Improve Employee Scheduling to Fast Track Business Recovery: The Comprehensive Guide
Updated June 24, 2021
Have you looked at your employee scheduling lately? Poor scheduling hurts your business. In fact, it decreases customer and employee satisfaction.
Good employee scheduling is essential for business recovery and post-pandemic success.
Companies that moved employees to remote work during lockdown are bringing teams back in phases. And some companies will have a hybrid model going forward. This has made employee scheduling more complicated.
Fortunately, employee scheduling software can help business owners solve scheduling problems.
Small Business Employee Scheduling
Table of Contents
- The Benefits of Effective Employee Scheduling
- How To Do Employee Scheduling Like a Pro
- Flexible Schedules: An Employee Perk That Helps Businesses Compete
- A Beginner’s Guide to Schedule Forecasting
- 13 Signs Your Employee Scheduling Needs Fixing
- How Does Employee Scheduling Software Work?
- What Small Business Owners Need to Know About Predictive Scheduling Laws
1. The Benefits of Effective Employee Scheduling
What are the main benefits of effective employee scheduling?
- Maintain high employee satisfaction and loyalty
- Ensure quality customer service
- Create profitability
- Comply with all applicable labor laws
Now, let’s dive into the guide. First, we’ll discuss best practices for creating employee schedules.
2. How To Do Employee Scheduling Like a Pro
Schedule building is a skill. As such, you can become better at it. Here are 7 employee scheduling tips to improve your schedule-building prowess.
1. Use Scheduling Software for Employee Scheduling
It doesn’t matter what type of business you have—you need the right tool for the job.
Scheduling software helps you make efficient schedules. And you can do it quickly with built-in templates.
Employee profiles guide your scheduling. In addition, the system alerts you to scheduling conflicts. It will ensure that you have employees with the necessary qualifications for each shift. Equally important, good scheduling software allows one manager to create schedules for many locations, teams, or projects.
2. Create Schedules Several Weeks (or Months) in Advance
Unless you are a start-up, you understand your staffing needs. For many businesses, coverage needs fluctuate with the season and production demands.
Even so, some employers argue that ‘just-in-time’ scheduling is more efficient. They require employees to be on call in case they are needed at the last minute.
In reality, this practice does more harm than good. Employers who require on-call shifts end up with frustrated and stressed employees.
Unpredictable schedules, in turn, increase employee turnover. For this reason, managers should create schedules as far in advance as possible. Of course, make sure your employees understand that there may be last-minute changes. Many employees, however, won’t be affected.
Studies show there is less schedule unpredictability than business owners realize. Scheduling software lets you to make standard schedule templates and copy forward. It only takes a few minutes to modify them as needed. Nevertheless, you should find that they are fairly stable.
3. Understand Your Employees’ Needs and Wants
In order to create stable schedules, however, you need to know what schedules your employees want. Ideally, this should begin with the first interview. Find out when an employee is available and how many hours they want to work. Availability and shift preferences should be important factors in the hiring decisions. Unless there is a severe labor shortage in your area, you should be able to hire people who want a variety of schedules.
Given these points, take some time to put the shift preferences puzzle pieces together.
4. Think Outside the Box
The ‘it’s always been done this way’ mindset is no excuse for failing to innovate when it comes to shift planning. Many companies can benefit from nontraditional schedules
For example, if the busiest times during the day are mornings and afternoons, some of your employees might want a ‘midday workout’ schedule.
This is for people who like to exercise longer than a standard lunch break—or do errands before rush hour. Seek volunteers to take three hours off around lunchtime. You will meet staffing demands and not pay for unnecessary labor when it’s not busy.
In like manner, some full-time employees might prefer working four 10-hour shifts. Line those up with your busiest days and the employees will have two extra days off.
5. Simplify Shift Trading With an Online Trade Board
Many managers are afraid of loosening up shift trading policies because they fear that it will lead to short-handed shifts. In addition, they worry about miscommunication leading to no-shows. For some, they are concerned about the balance of new and experienced employees on a shift.
Employee scheduling software with an online trade board has been a boon for many companies. If you set shift rules in your employee scheduling software, it will prevent the problems mentioned previously.
