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Uncover the Best Tips for Mastering Employee Scheduling

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10 Tips for Effective Employee Scheduling in a Busy Workplace

01 Jul

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Employee scheduling is challenging for many small and mid-size businesses (SMBs). According to one study, more than half of SMBs spend at least two hours per week on scheduling—and some much more.

It’s time-consuming and complicated but optimizing your employees’ work schedules is critical to your business success. Fortunately, you can follow a few simple steps to up your game. Even small improvements help.   

Why is Employee Scheduling Important?

In business, you can’t leave anything to chance, especially time management. Enhancing employee scheduling delivers multiple benefits to help your operations, including:

  • Increased productivity and efficiency – Because properly staffed shifts ensure maximum productivity, without waste.
  • Improved employee satisfaction and morale – When their schedules align with their preferences, employers are happier. You may even reduce turnover!
  • Reduced labor costs – Accurate time allocation prevents overstaffing, which prevents inflated payroll.
  • Improved customer service – Proper shift planning ensures qualified staff are always available to customers.
  • Increased compliance – Comprehensive employee scheduling adheres to wage and hour regulations regarding overtime, breaks, and more—reducing the risk of violations and lawsuits.

In short, scheduling is a critical component of workforce management.

Common Employee Scheduling Issues

If you find employee scheduling challenging, you’re not alone. Common issues include:

  • Understaffing and overstaffing – Striking the right balance between too few/too many employees can be tricky.  
  • Last-minute call-outs and no-shows –Unexpected absences disrupt schedules and workflows, while burdening other employees.
  • Unbalanced workloads – When tasks are assigned unevenly, it leads to employee burnout and dissatisfaction.
  • Difficulty accommodating employee preferences – Balancing all workers’ preferences—plus your business needs—isn’t easy.
  • Communication breakdowns – Poor communication creates scheduling problems like understaffing, while frustrating workers and managers.

If your business still relies on manual scheduling, you’re much more likely to wrestle with such issues, while spending more time than necessary on basic work planning activities.

10 Tips to Schedule Employees Effectively 

Want to improve your staff scheduling process and outcomes? Consider these 10 best practices.

Plan Ahead and Anticipate Needs

Don’t wait until the last minute to create work schedules. For one thing, employees appreciate advance notice. For another, you’re more likely to get it right if you take the time to consider all the angles of a given scheduling period.

While you don’t have a crystal ball, you do have the benefit of historical data and recent operational trends, such as:

  • Your busiest days of the week and/or times of day
  • Your busy season, if applicable
  • Your current/upcoming project load
  • Planned PTO and holidays

Use them to help you plan proactively!

Use Employee Scheduling Software

If you have yet to consider employee scheduling systems, now is the time. Not only will you save time and labor, you’ll schedule more effectively and improve staff communication.  

When evaluating employee scheduling apps, look for features like automated scheduling, shift swapping and real-time updates—all essential scheduling solutions.

Consider Employee Preferences

Employees appreciate employers who give them a say in their schedule, and that leads to happier, more engaged workers. Because when you show employees that you care about improving their work-life balance, they are more likely to reward you with loyalty—and that translates to higher retention rates.

Ensure Compliance with Labor Laws

There are a host of federal, state and local labor laws that impact employee schedules: overtime, mandatory breaks, breaks between shifts, etc.   

In addition, a number of states and municipalities have implemented fair workweek laws, which require employers to provide work schedules to employees in advance and to compensate employees for last-minute changes.

If you’re not on top of all the wage and hour laws affecting your business, consult with a legal or compliance expert. Keep in mind: employee scheduling apps offer a distinct advantage here, since wage and hour rules are often baked into software, helping employers avoid violations.    

Facilitate Open and Clear Communication

When it comes to employee work schedules, there’s no such thing as overcommunication. 

Confusion over scheduling can result in unintentional absenteeism—which is expensive for employers and frustrating for employees. Make sure your employees always have access to their schedules, both at home and at work. 

In addition, put procedures in place that ensure schedule changes are communicated clearly across one centralized platform—another advantage of using employee scheduling software. Today, paper schedules and posted spreadsheets simply aren’t enough.

Embrace Flexibility When Possible

One lasting effect of the pandemic is a near-universal desire among workers for more flexible schedules. Accommodating workers in this regard—even somewhat—can improve recruiting, retention and employee satisfaction.

So, consider whether you can offer remote or hybrid work arrangements, split shifts, compressed workweeks or flexible hours, gauging the impact it would have on your business.  

Set Up a Time-Off Request Policy

Employees value both their PTO and workplace fairness. Make sure you have a formal time-off request policy that supports them both—while allowing you to plan proactively and avoid scheduling conflicts.

Your policy should specify how (and how far ahead) employees should submit time-off requests, and how approval decisions are made—essential information for your employee handbook.

Factor-in Attendance Management

Often, employee schedules and attendance are two sides of the same coin. If you have otherwise hardworking employees with spotty attendance or who are frequently tardy, find out what the problem is. Often, it’s schedule-related—and therefore fixable.

For example, if an employee is frequently late due to childcare challenges, ask if offering them a later start time would resolve the problem. 

Track and Analyze Scheduling Data

Your scheduling data is a goldmine of information that you can use to improve business outcomes. For example, comparing your schedule for a given time period to KPIs like production or sales can yield valuable insights.

For example, does productivity increase (or decrease) when certain employees work on shift together? Are you more likely to receive customer complaints at specific times of day? Use your time-tracking software to help you uncover hidden schedule-related patterns.

Regularly Review and Update Schedules

By reviewing schedules regularly, you’ll see what works and what doesn’t and can react accordingly. But don’t just look back: be proactive, too. When you know that your business needs are evolving, take steps to update your schedule pre-emptively.

In short, don’t view employee scheduling as a housekeeping task, but a powerful operational tool that can help you get the most from your workforce.

Organize Your Work Schedules with a Time and Labor Management Solution

So, where can you find quality employee scheduling software? Often, they go hand and hand with time-tracking software.

For example, VensureHR’s time and attendance solution includes a cutting-edge scheduling app that saves employers time, keeps them compliant, and helps them optimize their workforce, shift by shift.

If you’d like more information on optimizing employee scheduling, we’d love to tell you more about our scheduling solutions.

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