Losing focus on different parts of your establishment is easy when you are busy with managerial duties. It may seem easier to quickly fill out a schedule last minute and send it out to employees without doing much research on staffing needs or employee availability, but this is a surefire way to frustrate employees to the point of poor performance. People are your most important asset! They drive your business and are the difference makers in a competitive market. One of the most important managerial duties is scheduling employees. As a scheduling manager, it is you who dictates where your most valuable assets are working and directly impacting your sales. Yet we know it can be difficult to dedicate the time you need for scheduling with everything else going on! To help you make the best scheduling decisions possible, here are five basic tips for scheduling employees.

Give Notice

There is nothing more frustrating to an employee than not knowing when they work, or finding out at the last minute they are working tomorrow. The scheduling manager has tough hurdles to overcome juggling work availabilities, requests for time off, skills set analysis when scheduling…the list goes on! To make everyone’s lives easier, create and publish the schedule at least two weeks in advance of the start date. This is done for two main reasons. The first is to give employees ample notice of their shifts so they can make arrangements in their personal lives. The second is to give employees enough time to put in schedule changes so you are not staying up half the night trying to fit everyone’s schedule change requests in before the specified shift.

Communicate Schedule Changes

As you make changes to the schedule throughout the month with time-off requests or increases in traffic, you need to let employees know. One of the worst things you can do as a manager is to change the schedule and hope everyone looks at it. This will cause employees to show up late to their new shifts and become disgruntled with the lack of communication. Send a message out to everyone on the team when you make a change scheduling employees so they know to check their schedules.

Not only should you communicate schedule changes, but you should also encourage communication on availability throughout the month. You want your employees to come to you about their schedule preferences. For example, if an employee needs as many night shifts as possible, be sure to follow up with them to make sure their schedule needs haven’t changed.

When you have an open line of communication about scheduling, your employees will be happier and you will experience less last minute stress setting the schedule. Happy employees equal happy customers which equals a happy bottom line! Employees want to know when they work next, how to get a shift covered when needed, and how to make a request for time off with the expectation it will be honored. Knowing how to manage their schedule and balance their work and personal life will make them happier.

Set-up Employee Expectations for Schedule Changes

When the schedule is released, always have an open door communication policy with employees about your decision-making behind creating the schedule. Explain your process for scheduling employees; a good example is if you give more shift opportunities or flexibility to those with more seniority. Let everyone on the team know that is your process to avoid tension in the workplace.

You also want to set up expectations about when employees can turn in schedule requests for time off prior to the schedule being published.  For example, make it a policy that all request for time off be turned in two weeks prior to the date being requested.  This will ensure that you will get the request in plenty of time prior to creating the schedule.  It is also a good policy train and encourage employees to perform shift trades before coming to you for changes.

Use Forecasting to Look at Trends

Like most things with your business, you need to look at analytics and reporting to decide when to schedule your employees. Many managers will fall onto using essentially the same schedule as the previous rotation, but you should always be evaluating. Use sales forecasting to look at the trends from both a micro and macro level. It will help you predict what traffic and sales are going to be like so you can adjust how many employees are scheduled.

If you are not sure how much traffic you are going to expect for certain shifts, you can always use the on-call method. This can be tricky as many employees do not appreciate being on-call with no guarantee they will be coming in to earn a paycheck. The best strategy for a successful on-call shift is to schedule and rotate the position throughout the staff.  A best business practice is to have the employee call in at a specific time for the on-call shift and to let that employee know immediately if they are needed.  It is not good practice to make the employee call back several time to check in with you.  This will help you save on labor costs and avoid disgruntled employees.

When you have your forecasting analysis down, it is time to combine that knowledge with the skill sets of your employees. Employees want to be successful and one of the best ways to give them success is to schedule smartly based on skill level. For example, if an employee in a restaurant is a weak host but a strong server, do not schedule them to work a busy Saturday dinner as a host. That employee would not only see greater success and profit working as a server on a busy night, but they will also help grab high-sales opportunities on a busy night to improve your restaurant profit.

Make Scheduling Employees Easier With Software Automation

ShiftNote Devices

Like we said earlier, it is difficult to dedicate the time you need to get all of these scheduling tasks completed! A good solution to perform picture perfect scheduling without spending hours of your valuable time is investing in scheduling software automation. Scheduling software will provide an all-in-one platform to manage communication, schedule change requests, employee expectations, and even sales forecasting to help decide what you should do when scheduling employees.

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Matt Thompson

CEO of ShiftNote
Matt has let his lifelong passion of food and people lead him to 15 amazing years as a restaurant manager and another 9 years working as a Director with a major food service distributor. He has channeled this passion to help create and run ShiftNote. When he's not dominating the food service industry, he's spending time with his 4 children and cheering on the Tigers as a Mizzou Alumni.