An online trade board works great for businesses with a lot of part-time employees and short shifts. The employees handle their own trades per manager approval.
Employees are able to post a shift on the board when they have an unexpected conflict. Similarly, those who want more hours can take more shifts. All things considered, employees stay with companies that offer flexibility.
6. Create an Absence Management Plan
An absence management plan is a set of policies that manage time off. It addresses planned time off like vacations and family leave. Similarly, it manages unplanned absences like sick time. By and large, when employees follow the proper protocols, there is less impact on productivity and workflows.
7. Cross-Train for Increased Flexibility
If you want more flexibility to cover shifts (without hiring new employees), start cross-training. The entry-level team members will be eager to expand their job skills and your staff will be better able to respond to shifting demands on the fly.
3. Flexible Schedules: An Employee Perk That Helps Small Businesses Compete
Small business owners who don’t offer flexible schedules probably don’t realize why they are so important. Of course, employees want more freedom. But there are also significant advantages for owners.
Notably, a key advantage is helping small businesses compete with larger companies. Here are some of the ways flexible schedules make small businesses more competitive:
- Reduces absenteeism
- Increases productivity
- Expands the hiring pool which helps you find better hires
- Increases engagement which drives business growth
- Helps you retain high performers who have many employment options
- Decreases labor costs
Alternative schedules go hand in hand with the gig economy. Companies hire freelancers and contractors for temporary stints. Ideally, qualified professionals choose projects that interest them. Businesses have more flexibility in finding the best person for the task at hand.
With employee scheduling software, any type of business can offer non-traditional work schedules. It doesn’t have to cost more.
Burnout levels have never been higher. Especially for frontline workers and essential businesses. It’s important to remember that when employees have more control of their shifts, they are less likely to suffer psychological stress. Indeed, workers with improved mental health are more effective and make fewer mistakes.
To be sure, employers who only offer standard shifts would be wise to explore the possibilities. In fact, businesses could re-structure their scheduling without a loss in productivity.
Let’s address some of the different types of non-traditional work schedules.
Employees who telecommute work outside of the main office. This could be at home, a shared workspace, or any other remote location.
Depending on the type of business, a telecommuter may have set hours or complete freedom. Right now, most have a combination. For example, a software developer may be required to attend a virtual team meeting once a week. When working solo, however, they can choose their own hours.
Enlarge Your Hiring Pool
Telecommuting expands the hiring pool because you are not limited to a small geographic area. After all, when you can hire anyone in the world, you are more likely to find the perfect candidate.
In addition, companies that increase the diversity of their workforce grow faster and increase revenue.
Telecommuters can be highly engaged and extremely effective. Employee scheduling software helps employers track hours and productivity for telecommuters. This helps them weed out employees for whom telecommuting is not a good fit.
Plus, it simplifies client billing and job costing.
Self-Service Employee Scheduling
Employees choose their schedules subject to company policies. There may be core times they are required to work or a minimum number of hours expected.
As a matter of fact, many people would accept lower pay if they could choose their own hours. They could end up with more money in the long run. For example, it might allow a part-timer to take on another part-time job. Not to mention, it can help parents stagger their hours to reduce or eliminate the cost of daycare.
Fixed Rotating Shifts
This type of scheduling is most common in manufacturing, food and beverage, and healthcare. Employees have a mix of shifts. This could include, days, evenings, and swing shifts. It could also include alternating days worked on a predictable basis.
Companies who spread the less-desirable shifts among employees tend to have a happier workforce. This is especially true for workers who receive tips. Indeed, employees who miss out on the most lucrative shifts will look elsewhere for work.
Remember, scheduling software allows you to create complicated rotating schedules for large workforces.
Compressed Work Week
Someone who works ‘four tens’ has a compressed work week. Four 10-hour shifts squeeze a 40-hour work week into four days. Employees appreciate a three-day weekend every single week!
Furthermore, non-traditional schedules have benefits for non-profit entities as well. For example, compressed work weeks have been adopted by several cities to reduce costs. In addition, many report improved employee engagement and reduced absenteeism.
