Employee Schedule | 5 mins read

Common Employee Scheduling Mistakes That Hurt Your Business

common employee scheduling mistakes that hurt your business
Michelle Jaco

By Michelle Jaco

With employee scheduling playing a crucial role in a company’s success, it’s important to first understand the common scheduling mistakes many businesses fall victim to.

Scheduling employee shifts is a core responsibility for most businesses. However, if you’re not careful, it can also be one of the most challenging. Many organizations fail to realize their full potential due to common scheduling mistakes.

Luckily, these mistakes are avoidable. You simply need to know what they are. Specifically, make sure you don’t submit to these key errors.

Failing to Stay Organized

Organizational skills - adequate, at the very least - is a must during the scheduling process. It’s easy to understand why forgetting to schedule a shift is a mistake you need to avoid. If you forget a shift, you’ll need to scramble at the last minute to find an available employee. This prevents you from addressing other important business tasks.

It can also complicate your schedule in the future. For example, perhaps you normally would have scheduled Employee A to work a shift, but you forgot to. By the time you realize this, Employee A might not be available. Even if Employee B is able to cover for them, you’ll need to adjust their schedules accordingly, otherwise, Employee A will be upset that they missed out on income because you made a scheduling mistake.

Trying to cover all bases last minute is hugely detrimental. Consider your employees’ needs when making schedules. They have personal lives outside of work. Planning their personal lives is easier when they know about their shifts two or more weeks in advance. Additionally, some laws require you to schedule certain types of shifts ahead of time.

With that being said, avoid spending a significant amount of time dedicated to schedule creation. Instead, utilize modern-day tools to aid in simplifying the process.

Artificial Intelligence allows users to automate employee scheduling, as well as template favorable schedules to be used for future reference.

Playing Favorites

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Not all employees are interchangeable. Skill levels and qualifications will vary. Remember this when scheduling shifts.

Perhaps you manage a restaurant with a popular bar. You’ll upset your customers if none of the employees handling a shift know how to bartend. When deciding whom to schedule for any given shift, assess what types of tasks people will be responsible for. Taking this basic step helps you avoid a significant problem.

Depending on the nature of your business, some shifts may be more desirable than others. For instance, perhaps you own a restaurant where employees don’t pool their tips. Or, maybe you manage a retail store, and some shifts are far more overwhelmingly busy than others.

Keep this in mind when making schedules. You don’t want to disrespect some of your workers by always giving the most desirable shifts to the same employees.

That said, sometimes an employee whose performance is relatively poor hasn’t earned better shifts. Maybe they aren’t qualified to handle them. You could make the wrong impression on customers if you schedule an incompetent employee during the busiest time of day.

Discuss this during reviews if an employee genuinely isn’t qualified to cover the most desirable shifts yet. They’ll have more respect for you if you work with them to make the necessary improvements.

Neglecting to Communicate

Identify a form of communication that most of your employees are comfortable with. Standardizing your communication processes will make scheduling much easier.

That said, you need to remember that different types of workers are comfortable with different types of communication tools. Young millennials may feel comfortable coordinating with a messaging app such as Slack, while less tech-savvy employees might prefer email. Don’t choose a method until you’re sure everyone understands it.

When it comes to employees’ needs, communication cannot be stressed enough.

Employees should feel comfortable expressing their needs. Ensure the process for requesting time off is transparent and simple. If employees ask for certain shifts, consider acting on their wishes if the request is reasonable. A strong employee who has children to care for may need shifts that allow them to address both their professional and personal needs. As long as you won’t upset other employees by appearing to play favorites, consider this during the scheduling process.

This extends to setting clear expectations. Employees don’t merely need to know when they are supposed to report to work. They also need to know which tasks you expect them to focus on when they arrive. Sometimes, this isn’t as clear as you might think.

Maybe you own a bookstore. During some slow shifts, employees might be responsible for restocking the shelves. During others, you might expect them to remove old seasonal displays and replace them with new ones.

Your employees can’t read your mind. If there are multiple tasks they could potentially focus on during a given shift, make sure they understand which are most important.

Complicating Simple Processes

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Labor will typically account for 70% of overall expenses, which is why it’s necessary to keep the budget in mind - always - when scheduling. That requires accounting for all relevant factors, including overtime rates and additional forms of compensation. For example, if your employees sometimes work in the field, you may need to compensate them for travel expenses.

Another simple procedure that commonly tends to become mismanaged is employee shift swapping.

Scheduling properly becomes much simpler when you use the right tools. For instance, you may want to use a tool that allows employees to swap shifts easily. You can supervise the process to a degree, but you don’t need to get involved directly.

There will be times when employees need to miss work. They’ll have to ask others to cover for them when this happens. If you have a standardized process everyone is familiar with, you won’t have to worry about these situations leading to chaos.

Lastly, there's the coveted tool that many business owners and managers alike have grown accustomed to, the good ol' spreadsheet.

As important as using the right tools is, you also need to avoid using the wrong ones. Relying on outdated scheduling resources will boost your odds of making a mistake.

Specifically, don’t use spreadsheet programs like Excel when creating schedules. Yes, when your business is small, spreadsheets may seem to meet your needs, but as your business grows, they can become unwieldy.

In many cases, editing spreadsheets via mobile devices is difficult (if not impossible). Because spreadsheet programs aren’t designed for your specific needs, they also don’t offer any special scheduling features. In the long-run, upgrading to robust scheduling systems will pay dividends.