woman reviewing a calendar on her phone

How to Schedule Your Employees

Scheduling your employees is difficult because you’re trying to balance the needs of your store with the needs of your employees. You might have to schedule around school schedules, families, or even other jobs.

Before You Start

Before you create your schedule, make sure you know your business, your employees, and have everything you need to get started at your fingertips.

Know Your Business

Know your busiest hours, days and seasons, and your slowest.

During your busiest times, schedule more employees to prevent burn out. If you don’t schedule enough employees, you could also end up with frustrated customers.

During your slowest times, schedule fewer employees to prevent boredom. If you schedule too many employees, you’ll lose money because you’ll have employees just standing around.

Make sure you know what types of employees are needed during each shift, so you don’t schedule too many cashiers and not enough people to help customers on the floor.

Know Your Employees

Know Their Schedules

As much as possible, give your employees the shifts that work best for them.

If one of your employees likes to leave in the afternoon to pick their child up from school, have them work an earlier shift. If another employee can’t start until the afternoon because they have class, give them evening shifts.

By scheduling your employees for the times that work best for them, you’ll have happier employees who are less likely to quit. Of course, you can’t always give your employees the schedule they want, but you can try to as much as possible.

Know Their Strengths and Weakness

Know your employees’ strengths and weaknesses.

If one of your employees is excellent at helping customers on the floor, but slower on the cash register, schedule them to work the floor during busier times. Because your employees are doing a job they excel at, they’ll perform better, and your customers will be happier.

When it’s slower, schedule that employee to work the register. By having that employee work on an aspect of the job they don’t excel at, they’ll learn and become better at the register. This will help prevent them from being bored during slow periods.

What to Have Nearby

Before you sit down to create your weekly schedule, gather a monthly calendar, past schedules, and notes from your employees.

You can use past schedules to see what schedules have worked in the past.

Notes from employees will include any times they can’t work, requested time off, and requested shifts. If you have those before you start to create the schedule, it will be easier to accommodate as those requests.

Have a Scheduling Process

Have a process in place to create and distribute each week’s schedule. This way each employee knows when the schedule will be available and when they have to have any requests submitted to you. Try to distribute the schedule as far in advance as possible, so your employees have time to plan their personal lives around the schedule.

During the scheduling process, start by scheduling the busiest hours first, then go back and schedule the slower times. That way you know you have enough people working the busiest shifts.

Let employees know how best to address a shift change if an emergency comes up. Can they find their own replacement, then notify you? Or, should they notify you, then find a replacement with your help?

Beware of Scheduling Abuse

Scheduling abuse can either come from your employees or you, but if you know the signs, you can take steps to prevent it.

Employee Scheduling Abuse

Most of your employees will only ask for schedule changes for emergencies, but some employees will try to abuse the system. They’ll try to manipulate you and their coworkers to get a better shift, or they’ll look for excuses to get out of working entirely.

Watch out for employees who

  • always ask for Friday and Monday changes;
  • ask to leave early throughout the week;
  • switch shifts with coworkers to work shifts with higher tip rates;
  • avoid labor-intensive shifts, like stocking or inventory;
  • ask for a last-minute change without a legitimate reason; or
  • always have the same emergency prevent them from working shifts they’re scheduled for.

If you notice an employee is abusing the system, sit down with them in private and discuss the issue. From that conversation, you can decide whether the employee is still a good fit for your company.

Employer Scheduling Abuse

You might also be guilty of scheduling abuse. You’re trying to balance having enough employees working a shift, while not paying for more than you need.

There are several different types of employer scheduling abuse you should watch out for:

  • On-call scheduling: If you repeatedly tell employees to leave shifts open, and you’ll call them if you need them, you could be guilty of scheduling abuse. Using on-call scheduling prevents your employees from scheduling a shift at a second job, without guaranteeing them any income.
  • Canceling a Shift at the Last Minute: Like on-call scheduling, if you regularly cancel employees’ shifts at the last minute, you’re preventing them from taking a shift at a second job, but they aren’t being paid for their shift.
  • Last Minute Scheduling: If you wait until the last minute to distribute the schedule, you make it impossible for your employees to make other plans, like finding more work or scheduling doctors’ appointments.
  • Extending Shifts Past Scheduled Time: If you force or expect your employees to stay past their scheduled shift, you’re being unfair. They’ve made plans based on their scheduled times, and demanding them to stay past can interrupt those plans. Instead of demanding, ask your employee if they’ll be able and willing to stay past their shift. If they say “no”, don’t penalize them.