Although employee work schedules sometimes appear simple to create, building a “good” labor schedule is extremely difficult using traditional methods such as Microsoft Excel or pen-and-paper.
Managers must build the schedule so that qualified employees are available to meet the forecasted demand for service or goods.
Below, let’s take a look at the steps traditionally used to create a staff schedule. We’ll go over a common example, then discuss how labor scheduling tools can:
- streamline the scheduling process,
- increase operational efficiency, AND
- make managers and employees happy.
Traditional labor schedules: the how and why
The employee schedule informs employees when to arrive at work, and in some cases, when to leave.
In other cases, employees are “cut” from the schedule based on demand (or volume) at the business.
In almost every case, the labor schedule is created by management staff in the back-office or at home after hours, a point of discontent for most managers who must work longer hours and weekend hours to build schedules.
A good schedule accurately reflects projected sales for the upcoming week or month, providing adequate work hours for employees, which further complicates things for the manager.
Steps to create a traditional labor schedule
The steps to create a labor schedule read like a long list of tasks, occupying several hours of management time every week:
- First review the manager’s log book and estimate or forecast upcoming sales and the demand for labor.
- Next, check the employee request log and availability sheets as well as individual work preferences while remembering which employees are minors or restricted in working.
- Look-up required employee certifications; for example, an ABC license is required to serve alcohol at a restaurant or necessary certifications to dispense medications.
- Identify trustworthy and experienced personnel to open or close the business.
- Try to fairly distribute shifts while meeting employee minimum hour works, but do not exceed a maximum number of hours.
- Make sure that employees are not likely to receive overtime if someone fails to show up on the schedule.
- Identify convenient times to provide break and meal periods for staff members who are required to receive breaks.
- Calculate the likely cost of payroll, being mindful of budgetary constraints; if the cost is too high, start over.
Juggling all of these factors to create a good schedule for the workforce is a complicated task that can consume more than ten-percent of a manager’s time throughout the week.
Traditional labor schedules are often posted late in the week
In many cases, especially in owner-operator businesses, the schedule is posted late in the week for the upcoming week.
Posting the schedule late causes problems with employees and creates higher turnover and reduces tenure at the business, reducing overall profits!
Employees not only want more time to plan out their upcoming week (which helps them maintain work-life balance), but in many cities and states, anywhere from 7-21 days’ notice is required by law.
The final version of the labor schedule, which the manager has likely spent hours creating, may be bulk-emailed out to the employees (if the manager used a tool such as Microsoft Excel or a schedule template to build the schedule), or more commonly, printed and posted on a wall in the back of the business (inside the management office, store room, or kitchen).
Example of a traditional labor schedule
Let’s look at an example:
At a nightclub, management juggles the work preferences and needs of more than 90 individuals including bartenders, servers (waiters and waitresses), cooks, dancers, security, disc jockeys, paid performers and management staff.
After the business closes on Thursday night, the manager spends 3 hours building the schedule and trying to meet every employee’s needs, as well as the business’s needs.
There is always some give-and-take when building a schedule, and after finishing the schedule, it is posted on a wall in the management office so that employees know when to work.
A second copy of the schedule is saved in a folder for later comparison with the employee clock-in and clock-out times to identify schedule irregularities or areas of improvement.
What are theoretical labor schedules?
A theoretical labor schedule is a plan that can be used to determine the number of workers needed for a particular shift, activity, or role.
Returning to our example, the posted nightclub schedule is what’s known as the theoretical labor schedule, and it comes with theoretical labor costs.
Together, these outline the labor needed to operate the business and meet expected customer demand.
The posted work schedule will change throughout the week as employees fail to show up, swap shifts with other staff members, arrive early or late, or business requirements change and employees are cut or added to the schedule.
The posted schedule should be saved and archived (as it was created by management) for later comparison to worked hours, and for issues arriving from Labor & Industries audits, availability conflicts, labor disputes, or even lawsuits.
Example costs associated with theoretical vs. posted labor schedule
Let’s return to our nightclub example.
If the manager of the nightclub receives $60,000 per year in salary, the schedule process at this nightclub costs more than $90 per week, $360 per month, and $4,320 per year, just to make an employee schedule!
With a tool such as TimeForge, building a schedule could cost less than $8 per week, $32 per month, and $382 per year.
Using TimeForge creates an extra $3,936 in profit, every year! And that’s just in manager time alone.
How labor scheduling tools reduce costs and increase happiness
Reducing the amount of time managers spend building a schedule has numerous benefits that can help increase profits through improved customer service and, ultimately, a better customer experience.
By using automated scheduling software, managers have more time to focus on other tasks, such as training staff and providing excellent customer service. This extra time spent on customer service can lead to increased sales and customer loyalty, which in turn can contribute to higher profits.
Furthermore, reducing the amount of time spent manually building schedules frees up valuable hours on Friday nights for managers to rest or pursue their own interests, resulting in happier and more engaged managers.
Finally, when a manager’s workload is reduced due to improved efficiency from automated scheduling software it leads to decreased management turnover as they have more time for professional development and growth within the company.
Is your scheduling complex? Are you making the best possible schedule? How many thousands of dollars do you spend making schedules every year?
Did you know that TimeForge can reduce turnover, increase retention and increase profits through employee scheduling at your business? Sign up today for a free trial!