Employee Scheduling Techniques: Comprehensive Guide for Business Owners

employee scheduling techniques

The scheduling process is the most demanding, thankless, and absolutely vital process that business owners and managers tackle on a regular basis. Once you get through one week of managing your staffing, you have to start all over and handle it again the next week.

There’s no getting around the process, but it’s so demanding that some business owners go into autopilot mode when it comes to staff scheduling, which can cause productivity and attendance issues when you fail to notice how your team members are reacting to your scheduling.

Shift scheduling isn’t something you can handle automatically. It’s a critical component of workforce management, and one that you have to change and adapt depending on your employees’ needs. At least, that’s how it is if you want to optimize your productivity, make the most of employee availability, and have a positive impact on your bottom line.

In this post, we’re going to share some of our most effective employee scheduling tips and techniques for business owners that want to master all things related to work schedules. With these tips, handling employee shifts should be much easier to manage as you move forward with your business.

Employee Scheduling Techniques

  1. Identify Your Business Needs
  2. Get to Know Your Workers
  3. Improve Communication
  4. Establish Clear Rules and Regulations
  5. Finalize Your Schedules Early
  6. Be Flexible with Your Scheduling
  7. Keep Track of Data
  8. Make Use of Employee Scheduling Software

1. Identify Your Business Needs

Improving your scheduling begins with a conscious effort to understand what it takes to run your business on a daily level. Take a day, or a week, to simply observe what happens over the course of a set time period.

  • How much work gets done? And by which employees?
  • How productive are they at the start of the week compared to the end?
  • Do some staff members work better together than others?

The point of this is to identify what exactly it is you’re going to be addressing when you start implementing new methods of efficient employee scheduling. Otherwise, it’s impossible to tell if you’re making productive changes, making negative changes, or making changes that are simply different, but not actually impactful.

Here are some employee scheduling concepts to consider:

  • Seasons. What season is it, and how does that impact your schedule? Does your business see more traffic at a certain time of the year, or a certain day of the week?
  • Budgeting. Have you stabilized your business’s spending, or are you currently experimenting in other fields (such as marketing/ads, which might change the demands of your business on a day-to-day basis).
  • Events. Are you currently planning on hosting some sort of event? A special circumstance, a special sale, etc. How will that impact your business?

Get to know your workers for scheduling

2. Get to Know Your Workers

When one of your team members puts in a request for a schedule change, do you ever investigate further to know if it’s for a simple reason (wanting to see a movie, needing to focus on something) or for something more severe (feeling burnout or dealing with health issues in the family, etc.)

You don’t have to wait for a problem to arise either. Even if things seem to be running smoothly, it doesn’t hurt to reach out to employees (maybe even through email or text message if you don’t want to worry them) to ask them about how they’re feeling at work. What can you do to better accommodate them?

Some employers might feel inclined to keep their distance from employees, and some employees might prefer that style of management in turn. But getting to understand your employees doesn’t have to be invasive, nor does it need to be deeply personal. You can keep it to a brief understanding of how they feel about the job, their tasks, and their coworkers. Small businesses have an advantage here, but even large business owners can at least make employees feel heard.

The better you understand the staff dynamics, the more effective you can be when it comes to scheduling workers.

3. Improve Communication

How open are you to employee requests? How aware are your employees of this? If they want to take on extra hours or they have an issue with the timesheet, do they feel like they can approach you safely and confidently?

If not, you might see last-minute call outs, or, in worst case scenarios, no-shows.

Make sure that your staff members truly understand that they can speak out if they have an issue in the workplace. Can’t handle those extra shifts you needed done? If they never tell you, you won’t be able to assign them to someone better suited on your team. Effective team communication is vital for long-term success.

4. Establish Clear Rules and Regulations

This employee scheduling strategy is one you’re going to want to have outlined in your company policy if it’s not already. Make sure employees understand what the rules are when it comes to how they’re supposed to conduct themselves at the company. This includes behavior, work ethic, and attendance.

The last thing you need is an otherwise stellar employee to drop the ball during one of your busiest periods because they thought they were allowed to cancel a shift last-minute. Your staffing needs to be clear and concise at every turn.

5. Finalize Your Schedules Early

This tip for team scheduling is fairly simple and one we’ve highlighted as a fix for common scheduling issues – the quicker you publish a schedule you’ve set, the sooner your employees will be able to protest if they can’t work a certain day or at certain times.

However, this technique is most effective if you’ve implemented technique #3 as well. If your employees aren’t comfortable communicating when they can’t work with your schedule (or can work with it but would be forcing themselves) then productivity and profitability is going to plummet.