A job share arrangement is where two (or more) people perform a job traditionally held by one employee. Although job sharing is not as common as other types of alternative scheduling, it is used successfully in the public and private sector.
Unlimited Time Off
Though this is not technically a ‘schedule’ it increases workplace flexibility and provides many of the same benefits. In fact, unlimited PTO policies are gaining traction.
In reality, U.S. workers take less vacation time than many of their counterparts around the world. Some people believe this has contributed to a highly-stressed, unhealthy workforce.
For this reason, some employers have adopted unlimited PTO to encourage their workers to take more vacation time. Surprisingly, these policies don’t always result in employees taking more time off.
But employers win either way. When workers take more vacation, they are more engaged and productive. Plus, a placebo effect increases morale for everyone—regardless of whether they take more vacations.
Stop Putting Out Scheduling Fires
Would you like to improve your labor force planning? It’s important to remember that employee scheduling can become a strategic tool for business growth. Instead of a relentless, unpleasant chore that occupies too much time and energy.
But you won’t be able to do it with spreadsheets. Spreadsheets are passive and just barely a step above pen and paper scheduling. You need employee scheduling software.
4. A Beginner’s Guide to Schedule Forecasting
Now that you know scheduling best practices, let’s take it to another level. Small businesses can use data like organizations with large data analysis departments.
Here’s how to do it:
1. Choose Your Schedule Forecasting System
Before you can use analytics, you need to choose a schedule forecasting system. The most important tool is the schedule builder. Indeed, if it’s not intuitive and user-friendly, move on. The goal is to match best-fit employees to shifts in a systematic way.
Employee profiles let you enter detailed information. This includes skills, training, availability, and license expiration dates. Personalization makes it easy to match workers with appropriate job roles and shifts. It also helps managers assemble effective teams and assign projects.
2. Customize Your Schedule Forecasting System
When you have chosen your software, now it’s time to customize it. Don’t neglect this step. It is critical. Enter every bit of information possible. This includes staffing needs per shift, business hours, and employee availability. Plus certification requirements and job codes for client or project billing.
Compliance settings protect you from labor violations. Enter rules for predictive scheduling, overtime, meals and breaks, and union contracts. If you manage a long-term care facility, find a system with Payroll Based Journal tools.
Even so, don’t worry about getting everything perfect the first time. You can change your settings as often as you need to.
3. Enter Key Performance Indicators
Now, you enter business metrics. These will vary depending on your type of business. For a retail store, for example, it could be sales volume or store visitors. In like manner, a manufacturer would enter production data, demand estimates, or cost of goods sold. In the same fashion, a customer service center could use call volume or service tickets.
Next, enter sales to employee ratios and other contrasting metrics. Your software provider can help you with this critical step. Again, if conditions change, you can always update any this information.
4. Forecast Staffing Needs
Now the magic happens. The software compiles a goldmine of workforce data. It applies algorithms based on your KPIs to determine precise staffing demands. It shows how to increase profitability by modifying labor variables. This could be shift length, team makeup, or project assignments.
Using the data, identify which shifts are understaffed. Monitor seasonal staffing compared to revenue, operating costs, or the number of clients. As a result, you will know whether to hire more employees or give part-timers more hours.
What Could Advanced Labor Force Planning Mean For Your Business?
What, specifically, could this mean for you? Let’s discuss. If you have a restaurant, for example, you might be able to open a new location. By the same token, if you run a construction company, you could take on more projects. If you provide business services, you could accommodate more clients. Furthermore, if you manage a healthcare facility, you could lower operating costs by reducing overtime.
As an illustration, a recreational product manufacturer used labor forecasting to grow from eight employees to more than 70 in less than a year. During this explosive growth, the company didn’t need to expand their admin staff. They also had fewer paycheck errors and enjoyed a seamless integration with their payroll system. Read the case study here.
Give Your Supervisors Smart Tools for Proactive Management
Powerful scheduling tools ease the administrative burden on managers. It lets them schedule employees proactively instead of reactively. They can focus on productivity and employee engagement instead of the mechanics of creating schedules.
