5 Scheduling Mistakes that Frustrate Employees

frustrated employee

“Scheduling is the biggest thing you can do to keep employees happy.”

These wise words come from Jim Tobias, the second generation owner of Lions Choice – a restaurant chain focused on employee retention.  Some of Jim’s workers have been with the company for decades.  And he knows the value of a happy employee – he built a whole retention formula around it:  “Employee satisfaction drives customer satisfaction.  Customer satisfaction drives customer retention.”  In short, “happy employees equals happy customers.”

If you’re trying to strike a balance between being “The Good Boss” and keeping your company running smoothly, follow Tobias’s lead and avoid the following five scheduling mistakes:

Mistake #1 – Preferential Treatment

Nobody likes to feel undervalued.  However, when employees repeatedly see others receiving “better” schedules, more time off or failing to follow the posted schedule without reprimand, it’s hard for them to feel anything but unequal.  They perceive these other employees as “Boss’s Pets” (or assume that far worse activity is taking place behind closed doors).  That perception can be exist even if there’s no actual connection between the boss and the supposed favorites.

The first step to fixing this problem is to eliminate scheduling preference altogether.  You may have to take a step back and look at the process objectively – in fact, you may not even be aware that your employees believe “preferential treatment” is occurring.  If certain employees must have certain days or hours off ( for example, for childcare, transportation, etc.), make sure everybody else knows that they’re not getting the “good” shifts because you like them better.

If problems continue to arise, it may be time to institute a no holds barred rotating schedule.  This way every employee is treated equally and those with regular non-work obligations are given an opportunity to reschedule (finding child care on off-weeks, for example).  This will rankle some but it puts every employee on the same footing.

Mistake #2 – Repeatedly “Losing” Time Off Requests

Employees value their time off and when they’re scheduled to work on days they’ve asked for off, they get understandably frustrated.  Of course, employees must understand that their time off requests are just that – requests – and not guarantees.  Ideally, though, managers should make every effort to give them that time off.

Let’s face it though, bosses are busy and occasional lapses are to be expected.  Time off requests get lost in the shuffle – especially if they’re not written down – and are easily forgotten.  However, repeatedly losing or forgetting about requests is unacceptable, as it promotes an image of incompetence and arrogance.

Remedying lost time off requests is easy.  Create a time off book that’s available to all employees.  The book can be digital (which works well for remote workers) or as simple as a wire notebook on the manager’s desk.  Ensure employees know that only requests in the book will be considered – verbal requests must be put in writing!  Use that book every time you make a new schedule and set a deadline for time off requests – two weeks in advance is usually enough time adapt forthcoming schedules.

Lastly, if your employee’s individual time off request cannot be granted, let them know why and offer alternatives that work for both you and the employee.

Mistake #3 – Relying Solely on Automated Computerized Scheduling

Computerized employee scheduling can be a godsend… or it can be a nightmare.  As with any such software, you get out what you put in.  If you take the time to learn your software and how it works, it can increase your efficiency, account for business fluctuations and handle all of the headaches of the employee scheduling process for you.  But if you don’t learn or don’t put the effort into managing your program’s output, you’re going to end up with a disaster.

Ideally, you should monitor software-generated schedules regularly, accounting for weekly or daily business fluctuations, employee requests and availability, and the accuracy of time and attendance reporting.  If you spot a problem, fix it immediately.  Putting things off will only make more of a mess in the long run.

Mistake #4 – Failing to Let Business Dictate the Schedule

You’re in business to make money, and the only way you can do that is to ensure that you’re properly staffed at the right times.  Doing so avoids customer dissatisfaction and overtime – both of which can cut deeply into your bottom line.

Ensuring sufficient staff for business conditions also avoids the bad attitudes and accusations that come from “overworked” employees.  If that means one of your employees has to give up their nine-to-five for a mixed shift week, you need to find a way to make that work.

Mistake #5 – Failing to Stick to the Schedule

An attendance policy is a must for any business.  While you need to take into account real-life interruptions (as in, sickness, car trouble, accidents and so on), you can’t allow employees to come and go as they please.

While keeping some employees at work for their entire shift or getting them to come in on time may be difficult, it’s essential.  Not only will this help the business in terms of ensuring proper staffing, overtime reductions and improved customer service, it will also prevent the impression of favoritism.  No one wants to hear “Charlie always gets to leave early on Fridays,” when these standards aren’t applied consistently across all employees in your organization.

Finally, keep in mind that scheduling is not an exact science.  No matter how sophisticated a program you’re using, your system still needs a little wiggle room – and it’s never going to make everybody happy.  For this reason, it’s important to monitor your employees’ opinions about the schedule (and how you’re handling it), as stopping issues before they get out of hand is a lot easier than dealing with them after the fact!

Quotes pulled from In “In it for the Long Haul” by Jason Daley, published in the February 2013 issue of Entrepreneur magazine. 

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