5 Tips for Improving Workforce Scheduling

It’s nearing the end of the month and you know you need to figure out your workforce schedule soon. But you also have to remember that one employee has exam finals and won’t be available, the other is off visiting family, and you’ve got your biggest sale of the year coming within the next month. Good luck! Without a solid plan and a few helpful tools, crafting that schedule may be a challenge.

We get it—workforce scheduling is one of the more challenging parts of being a business owner. We’ll break down a few ways you can improve your workforce scheduling strategies (without pulling your hair out in the process). 

What is workforce scheduling? 

Workforce scheduling is the process of scheduling the right amount of people working to match with the amount of work on any given work day. This also includes the overlapping shifts or any transitions that need to happen throughout the day to minimize gaps in service.

7 industries that use workforce scheduling 

Workforce scheduling is common in industries that employ hourly workers, or teams that regularly work in shifts. You can see workforce scheduling in industries like:

  • Retail: There are several different types of employees that help make the retail experience valuable for customers. For retail managers creating a schedule, it’s important to ensure that stockers, merchandisers, and associates are all staffed appropriately for business.
  • Hospitality: The hospitality industry is one of those rare industries where someone needs to be available at all times, and the only way to do that right is with a workforce schedule. If a guest needs room service, towels, or any kind of help, there needs to be staff available to help them. Yes—even at 3:00am. 
  • Food service: Many people are involved when it comes to dining out, and those team members all play an important part. Chefs, prep chefs, bussers, dishwashers, hostesses, and servers are all required to help keep service flowing at a restaurant.
  • Healthcare: Similar to hospitality, patients need access to healthcare workers around the clock. Staffing the number of nurses you have for the number of patients you have is the challenge in this scenario.
  • Transportation or logistics: For long-distance shipping organizations or logistics, it’s important to ensure that there’s both enough drivers and dispatchers to ensure the safety of the delivery. 
  • Construction: Experienced construction project managers often know exactly how long it takes for certain tasks to complete, and how many people are required to do so. By knowing this information, contractors can give more accurate estimates for how long a project can take given the amount of workforce they have available. 
  • Call centers: Some businesses like to keep their support line available 24/7 to provide customers more value. This requires scheduling shifts of workers throughout the day.

Who’s in charge of a workforce schedule? 

The person who is responsible for creating a workforce schedule varies by industry. For example, general managers might be responsible for deciding how to staff their restaurant for the day. But in the construction industry, this responsibility may lie with the construction project manager. 

Those in charge of managing a workforce have many considerations when staffing their team throughout the day. Some of these responsibilities may include:

    • Forecasting labor: This means identifying if the amount of work you have to complete aligns with the amount of employees you have staffed based on previous work schedules or seasonality. This requires analysis of the amount of work that needs to be completed, in addition to additional factors such as seasonality.
    • Managing employee availability: Many businesses employ both part-time and full-time employees, and remembering which employee has what schedule is enough to send anyone into a tailspin. This doesn’t include other curveballs such as paid time off or sick days. These are classic curveballs that can cause even more complications to scheduling.
    • Scheduling for seasonality: Some industries see more activity during a certain time of the year over others. A common example would be retail seeing a spike during the holiday seasons, so the team may bring on some seasonal employees for extra help.
    • Optimizing budget: In addition to meeting the team’s requests and needs, the scheduler needs to meet the needs of the business as well in terms of budget. Understanding how much budget your team has helps to prevent overstaffing and overspending on labor costs.

5 best practices for workforce scheduling

Is your team is looking for ways to best improve your workforce scheduling? Consider a few of these best practices when crafting the next schedule. 

1. Assess current business needs and goals

Deciding on the business goals is best done with other business leadership. Understanding what major goals you want your unique business to achieve over a certain period of time helps those in charge of creating the workforce schedule how to best meet those goals.

For example, a restaurant’s quarterly goal may be to decrease the amount of wait time a guest experiences. To do this,  you may need to staff extra servers and bussers to decrease wait time.

2. Honor employee availability and skill sets

When you request for your employee’s availability, you should try and respect those requests as much as possible. However, this can be challenging if multiple employees request the same days off and you’re left with people who are already scheduled for the shift. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do in this scenario other than to deny the request for time off. But if you have to do this, honor that employee some way by showing them some form of gratitude. This helps to keep employees engaged—even if it means their request wasn’t approved.

Honoring your employee’s skills is another thing to consider when you’re crafting a workforce schedule. For example, you might have a busser who is currently in the process of earning their bartending license. Provide them an opportunity to learn more from their bartender by scheduling them as a barback, or by providing time to learn on the clock. This helps to retain your employees and proves that as a business, you have their best interest and futures in mind. 

3. Templatize a schedule using workforce scheduling software

Streamline scheduling by templating your workforce scheduling process. The simplest way to do this is to start with the employees that have the most consistent schedules. This could mean full-time employees who work the same shift every week or students who have a consistent class schedule can be added into the template first. From there, you can create shifts to cover the gaps left or that match the needs of your business. 