Happier Employees Can Transform Your Workplace Culture
The benefits of labor forecasting aren’t limited to the bottom line. Improved labor forecasting allows businesses to support their employees’ work/life balance. For some companies, this is a game changer. It improves employee morale and lowers turnover. It establishes the company’s reputation as a forward-thinking employer of choice in their labor market.
5. 13 Signs Your Employee Scheduling is Broken
Is your employee scheduling broken? Here are 13 red flags that may indicate that your employee scheduling is causing problems in your organization.
1. Your Scheduling Strategy Hasn’t Changed In Years
If your managers are using the same strategies they used years ago, there is probably room for improvement. Business operations have changed dramatically. Depending on your industry, you have no doubt adopted new technology. You have probably introduced new products or opened new locations. These types of changes impact staffing needs.
2. Your Employees Are Frustrated
If your employees are frustrated, find out if it has to do with shift schedules. Inflexible scheduling is hard on employees. So is variable scheduling. With these practices, they can’t balance their work and personal responsibilities. Schedule confusion also causes problems. If they can’t see their schedule from their phone, you are failing to take advantage of inexpensive cloud-based HR software.
3. You Have Shift Coverage Gaps
Frequent short-staffing may seem an obvious result of poor scheduling—but many managers blame it on other factors. Short staffing has ripple effects. As such, it should be avoided at all costs. With spreadsheet scheduling, it’s difficult to get a handle on this problem.
4. You Have a Lack of Employee Involvement
If your employees aren’t involved in scheduling to some degree, your managers are working too hard. Especially if they are using spreadsheets. Allowing employees to relieve some of the scheduling burden is easy with scheduling software.
5. You Have Increasing Absenteeism
If your absenteeism has been trending upward, you need to figure out why. Talk to your employees and managers. Remember, better scheduling could turn this problem around. Automated timekeeping helps you manage employee absences.
6. You Have High Employee Turnover
Employee scheduling can have a huge impact on turnover. If you have part-time, hourly employees, it’s more important than ever to accommodate your employees’ preferences as much as possible. Giving employees more control over their schedules has lowered turnover for many companies.
7. You Have Difficulty Filling Open Positions
Employees care about wages, benefits, and workplace culture. If you are known for bad scheduling, you will only attract the most desperate candidates. Word gets around-especially in smaller communities.
After health insurance, a flexible schedule is the most-valued benefit for employees. Some employers have distinguished themselves by offering more vacation time or other scheduling perks. When trying to compete with a shrinking pool of candidates, you can only raise wages so far and remain profitable. You can, however, offer more attractive schedules. Software can make employee-friendly scheduling easy. By all means, if you want to improve your hiring, improve your scheduling.
8. You Have Excessive Unplanned Overtime
Planned overtime can save money if managed wisely. Here, though, we’re talking about unexpected overtime. If you frequently ask employees to stay after their shift ends, you aren’t forecasting staffing requirements. Maybe you don’t realize how often it happens.
9. You Frequently Hire Last-Minute Temps
As with overtime, the use of temp workers can save on costs. But when they are used at the last minute as a stopgap measure, it points to poor scheduling.
10. You Have Increasing Customer Complaints
Has the number of customer complaints increased? It may be due to staffing problems. Understaffing or employee misallocation can affect service levels. Certainly, savvy managers respond quickly to solve service problems early.
11. You Miss Production Deadlines
If you can’t trace it to a non-employee issue (such as a materials shortage), missed deadlines could be due to understaffing. Time and attendance software can help you know when it’s time to hire. Plus, it can help you better optimize your current workforce.
12. You Have Decreased Productivity
If your productivity is trending downward, look at your scheduling. Of course, it don’t know how productivity and scheduling are related—see number 13.
13. You Don’t Use Employee Scheduling Analytics
Indeed, if you don’t have a way to look at scheduling effects over time, you are at a serious disadvantage. The importance of workforce management analytics can’t be overstated.
6. How Does Employee Scheduling Software Work?
Managing staff members is a tall order.
Employee scheduling software simplifies an essential task—scheduling employees for shifts.
How does it work?
First, you enter your employees in the system.
Your software should sync with your timekeeping system. This allows you to take advantage of all of the features.
