Schedule Smarter: How to Staff Your Business to Save Costs and Minimize Stress

Employee scheduling can be a much simpler process with new digital tools.

Employee scheduling can be a manager’s nightmare, but it’s a task that’s essential for accomplishing workflows, meeting customer demands, and accommodating the needs and preferences of your employees. Whether you're thinking of adopting employee scheduling tools or integrating scheduling best practices, we'll help you gain the confidence you need to take on this arduous task.

Here are eight steps that can help:


Step 1: Define the workload. 

Create a three-column chart that will help you organize the tasks that should be accomplished in the month (or week) ahead. In the first column, list the tasks and subtasks that will need to be completed. In the second column, list the skills that are required to accomplish each task. In the third column, list your employees who have the knowledge and training to execute each item effectively.

Your chart may look like this:


Run morning report

Microsoft Excel

Greg, Shelley, Erin, Clark

Manage daily logistics

Logistic Pro, Scheduler Plus

Greg, Dee, Charlie

Step 2: Study your legal obligations.

Before establishing any schedule, you should understand your responsibilities to your employees. Take time to learn federal and state regulations on breaks, hours on the clock, and start and stop times, especially if you employ any teenage workers.


Step 3: Map out the workweek. 

Make a master plan for your workdays. Depending on your organization, this plan may include:

  • The time of day your operations begin and end
  • The time of day each shift begins and ends
  • Mealtimes
  • Breaks
  • The hours in which phones, chat assistants, and customer service inboxes must be covered
  • The hours in which workers must be available to assist customers
  • The time that’s needed to prepare for daily operations
  • The time that’s required to clean up at the end of the day or end of a shift


The master plan you create can be used time and again to simplify your scheduling process.


Step 4: Pencil in the times your employees can’t be at work.

Make permanent notes on the days and times certain employees are unavailable. Then, looking ahead at the next month, jot down the requests you’ve received for time off.


Step 5: Determine when each essential task must be completed.

Now, look ahead to your work demands, project deadlines, events, and other elements that might define how and when you work. You may identify tasks that must be completed each morning, daily, weekly, monthly, and sporadically, and those that must be completed in time to accomplish an important business objective. Place those tasks on your schedule.


Step 6: Make a trial schedule.

Next, refer to the employee list you made in step 1. Be sure to assign qualified, skilled, experienced workers precisely when they’re needed, paying close attention to their time-off requests and their preferred work hours. Fill in the rest of your schedule to ensure that you have coverage for every task that must be completed without overscheduling your team.


Step 7: Calculate the labor costs.

With your schedule completed, tally the total labor costs you’ll spend to attain the coverage you need. Keep a log of your projected monthly labor costs so you can begin to spot cost spikes and recognize the need to implement some labor cost-saving strategies.


Read: Simple Strategies to Reduce Labor Costs


Step 8: Post and share the schedule.

Finally, share your schedule with your employees. You may experiment with schedule-sharing strategies. Some employers continue to share paper schedules, but many others prefer to send emails or use apps to streamline the process.


How can I improve my scheduling process?

The following tips can help you eliminate the hassles of scheduling and keep your employees happy:

  • Set policies to help your employees understand how to request time off, how requests will be approved, and how they might swap shifts with other employees (and whether those swaps need a manager’s approval).
  • Ensure applicants interviewing for roles understand the nature of your schedules and the requirements for nights, weekends, holidays, or alternate shifts (if applicable). You should also determine whether each applicant is comfortable working with some degree of variance before proceeding through the process.
  • Provide your schedules with as much advanced notice as possible.
  • Though it may be easier to create a rigid schedule, your employees will appreciate your flexibility and reasonable accommodation to fair requests.
  • Consider using off-the-shelf employee scheduling tools to simplify the scheduling process.


What kinds of employee scheduling tools are available?

There are many applications you should consider to automate scheduling, some of which could save you a significant amount of time each week in planning, approving requests, reworking the master calendar, and approving reassignments.

Our preferred employee scheduling tools include:

  • Quickbooks Time. Quickbooks Time offers a robust schedule feature that delivers employees’ schedules right to their phones. It also integrates with other Quickbook features, including mobile timesheets, time kiosks, and GPS location tracking. Base plans start around $20/month, with an additional charge of $8/month per user.
  • When I Work. When I Work offers an easy-to-use scheduling app online scheduling tool that simplifies time-off requests, shift swapping, and labor budgeting. Plans start around $2/per user.
  • ClockShark. Used mainly for construction and skilled labor teams, ClockShark offers feature-rich scheduling, GPS time tracking, and payroll systems integration. Basic plans start at $15/month plus $3/month per user.


What’s next?

Log into your owner’s portal for more articles and advice that will help you navigate employee, legal, financial, and risk concerns; find tools to automate your work; and plan strategies for next-level growth.


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