In some cases, this is mandatory. Predictive scheduling laws require some employers in select states to publish their working schedules with enough notice that employees can schedule their lives around.

Flexible with schedules

6. Be Flexible with Your Scheduling

You will never be able to predict everything that’s going to happen on any given day when you’re scheduling. You need to prepare as much as you can with the information you have beforehand, but other than that scheduling is going to be a matter of adjusting as things come up.

Employees will call out, your business will surge, and sickness might spread (even despite health precautions you set up). As long as you keep calm, you’ll be more than capable of responding to these random events. Better still, you’ll get more adept at handling them as time goes on.

Keep an open mind when obstacles get in the way, don’t automatically reject influences and considerations in employee scheduling, and be willing to work with your staff members to overcome them. Flexibility has its pros and cons, but it ultimately benefits your business when you show a willingness to compromise.

7. Keep Track of Data

There’s only so much information that anyone can manage. If you’re following the rest of these techniques, you’re going to start monitoring your clients/customers, employees, marketing, and more. You need an effective way to preserve all this data so you can use it to make informed decisions.

For some business owners, this means turning to manual methods like physical spreadsheets, Excel docs, or filling in templates. Digital timekeeping is a far better way of managing this, however, and many time clock apps even come with scheduling features that make it easier overall. Which is why our final technique to improve your employee scheduling is:

8. Make Use of Employee Scheduling Software

Now that we’ve fully outlined techniques to improve scheduling, we figured we would touch on the advice that would make the most radical shift in how you approach staffing.

By making use of software, you get many automatic benefits that address your scheduling needs: Being able to use data to inform future staffing, getting a clear overview of your shifts so you can identify open shifts or scheduling conflicts, and even having access to some features like shift swapping or schedule forecasting (depending on the software you use).

That said, finding a scheduling app that’s right for your business can be a process in and of itself.

Buddy Punch as a Scheduling Tool

When we designed Buddy Punch, we wanted to create an end-to-end solution for all things employee scheduling. Drawing on our experiences working with businesses, plus asking those businesses directly what they’d want from an employee scheduling tool, we determined that three core aspects would be critical to Buddy Punch’s success:

  • Employee Accountability. In our opinion, there was little point in adding features to Buddy Punch if they didn’t have a tangible impact on how well managers could monitor their full-time or part-time employees. We wanted to offer features that encouraged greater self-awareness among team members when it came to how they spent their time on the clock.
  • Design Simplicity. We could add one hundred different features to Buddy Punch to address every business need under the sun, but then we’d be left with a convoluted mess that most managers and employees wouldn’t be able to make sense of. We made a conscious decision to keep our software as simple as possible for anyone to pick up and use, which also helped make it viable as a mobile app as well as a desktop app.
  • Operations Streamlining. We wanted to do our best to create automatic features that would take over time-consuming processes such as moving employee shifts around, and we also wanted to streamline sorting through data or transferring it over to payroll processing apps.

And, with features like Job Locations, Drag & Drop Scheduling, Notifications, Shift Trades & Shift Covers, Automatic Punch Outs, Payroll Integrations, and more, we think we managed to achieve our goals. Click here to learn more about Buddy Punch’s scheduling features.

What Reviewers Say About Buddy Punch

As of this post’s writing date, Buddy Punch has 4.8 out of 5 stars and 814 reviews on Capterra.

Here’s what two reviewers had to say about Buddy Punch’s scheduling options and effectiveness.

“The interaction with the the different sections is seamless once a person learns all the processes that relate to time in and time off. Having the availability of the calendar option makes keeping up with personal time very simple. The features that allow changes to time and scheduling are made simple and are quick and easy to perform.”

Henry M., Operations Manager

“The BuddyPunch software made tracking everyone’s hours so much easier. Definitely a huge step up from manually filling time sheets! Schedules are easy to pull up too.”

Mary B., Printing Associate

Click here to read what other reviewers had to say about Buddy Punch as a method of employee scheduling.

You Can Try Buddy Punch for Free   

When we say that Buddy Punch might be the best employee scheduling tool you can implement into your business, we understand why you might be skeptical. That’s why we encourage you to take advantage of the 14-day free trial we offer on all pricing plans (sign up here).

Alternatively, you can view a pre-recorded demo video of our software, or book a one-on-one demo to get a runthrough from our responsive customer support team. Additionally, that same support team is always available via live chat to answer any questions you may have about the software.

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