In your employee profile, include:
- Contact information
- Shift availability
- Shift preferences
- Maximum hours
- Full- or part-time status
- Job role
- Team or department
Schedule Rules Rule
Your scheduling rules will depend on your industry, business size, and employee demographics.
Let’s look at possible scheduling rules:
- Maximum and minimum shift lengths
- Number of employees per shift
- Scheduled and unscheduled employee absences
- Multiple locations
- Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) rules
- Predictive scheduling laws
- Payroll Based Journal (for long-term healthcare facilities)
Create shift rules. For example, how many employees do you need? What certifications are required for every shift? Do you have employees that work multiple locations? Make sure you. set alerts so you can’t double book employees.
You start with a calendar. This is where you will create your schedule(s). Graphical interfaces color code employees, shifts, and locations. Super easy.
- Create schedule templates with high-level detail
- Drag and drop employees into shifts where you want them
- Copy schedules forward from week to week
- View multiple schedules at once
- Compare schedules by location, team, job site, or project phase
What Are The Advantages of Employee Scheduling Software?
Here are 9 advantages of using employee scheduling software:
- Predict staffing needs through intuitive intelligence. Historical data rolls into forecasting trends.
- Avoid understaffing through employee skills- and qualifications-based scheduling. This ensures you have the right employees filling the right positions based on training, education, certification or skill level.
- Avoid overtime through alerts that flag shift assignments that push employees into overtime.
- Alerts notify you when employees have reached their FMLA reduced schedule hours, are scheduled for days they need off, or have other restrictions.
- Automatic suggestions provide alternatives for specific shifts so that you can quickly see who can fill in when an employee calls in or requests a specific day off.
- Mobile alerts allow you to see when employees request PTO, request specific shifts or have an emergency.
- Electronic delivery of schedules means that employees receive their schedules early and helps you stay compliant with local scheduling laws and regulations.
- Employee portal access allows employees to look at schedules from home, request time off when they are thinking about it (and not a week later when they urgently remember), and submit feedback around extra shifts and other schedule requests.
- Missed shift alerts notifies managers when a worker fails to clock in, allowing them to more quickly address the issue.
7. What Small Business Owners Need to Know About Predictive Scheduling Laws
Predictive scheduling laws are part of a larger employee rights trend aimed at helping hourly and part-time workers.
Businesses with varying staffing demands often use ‘just-in-time’ employee scheduling. Not surprisingly, the instability wreaks havoc on the lives of the lowest paid employees in the workforce. These are the people most likely to be living paycheck to paycheck while juggling two or more part-time jobs. Many argue that the practices are unethical and prohibit upward mobility for the least advantaged.
Predictive scheduling laws are known by several names including fair workweek, secure scheduling, and advance scheduling. With that in mind, let’s look at the scheduling methods in question.
Employee Scheduling Practices Targeted
- Posting schedules with little or no advance notice.
- On-call shifts.
- Changing posted schedules with little or no advance notice.
- Canceling shifts at the last minute.
- Sending employees home before they have worked their full shift.
- Failing to give new hires a good faith estimate of the number of hours they will be able to work.
- Bringing employees in from other locations to fill shifts instead of giving the hours to existing employees.
- Hiring new employees instead of giving more hours to part-time workers who want more hours.
- Scheduling workers for ‘clopening’ shifts. This is when an employee must close an establishment and then come back to re-open it within a short time frame.
- Providing little or no rest between shifts.
- Failing to reasonably accommodate employees’ requests for flexible schedules.
- Retaliating against employees who make schedule requests, refuse to work shifts added at the last minute or decline to cover for an employee who calls in sick.
How Does Predictive Scheduling Impact Employers?
So far, most of these laws apply to retail and/or food service, although some include the hospitality industry. In addition, many have minimum employee requirements which further narrows their scope. Nevertheless, employers rarely welcome additional regulation. Let’s examine the advantages and challenges.
Advantages of Predictive Scheduling
- Improves retention.
- Reduces coverage gaps.
- Decreases absenteeism.
- Improves employee satisfaction which, in turn, improves customer service and job performance.
- Provides a hiring advantage.
