How To Create An Employee Schedule: 8 Tips

Learning how to create an employee schedule that adequately meets the needs of your business can be daunting. The good news is that you don’t have to go it alone. Check out our list of expert tips on scheduling your staff. We’ll explore everything from learning the needs of your business to gathering feedback from your team. 

Want to take your scheduling process to the next level? Try When I Work for free and experience the power of scheduling automation

Here are five key takeaways to keep in mind when learning how to create an employee schedule:

  • Accurately identify your staffing needs
  • Consider fluctuations in consumer demand
  • Don’t rely on generic templates or a one-size-fits-all approach
  • Be willing to adapt based on changing trends
  • Use software to simplify the process and streamline schedule creation

Table of contents:

Consider these important points and our list of eight actionable tips.

Consequences of inefficient staff scheduling
How to create an employee schedule: 8 tips
Using employee scheduling software to automate the process

Consequences of inefficient staff scheduling

Poor staff scheduling can lead to all sorts of headaches for you and your team. From increased labor costs to staff burnout, inefficient scheduling practices can wreak havoc on productivity and morale. Here are some of the worst consequences of poor scheduling.

Having understaffed and overstaffed shifts

The easiest way to build a schedule is to divide your team into equal shifts, right? At first glance, this might seem like the obvious solution. However, it’s going to lead to understaffing and overstaffing.

Remember, your business will experience ebbs and flows of customers throughout the day. These fluctuations typically follow repeatable trends. For instance, if you run a restaurant, lunch and dinner hours are probably the busiest. Conversely, you’ll probably experience a slowdown for a few hours in the mid-to-late afternoon.

The overstaffed shift won’t have enough work to keep them busy. On the other hand, the shorthanded group will get hammered every day. 

Lack of clarity on scheduling needs

If you don’t know your company’s scheduling needs, it can be tough to distribute your staff effectively. As a result, you’ll be forced to make lots of last-minute changes. This lack of clarity can result in missed shifts and scheduling conflicts. Call-outs will probably increase, too.

Clear communication can help avoid these issues and keep your team happy. Remember, good communication is a two-way street. 

Increasing labor costs

Inefficient scheduling can drive up labor costs due to overtime pay and poor use of resources. Excessive payroll expenses can eat into profits and hinder your long-term growth. This can be especially detrimental if you are already operating on tight margins. 

Employees taking more overtime

Admittedly, there are times when you’ll have to pay out overtime. The key is to mitigate these costs with good shift planning. You don’t want to become reliant on overtime to meet your basic staffing needs. 

Staff burnout and declining productivity 

Understaffing doesn’t just hurt your customers. It can also take its toll on your staff and lead to burnout. According to CNBC, half of all workers claim the businesses they work for are understaffed. Even worse, 43% of people who work at understaffed companies have considered quitting. 

Understaffing isn’t the only scheduling issue that can lead to burnout. Denying time off and failing to accommodate availability requests can also make your team less productive. Even a small drop in output can cost you thousands and damage customer relationships. 

How to create an employee schedule: 8 tips

Here’s how to create an employee schedule in eight simple steps: 

1. Determine your staffing requirements based on business needs

First off, figure out your basic staffing requirements. Determine how many employees you need to manage day-to-day operations. Break down your requirements by role (e.g., servers, shift leads, managers). 

Use the basic 40-hour work week as a baseline for determining staffing needs. For instance, if you need to cover 800 labor hours per week, you’ll need 20 full-time employees. Don’t assume any hourly employees will be consistently working extra hours. Remember, you don’t want to build overtime into your basic schedule. 

2. Consider your employees’ range of skills and strengths

Next, assess the skills and versatility of your current team. If you’ve got cross-trained employees, speak to them about filling multiple roles in your schedule. Also, ask staff members when they prefer to work (morning, afternoon, or evening). While you may not be able to accommodate every request, it’s important to show you care about their preferences. 

You should also be mindful of each team member’s work capacity. Don’t put a new employee who is less efficient on your busiest shift. Also, don’t waste the talents of a top performer by consistently assigning them slower shifts. 

3. Have consistent shift start and end times

Make sure that your shifts start and end at the same time each day. For example, suppose that your business opens at 11:00 a.m. and you need employees in at 10:00 a.m. Always start your early shifts at 10:00 a.m.

Even small fluctuations can create confusion among employees. Be consistent with start and end times so staff members know exactly when they need to be at work. 

4. Plan schedules in advance

    Provide employees with ample notice about their schedules. Doing so gives them time to address personal obligations and minimizes the need for call-outs. 

    If possible, release schedules at least two weeks in advance. Giving employees more notice will make scheduling shifts much easier. If they’ve got a prior obligation, they’ll be able to notify you much sooner, allowing you to make necessary schedule updates. 

    5. Be considerate of employee availability

    If an employee makes a reasonable request for time off, try to accommodate them. You should also allow shift swaps, as doing so can minimize the need for formal time-off requests while also ensuring your business is adequately staffed. This is especially important if your team works rotating schedules.

    6. Have a reliable way to track overtime and time-off requests

    Speaking of time off, you need a reliable way of keeping up with these requests. Full-service employee scheduling software can track everything from overtime to sick days and PTO. Platforms like When I Work will automatically block out employee availability to align with these requests, thereby avoiding conflicts. 

    7. Ask employees for anonymous feedback

    Periodically ask your team how they feel about your scheduling strategy. Allow them to submit feedback anonymously. That way, they will be honest about their experiences.

    If you get negative feedback, examine it objectively. Try to find practical solutions that make coming to work better for everyone. After all, a happy workforce is foundational to your long-term success. 

    8. Use employee scheduling software to save time and reduce scheduling mistakes

    Full-service payroll software like When I Work can handle all of your hour-tracking and scheduling needs. The time clock feature ensures accuracy and helps you save time every week. 

    That’s not all. When I Work also has powerful automation tools to help you cut down on administrative tasks. Imagine what you can achieve by eliminating hours of administrative work from your weekly to-do list. 

    Using employee scheduling software to automate the process

    Applying all of these tips might sound like a huge undertaking. It certainly can be if you are building your schedule manually. Fortunately, there’s a much better way.

    When I Work can automate many of these important processes and save you time. Once you input employee data and set up your custom scheduling rules, the software handles the rest. It really is that easy! 

    When I Work helps you create employee schedules with ease

    Inefficient scheduling strategies can cause a wide range of problems, including burnout, frequent call-outs, and high overtime costs. However, you can avoid these staffing nightmares with the help of our expert tips and When I Work employee scheduling software. Our platform streamlines:

    • Scheduling
    • Employee communication
    • Time-off tracking
    • Shift swaps
    • Reporting

    So what are you waiting for? Build better schedules with When I Work. Sign up for a free 14-day trial today. 

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