Templatizing your workforce schedule can help establish consistency for your employees and make the scheduling process simple. Plus, using a digital workforce scheduling software makes sending out shift assignments to employees a breeze. As soon as the schedule is finalized, you can quickly send a notification to their phones. 

Try a free weekly schedule template in Homebase

4. Provide opportunities for employee autonomy

In addition to respecting your employee’s requests for time off, offer the ability for your team members to take their schedule into their own hands. Create policies that allow your employees to switch shifts, or opportunities to find someone to cover their shift should they be unable to work that day. 

Defining policies for how to swap shifts is important to ensure the workforce composition stays consistent. For example, you wouldn’t necessarily want a trainee waiter swapping with your award winning sommelier when the food critic is set to visit. These kinds of things are important to staffing and should be taken into consideration when approving swapped shifts.

5. Document schedules for the future

Saving workforce schedules is helpful for labor forecasting and crafting templates. Combining schedule data with other business information can help identify areas of improvement. Daily sales, average ticket order, and the amount of work completed that day all work together to tell a story.

This information can also help your employees improve and grow as well. A server may notice their average ticket totals dropping, so they can use that information as indication to try and upsell more things in the future. This data-driven information can help team members autonomously take the initiative to improve when completed in tandem with goal setting.

Common pitfalls to avoid when creating a workforce schedule 

There’s no one right way to create a workforce schedule. However, there are things that can make workforce scheduling more challenging. Here are a few common pitfalls that workflow schedulers may encounter when crafting their team schedule:

    • Unclear communication: If your business doesn’t have a defined policy for how schedules are communicated, this can create misunderstandings between employees and employers. Outline how work schedules are communicated, how employees should submit their availability, and what the process is for calling out or swapping shifts. 
    • Staying too under budget: While saving money and not utilizing all of your budget is a good thing, strapping your workforce too tight can cause undue stress. Balance the amount of work with the amount of team members you have appropriately. Putting too much work on too few employees can lead to burnt out employees and an increase in turnover.
    • Depending too much on certain employees: Similar to staying too under budget, overworking specific employees can cause unnecessary stress on high performers. Instead, spread out the work and provide opportunities for other employees to chip in as well.
    • Crafting schedules based on anecdotal data: Many people rely on past experiences to craft future schedules, but this is often done anecdotally. Instead, make scheduling decisions based on hard numbers, such as previous sales or the amount of guests served. This can help future staffing decisions based on the day of the week, season, or event that you’re looking to staff.

The benefits of a workforce scheduling software 

Introducing a workforce scheduling software can help streamline scheduling, both for you and your employees. Here are a few other ways that a workforce scheduling software can provide a helping hand.

    • Build schedules faster: When you create schedule templates, you’ll be able to build a schedule much faster than you would building one from scratch. Save a couple of different templates for yourself, such as different schedules for seasonal times, weekend shifts, or slow days.
    • Accurately forecast business needs: Once you start logging your workforce hours into a scheduling tool, you can start to identify major scheduling trends. This can help your business forecast how much you’ll spend on labor. You can also identify days that require more or less people on the schedule.
    • Streamline communication with employees: The best workforce scheduling software is the kind that allows you to digitally share the schedule with your employees as soon as it’s ready. This minimizes the amount of time spent communicating with employees and prevents miscommunications regarding scheduling.
    • Create autonomy for employees: Providing employees the autonomy to swap shifts and communicate any scheduling issues with each other minimizes the amount of work that you have to do managing conflicts. Providing autonomy allows employees to manage their own schedule. Plus, you’ll be able to minimize the amount of work that you have to do to schedule the right employees.
    • Connect schedules with payroll: When scheduling and payroll are in two separate places, clerical errors are bound to happen. Instead, there’s a better way. Consider software that lets you sync your payroll with your workforce scheduling software. Then, there’s no doubt about how many hours an employee works and how much they should get paid. Both parties can hold each other accountable when information is in the same place. 

Homebase: an easy and affordable solution for workforce scheduling 

Looking for software to help with workforce scheduling? Homebase can help streamline the scheduling process for managers, while employees can quickly see their schedules for the day. Minimizing the amount of time you spend balancing workforce schedules means more valuable time working on the parts of your business you love the most. 

Schedule your team faster using Homebase. Get started for free today.

Workforce scheduling FAQs

What is workforce management scheduling?

Workforce management scheduling is the process of scheduling out how many people you need to complete a specific amount of work. This type of scheduling is common in industries that employ hourly workers, or project-based work such as construction.

What is the role of a workforce scheduler?

The role of a workforce organizer is to schedule the right people to work to cover the amount of work the team needs completed. This also includes ensuring that the labor budget is taken into consideration, as well as any employee requests or holidays.

How do you optimize workforce scheduling?

The best way to optimize workforce scheduling is by adding a workforce scheduling software into your workflow. This helps workforce schedulers create schedule templates, streamlines team communication, and helps document schedules to use as a reference in the future.

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