Employee Scheduling for Small Businesses: 7 Best Practices For Hourly Workers

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Liz Strikwerda

Content strategist and corporate blogger (2000+ posts). Her work has been featured on G2's Learning Hub, Human Resources Today, Better Buys and over 500 business websites. She plays bluegrass mandolin and enjoys sailing her catamaran and hiking in the red rock wilderness of southern Utah. Connect with me on LinkedIn

In today’s post we focus on best practices for employee scheduling for hourly workers.

Managers know that employee scheduling can be a constant headache. Done right, however, it can also be a strategic business management tool. Therefore, if scheduling is causing problems, maybe you need to try some new techniques. Fortunately, scheduling is a skill and any manager can improve.

How do you become a better scheduler?

Follow these 7 best practices for hourly employee scheduling.

1. Post Schedules Earlier

Firstly, make schedules available two weeks or more in advance. Indeed, this helps everyone.  For example, your employees can arrange childcare, transportation, and schedule personal activities. As a result, you will have less absenteeism and tardiness.

Secondly, it shows your team that you care about their lives outside of work. Of course, you might need to do some adjusting after it’s published. But you can have most shifts in place. Furthermore, if you have some employees with a set schedule, it makes it easier.

In addition, predictive scheduling and fair workweek regulations are popping up everywhere. In fact, your city or state may pass one soon. (If they haven’t already.) If you have compliant employee scheduling policies in place before they are mandated, you’ll save a lot of trouble. Besides, it makes good business sense to create a supportive work environment.

2. Cross-Train for Schedule Flexibility

If you are already posting schedules early but still struggling to cover shifts, consider cross-training. Cross-training is an important labor management tool with many benefits. First off, it increases productivity. This is because it allows you to operate with a smaller, more nimble staff. Consequently, it improves employee scheduling.  Therefore, build cross-training into your onboarding. That way, new hires will understand that they will learn more than one job role.

For example, cross-training common in restaurants where servers can bus tables and seat guests. Similarly, in retail, you can train employees for each department. Hotels have a diverse staff, as well, which provides are multiple opportunities for job role overlap.

Although cross-training helps manager, it benefits employee as well. For example, entry-level workers will be eager to expand their skills so they can cover more shifts. In addition, your team will be better able to adapt to fluctuating customer levels. Moreover, if some job roles are less-pleasant, switching things up can improve morale.

3. Empower Your Team With Self-Service Shift Trading

Many employers have loosened shift trade policies. It’s a valuable employee perk. If you hire capable workers, they can trade shifts responsibly. It takes a load off managers. If an employee has an unexpected obligation, make them responsible for finding a replacement. Employees value schedule flexibility as much as competitive pay. Workers are more punctual and less likely to miss a shift if they have some control over when they work.

4. Confirm Availability When Hiring

When interviewing candidates, find out what shifts they can work. Plus how many weekly hours they want. This sounds like a no-brainer. But many employers overlook this. Then they are frustrated when everyone wants the same schedule. When evaluating competing candidates with similar qualifications, schedule preferences can tip the scale.

5. Clarify Rules for Schedulers

If you are not the only one who makes schedules, clarify rules for managers who perform this task. Don’t assume the others have the same institutional knowledge. Document schedule rules and other processes you’ve refined over time. There are universal best practices and business-specific best practices. Use both.

6. Reward Punctuality and Attendance

If you employ teenagers, you might have a problem with tardiness and missed shifts. Scratch that. If you employ teenagers, I guarantee you will have a problem with tardiness and missed shifts. It’s more cost-effective to correct problems than fire and hire. Creating an award system can help. It doesn’t have to be expensive. You can reward punctuality with first dibs on shifts. Or inexpensive swag.

7. Track Scheduling Data

Busy owners don’t always notice incremental changes in scheduling needs. But gradual change eventually makes an impact. Review historical data to detect trends. Maybe you need to lengthen some shifts and shorten others. If you operate with a small staff, overlapping shifts for an hour or two can ensure high levels of service—without adding another employee or shift.

Analytics also give you insight into your business hours. Pay attention to customer levels right when you open and just before closing. You may benefit by extending your hours.

Scheduling analytics can help you plan for seasonal changes as well. They can help you know when you need to hire. Even small businesses can use big data.

Use WorkforceHub for Employee Scheduling Best Practices

Good employee scheduling increases productivity, creates a pleasant work environment and is necessary for quality customer service. In addition, it improves employee retention.

Employee scheduling doesn’t need to be time consuming. WorkforceHub makes it quick and easy. In addition to employee scheduling, WorkforceHub has timekeeping, meals/breaks tracking, time off requests, and PTO tracking.

Simplify HR management today.

Simplify HR management today.

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