Creating employee schedules and handling scheduling issues is an important, yet often time-intensive responsibility for managers. However, it’s worthwhile to take the time to be thoughtful and thorough when managing employee time. Not only do schedules play a huge role in determining overall productivity, they are also a big factor in employee satisfaction at work (and thus employee turnover). An effective schedule and scheduling system can take additional time to set up at the outset, but for the busy manager it will pay off with huge time savings in the long run. Here we’ve put together six ways to create robust, effective, and time-saving schedules.
1. Review business goals
Before getting into the nitty-gritty of building a schedule, it’s important to review business goals and objectives. It’s easy for managers to get lost in the day-in-day-out grind of just getting employees to work, but if the tasks and times employees are scheduled do not serve large picture business goals effectively, then the whole activity is wasted.
Instead, take an approach to employee scheduling similar to how you would schedule your own time. Identify and schedule essential and high priority tasks first. Next, build in basic operational tasks. Finally schedule room for contingencies, emergencies, and flexibility. Spread these activities across your staff so that each employee can contribute to their fullest capacity, but no one gets burned out.
Staff meetings, shift meetings, and myriad other conferences are an inevitable part of maintaining communication and teamwork in any workplace. To employees, though, these kinds of events can often feel like disruptions to their work. To minimize actual and perceived disruption, block off a consistent time in each week’s schedule for these events to occur. Surprise or irregular meetings make work feel chaotic, and chaotic schedules are a big contributor to employee turnover. The expectation of consistency means employees are more likely to be prepared contributors, and less likely to forget to attend altogether.
3. …but keep the schedule flexible
Establishing routine shouldn’t mean that work time is set in stone, however. Recent studies have shown that employees with flexible schedules are more productive, work more, and are happier with their work. Flexible in this sense can mean allowing employees to work their hours at the time most convenient for them or simply that management is merciful about rearranging the schedule when personal emergencies and life events come up. Further, when an employee feels supported by the schedule, he or she is much more likely to return the flexibility when the company calls for it.
4. Communicate the schedule effectively
The most ingenious schedule is worthless if nobody can access or understand it. Posting a paper schedule on the wall or distributing an Excel spreadsheet in an email blast may feel sufficient after all the work of creating a good schedule, but it’s really only half the job. To be effective, employees need to engage with the schedule. One solution is to talk with employees and identify their preferred format and method for receiving and processing work time information. In an age where practically everyone has a smartphone, though, it’s likely simpler to just go digital. Switching to online employee scheduling software means both managers and employees have an up-to-date schedule on their computer or mobile device 24/7. Managers can also use digital employee time management features to send out instant notifications and reminders.
5. Make shift swapping straightforward and employee-centered
Shift swapping can be an endless employee scheduling nightmare for shift work managers, especially when the swap process puts the manager at the center. Much of the headache can be reduced with a policy that clearly outlines the process, paperwork, and communication chain for swapping a shift. Managers can further simplify the situation by putting most of the swapping busywork into employee hand. With easy access to a clear, user-friendly schedule (particularly a cloud-based, online employee schedule), employees can take responsibility for identifying a coworker to swap shifts with such that the swap does not disrupt the schedule or put anyone into overtime. With such a system in place, a manager’s only duty is to confirm that the proposal works and sign off on it.
6. Switch to digital scheduling
As mentioned previously, online scheduling and employee time tracking software can streamline many of the accessibility and transparency issues involved in older forms of schedule creation and communication. But modern time tracking systems don’t stop there. Apps like TrackTime24 feature drag-and-drop schedule creation tools, as well as attendance tracking logs, comprehensive report generators, and even online leave-request processing. As a manager, do you really have time to sit copy-pasting schedules every week? Going digital is a surefire way to streamline nearly every aspect of employee scheduling and work time management.