Scheduling problems are some of the most common issues small to mid-sized businesses face. In fact, there are few things (aside from bookkeeping) that cause so many headaches for managers and company owners. But for your business to run smoothly and be prosperous, proactively managing your scheduling issues should be a top priority. Doing so allows for positive employee morale and enables your business to provide the type of good customer service that keeps your customers coming back for more.
Below, you’ll find seven of the most aggravating issues scheduling managers run into on a regular basis and what you can do to eliminate them (or, at least ensure they don’t give you too much grief the next time you plot out a work week!).
Not Having Enough Coverage When You Need It
We’ve all been there – it’s an average day, until the workload suddenly explodes. Either more customers pile into your shop or your clients decide that today is the day to call and book all of the work they’ve been thinking about for the last month. Whatever the case may be, the end result is the same – you simply don’t have enough help.
The easy solution is to call in your backups, cancel days off and consider paying overtime (which may actually be cheaper in the long run than hiring a new part-time employee). However, this type of understaffing is usually a symptom of one of two chronic conditions: either you don’t have enough employees to begin with or you don’t forecast correctly.
If you’re actually understaffed, you need to hire more people. Sometimes that’s a hard thing to convince yourself of – especially if your business is small. But realistically, the amount of hassle and headaches you’ll avoid by creating an employee buffer is worth the extra payroll any day of the week.
If you have enough employees but aren’t scheduling them at the right times, the fix is a little more involved. Tracking past sales/workload and using it to predict future trends is absolutely essential. Use prediction and tracking software if you have it available, but a spiral notebook will work as well. Just remember to track everything on a daily/weekly basis and include everything from sales figures to the weather (if it’s pertinent) when improving your employee forecasts.
Not Allowing Employees Enough Down Time
Employees aren’t robots. They need downtime. You can’t expect them to be at 100% efficiency if they only got six hours of sleep last night. And while you can’t control what they do off the clock (unfortunately, you can’t tell them to shut off the ballgame because they’re opening the shop in the morning), you can give them adequate time to rest and recharge between shifts.
While most types of employees are covered by federal and state regulations – which typically require eight hours between shifts – some are not. And sometimes shifts are “scrunched” together accidentally.
Consider this… An employee is scheduled to close up at 10 PM and open at 8 AM. Sounds good, right – that leaves 10 hours between shifts. But by the time the 30 minute commute (each way) is over, dinner is made and wolfed down, and the necessary hygienic routine is observed (brush teeth, shower, shave and so on), your employee may only be getting five or six hours of real rest. And even that doesn’t give him or her any time for recreational activities with the spouse and kids.
For this reason, it’s a better idea to try to give employees at least 12 hours between shifts. If that’s not possible, arrange things so they can get two days off together. This extended period away from work will allow them to decrease their sleep deficit, forget work for a while, and punch back in ready and refreshed.
Not Having a Full-Featured Software Solution
A paper and pen just isn’t going to cut it anymore, though – unfortunately – most scheduling programs are too rigid and inflexible. These pieces of software either don’t conform to the various sizes of businesses or they aren’t customizable for the type of industry they’re being used in. If they do, the end result is usually just a printout that gets tacked up on a corkboard – something that you could have done by hand anyways.
The solution to this issue is finding a full-featured and flexible scheduling solution that gives you the resources you need. And while we might be partial, we believe that When I Work is one such solution. Our program is customizable by industry and can be tailored to suit various business needs.
In addition to traditional scheduling duties, When I Work can also be configured to send digital schedules to employees, text message them with updates and allow managers to create multiple schedules for the same employees if they work at multiple locations. The software also allows for easy editing for when those call outs hit you by surprise – making it a great option for companies that need flexibility in their employee schedules.
Covering Call Outs
Real life has a tendency to get in the way of work. Sick kids, automobile mishaps, illnesses and other unforeseen obstacles can keep you employees from showing up with a moment’s notice. In a case like this, the worst thing you can do is panic. There’s always a solution. What it is just depends on your business, your creativity and your other employees’ flexibility.
The simplest solution is to find somebody else to fill that shift. Ask employees who are already on the clock if they would like to stay and cover the open shift. Offer overtime (if applicable) or suggest they switch days off or shorten shifts for the remainder of the week.
If no one in-house can help out, time to hit the phone tree. Calling off duty employees is a bit of a chore, but if you have an adequate number of staff members with open availability, the opportunity to grab some extra hours is probably going to be attractive to someone.
Planning for Vacations (and Other Paid Time Off)
Everybody deserves a little break, but plotting coverage for these scheduled periods can be a bit difficult. Consider cross training the employees you already have. Instead of adding to the payroll, you’re adding to the value of individual employees. You can entice potential employees by offering bonuses, increased rates of pay or scheduling preference. That way, you’re increasing your pool of available workers without increasing your workforce.
Accommodating Employee Availability
Workers want to work around their lives. Some prefer day shifts, others night shifts. Some want to work weekends, others refuse to. As a result, it can be a challenge to accommodate everybody.
The solution to this problem is to hire a well-balanced crew. Have a few early birds, a few night owls and a couple of part-timers (maybe high school or college students) who can only work weekends. That way, you keep everyone happy – including your customers.
Schedules are still one of the most powerful tools managers have for employee and customer relations. Scheduling issues are constantly among the top two reasons employees quit (that, and not liking their bosses). Anything you can do to minimize scheduling disputes will go a long way towards reducing costly turnover.
Ensuring you’re properly staffed also presents the best possible picture to your customers. You can’t afford to leave paying customers hanging because you don’t have enough help – but, at the same time, you don’t want to break the bank because you’ve overscheduled. Finding the right balance is a skill, but it’s one worth learning.
Easy Solutions to the Most Common Scheduling Problems Chad Halvorson