few important points in mind.
First of all, the schedule you create should ensure that every shift is appropriately staffed for every role. As an example: Your restaurant probably doesn’t need two bartenders during lunchtime shifts, but you likely need at least two bartenders on busier weekend nights. Always make sure that you get these numbers right.
To make sure you’ve got the right amount of coverage, you need to keep an eye on business trends as well as events—both local and national—that could result an abnormal uptick in customers. Football games, theater performances and concerts are all events you need to keep track of. If the above referenced restaurant takes reservations, it’s important to keep a close eye on that list. There’s nothing quite like being unprepared when you don’t realize you’ve got a couple of party reservations booked for a normally slow weeknight… and you only have two servers on the schedule.
The second element of a good schedule is that it has to be error-free. Yeah, that seems like a “duh!” statement, but it’s a lot easier to make mistakes than to create the perfect employee schedule. These are a few of the most-made scheduling errors:
- Double-booking a worker. Back to our restaurant: Watch out for an employee who sometimes works shifts as a greeter and also shifts as a server. Make sure you keep a close eye on names and not just jobs to ensure you don’t schedule the same employee for both jobs on a single shift.
- Scheduling an employee for an incorrect job. Your line cook might be really great at what they do, but those skills don’t necessarily translate to grill cook. It’s important to not only check names, but also jobs so you don’t schedule someone for a job they’re not trained for.
- Over- or under-scheduling an employee. Your full-timers should be scheduled with enough shifts to help them pay the bills, and your part-timers shouldn’t be burdened with shifts they can’t fill. Be sure to keep a close eye on each employee’s hours worked per week so you can manage labor costs and don’t get surprised by having to pay an hourly employee overtime wages.
If you can avoid these common scheduling errors, you’re headed in the right direction. But what else should you be doing to make sure you’re building the perfect schedule? Easy! The perfect schedule keeps you and your employees happy and also maximizes profits and productivity.
- Build your shifts using your top employees. If you don’t know who your best workers are, you should make a list. Include traits like productivity, friendliness, experience, customer service skills, and how they work with other team members. Once you’ve created your list, build shifts around those key workers. This helps two-fold: First, it helps ensure that team members who are suited to each shift are working at those times. The employees who are most efficient should be scheduled during your rush times. They get stuff done fast! The friendly, chatty folks should get the slower shifts when customers tend to linger. Second, you can always be assured that you’ve got experienced team members working on each shift, creating a sense of stability.
- Make sure you use team-wide communication tools. Of course, communication is crucial in any business, but in service industries, it can mean either having the appropriate number of employees covering a shift or being over- or under-staffed. Having a central location where employees can access their schedules; request, decline or change shifts; and notifications to all involved is key to a successful schedule. Everyone’s using the same tool so they’re all on the same page.
- Send out work schedules quickly. Your employees need time to plan their lives around their schedules, so it’s important to be prompt. A good rule of thumb is to send out the new schedule at least two weeks prior to the end of the current one. The best way to distribute schedules is via a cloud-based app that’s accessible 24/7/365. Any changes are made instantly and are visible to everyone at the same time. This eliminates the confusion of having multiple iterations on paper or whiteboards.
- Keep track of work preferences and time-off requests. This is an important part of scheduling (and a great reason to invest in time and attendance software). When you work with your team to make sure their work-life balance is good, you tend to retain your great workers longer. Along with the communication tools in #2, you should have a central location for work requests. You need to make sure that you’ve established guidelines around how employees submit requests and how far in advance requests should be made. You also need to determine what to do when multiple employees request the same days off. Do you take seniority, when the request was made, reason for the request or something else into consideration? Clearly outline these guidelines in your employee handbook.
- Require employees to find their own substitutes. Allowing workers to find someone to cover their shifts when they can’t empowers them and takes a lot of work off of your plate. The team-wide communication system we mentioned earlier is a great tool for this. Of course, you’ll still need to set some guidelines to ensure no one takes advantage of the system, most importantly, making it clear that you still have final approval over all shift swaps.
- Have back-up. Every manager knows there’s going to come a time when a shift swap doesn’t work out and you’re left with a hole in the schedule. Be sure to have a list of team members who are available to work on short notice.
Ready to take the next step?
If your scheduling process has gotten out of hand and you don’t know where to turn, let us help you prevent mishaps. Our employee scheduling software has robust functionality including the ability to assign shifts, establish rules, and plan budgets.
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