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Scheduling retail staff: Best practices and examples


Are you still scheduling retail staff using an Excel spreadsheet? It’s accurate for about 20 minutes – then the changes start.

Does this situation sound familiar? John sends an email request asking to be off on Friday; Elizabeth calls and needs Saturday night off, but can now work on Friday, which she previously had asked off. Then there’s Tom, who didn’t show up last night for his shift, but he texted to say he forgot, and he’s trying to get back from the beach in time for his shift today.

If yours is an industry where schedule fluidity is the norm, are you getting the most out of your scheduling efforts? Probably not.

But, there are ways to take the hassle out of retail employee scheduling with time tracking software.

Managing overtime

It’s time-consuming to use paper schedules or spreadsheets, especially when there are last-minute changes.

Retail employee scheduling changes can wreak havoc in your overtime budget.

For example, let’s say Jonathan calls in sick. You have to find someone to fill the void – and sooner, rather than later. Finally, after a series of phone calls and messages, you find Sally, who can fill in for the ailing Jonathan. But, what if Sally is at risk of going into overtime if she picks up the shift? It ends up costing your company more money because Sally will get paid overtime.

Workforce scheduling software lets you know which employees are available to work and which aren’t in an overtime situation. It keeps track of hours in real time, taking the guesswork and manual record keeping out of the equation. It also tells you which employees are qualified to fill the vacancy – letting you fill an open position quicker, with the best choice of work experience, all while keeping an eye on how it will affect your payroll budget.

Shift swapping solutions

Swapping shifts is one of the most common scheduling activities each week. But finding the right match can be as frustrating as a 1,000-piece puzzle. Who is available? Who is capable and experienced to cover the shift?

Most scheduling software offers an employee self-service function, which allows employees to handle shift swaps on their own. This frees up the scheduler’s time and removes a step in the process, allowing employees to find out more quickly whether their shift can be covered.

An automated scheduling system helps you make sure the open shift is only made available to those qualified to work it. When a shift opens up, an email notification is sent to those on your team who are qualified and currently available to take it. Then, when someone accepts the shift, another message is distributed to let everyone it has been filled.

Cutting costs, saving time

Keeping track of overtime is one of the more costly examples of how having a good scheduling system in place can save your company money. But, don’t forget about other aspects of the financial equation.

The scheduler is spending less time updating and maintaining the schedule, so there is a productivity savings – and cost savings if you calculate the time a scheduler spends on the schedule each week multiplied by the hourly wage.

Scheduling software allows you to use the schedule as a “budget” of who will be working in a week and the expected cost of the employees’ wage/hour totals. The anticipated expense can be compared to the actual time and wages as the workweek progresses. Keeping watch on the fluctuations in time and wages can help determine overtime risk and who is best qualified to fill any vacant positions. Because retail scheduling is typically in a state of flux, this capability helps to anticipate staffing issues.

In a nutshell

An automated time and attendance and advance-scheduling solution can give you the insight to easily adapt to shift changes. Even better, you’ll understand how those changes affect your week’s schedule and bottom line – who is working when and the hourly wage costs.

With greater insight, you can make proactive business decisions about scheduling, which can drastically reduce overtime, improve your human resources strategy and make the employee scheduling process easier to manage.  As well as giving your employees the structure to be successful and help your business grow.

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