- Improves the employer brand.
- Supports the physical and mental well-being of employees.
- Creates a happier work environment.
Challenges of Predictive Scheduling
- Scheduling managers have to forecast staffing demands in advance.
- Schedule changes may cost the employer in predictability pay.
- Employers who want to limit the number of full-timers on their staff may be forced to push part-timers into full-time status.
- Scheduling changes can affect Affordable Care Act ‘large employer’ status.
Employee Scheduling Software is Essential for Compliance
Scheduling software helps business owners comply with employee scheduling laws.
Most importantly, it identifies staffing needs in advance. Plus, overtime alerts and meals/breaks management simplifies compliance. In fact, with scheduling software, employers can comply with workweek regulations while decreasing labor costs.
Employee Scheduling Laws
Let’s look at the current state of scheduling legislation. Most of the ordinances have already gone into effect. Some have provisions that will phase in over time. As of this writing, Oregon has the only state-wide predictive scheduling law. It went into effect on July 1, 2018. The following jurisdictions have passed laws with scheduling implications.
San Francisco Formula Retail Employee Rights Ordinance
- Retail and chain restaurant employers required to post employee schedules two weeks in advance.
- Predictability pay required if the schedule changes without seven days’ notice.
Emeryville (California) Fair Workweek Ordinance
- Employers required to post schedules 14 days in advance.
- Extra compensation required for schedule changes taking place in the week prior to the schedule taking effect.
San Jose (California) Opportunity to Work Ordinance
- Employers must offer additional hours to existing part-time workers before hiring new employees. This includes contract and agency workers.
- Companies are required to keep employee schedule and payroll records for four years.
New Hampshire Senate Bill 416
- Requires business owners to consider requests for flexible schedules
- Restricts employers from retaliating against workers who request a more flexible schedule
New York Fair Workweek
- Prohibited from using on-call scheduling
- Must post schedules at least 72 hours in advance.
- Fast food:
- Must provide 14 days’ notice of schedules and provide additional compensation for schedule changes after posting
- Restricted from scheduling clopening shifts without additional compensation.
- Employers must provide 11 hours of rest between shifts
- Businesses must give existing workers extra hours before hiring or bringing employees from other locations
- Must post all available shifts
Seattle (Washington) Secure Scheduling Ordinance
- Retail and food service employers required to post schedules 14 days in advance and provide extra compensation to employees whose schedule is changed during that time.
- Employers must retain schedule records for three years.
Washington D.C. Hours and Scheduling Stability Act of 2015
- Food service employers must post schedules three weeks in advance.
- Employees are allowed to reject any hours or shifts added after schedule posting.
- Workers who agree to work hours added after the schedule posting must provide written consent.
- Employers must offer extra shifts to current employees.
- Businesses are required to keep scheduling records for three years.
- Employers must give employees one hour of predictability pay for shifts added, canceled, or changed at the last minute.
- Companies must provide fours hours of predictability pay when regular or on-call shifts are canceled within a day of their shift start times.
Oregon Fair Work Week Act
- Affects hourly employees of hospitality, retail, and food services businesses (including chains and integrated enterprises).
- Applies to companies with 500 workers worldwide.
- If the primary duties do not relate to retail, hospitality or food service operations, the employees are not covered.
- It doesn’t affect salaried employees, workers exempt from minimum wage, and contractors supplied from temp agencies. These workers are also not counted toward the 500 employee threshold.
- To determine the number of employees, business owners calculate the average number of workers employed on each workday during 20 or more workweeks during the current calendar year or the previous calendar year.
Ohio Senate Bill 331
Ohio employers are not restricted by this bill. It allows business owners to decide whether to provide advance notice of schedules or flexible schedules to employees. Though it is not mandated, Ohio business owners who practice employee-friendly scheduling will reap the benefits discussed previously.
Many states and cities are considering scheduling laws. Employers should stay up-to-date with the laws that apply to their workforce.
WorkforceHUB, Swipeclock’s comprehensive HR system includes employee scheduling along with Core and Strategic HR. To schedule a WorkforceHub demo, visit WorkforceHub Employee Scheduling.
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