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How to Schedule Staff in a Retail or Service Sector Business?


Retail and service sector businesses must have a predictable and reliable employee schedule to meet operational needs. Finding the perfect balance between having enough staff members to provide top-tier customer service without exceeding your budget is challenging. However, with sound planning and careful consideration of business needs, it is possible to create an optimal staff schedule for your business. This blog discusses the 10 step process to scheduling staff in the retail or service sector business environment.

What is a staff schedule?

A staff schedule is a management tool used to plan and organize when employees are designated to work and for how long. The staff schedule assigns shift dates and times so that employees know when they are slated to work.

What is the purpose of the scheduling process?

The staff scheduling process has three functions. Firstly, it ensures that employees are present during business hours to facilitate the business’s operational needs. Secondly, the staff schedule helps management plan and control labor costs. Lastly, the schedule assists managers in optimizing the number of employees available to service customers during a given shift. The aim of staff scheduling is to make sure each customer receives high-quality customer service.

Staff Scheduling is a Time Consuming & Difficult Process!

The scheduling process is a critical business activity that is cumbersome and time consuming. There are many variables, employee preferences and business complexities that make scheduling a challenge. Moreover, it is a process that needs to be done accurately, fairly, within budget and in compliance with the law.

Studies show that managers spend over three hours per week creating staff schedules, which works out to 20% of a manager’s time at work. TimeWellScheduled can help you get that time back and save your business money in the long run!

“TimeWellScheduled took the tedious process of scheduling and made it fast and easy. It put schedules online in a secure website, and allowed staff to receive email reminders of when they worked. It is a great tool that I would recommend for any business looking to improve their scheduling and get some of their time back.” – Capterra Customer Reviews

The Scheduling Process – 10 Steps

Step #1: Know Your Business scheduling needs

Before scheduling can begin, the scheduler (usually a manager) requires knowledge of business traffic patterns. For example, it is essential to know which days of the week are busy and the times, and which days are slow. This information is critical to ensure that the right number of employees are available on the right day and at the right time.

Step #2: Know Your Staff Availability

Staff availability is the dates and times an employee is available to work for their employer. These are specific dates and times set aside by employees for work purposes. Unavailability is the dates and times an employee prefers not to work or is unable.

Keeping track of availability is a thing of the past with TimeWellScheduled!

Step #3 Determine Staff/Shift Level Requirements

Determining the number of employees needed per shift is essential to ensure that customers receive adequate service while remaining within the planned labor budget. A good ration to follow is one sales associate for every 3-5 customers. Remember, scheduling too many staff members will lead to employees being left with little or nothing to do. Conversely, scheduling too few staff will leave some customers receiving a poor customer experience.

  • 89% of consumers are more likely to make another purchase after a positive customer service experience. (Salesforce Research)

  • 93% of customers are likely to make repeat purchases with companies who offer excellent customer service. (HubSpot Research)

Step #4: Create a list of employees who want extra shifts.

A general list of employee availability can help businesses control and manage shift coverage in real-time. This is important information for managers to have in hand. For example, if an employee is absent (today) or there is a sudden fluctuation in business, managers will want a list of available employees to call in or, in some cases, know who should send home. This information is impossible to know without a list of employee names and scheduling information to refer to.

Step#5: Comply with local labor laws, scheduling laws, rules, and regulations

Managers must be well-versed in local, state, and national labor law. Labor laws are designed to empower and protect workers. These laws, rules, and regulations ensure employees are treated fairly, with dignity and respect. Further, labor laws are designed to hold employers and employees accountable for their actions. Failure to comply could lead to fines, a damaged business reputation and reduced employee trust and satisfaction.

Note: particular state, federal and local laws have placed restrictions on the number of hours staff can work each week and how much time off employers must provide employees between shifts. Every jurisdiction has its own rules. However, eight hours or more is the recommended time off between shifts. 

Predictive Scheduling and Shift Stability Legislation

Predictive scheduling legislation has changed the way businesses schedule employees. These laws aim to give shift workers more predictability and stability, providing them with a chance to plan their lives. To illustrate, if they know their work hours in advance, they will be able to prepare for a second job, child care, or other responsibilities.

There are jurisdictions in the USA that have Shift Stability Legislation. These laws have specific regulations with which businesses must comply, and they also have many other details employers must be familiar with. However, looking at this from a more fundamental point of view, here is how much notice employers whom the laws apply must give employees in each jurisdiction (Workforce)

Step#6: Publish your schedule 2-3 weeks in advance

Posting Staff Schedules 2-3 weeks in advance provides enough time for employees to integrate work life into their private lives. For instance, employees need time to plan their work schedules around personal responsibilities, including family, doctor visits, or other personal business. In addition, the 2-3 week buffer allows managers to deal with the inevitable shift change requests.

Step#7: Communicate the scheduling rationale to employees

Once the schedule has been posted, it must be communicated to staff. Effective communication with employees ensures they know their work dates, times, and labor hours. The benefits of open communication include the following:

  • Keeps employees informed on scheduling updates
  • Eliminates scheduling confusion and misunderstandings
  • Enhances employees engagement and satisfaction
  • Motivates employees to perform to their potential
  • Builds trust and respect between managers and employees

Employees are critical to the success of an organization. So it is management’s responsibility to make sure staff understand that their efforts are connected to the business’s success. What’s more, employees need to know that management is doing their best to schedule the team as fairly as possible.

TimeWellScheduled makes communicating new schedules and scheduling changes simple!

Step#8: Allow Employees to request changes

There are several benefits to having a flexible shift-swapping policy in place. For instance, employees appreciate being able to switch shifts if something unpredictable happens in their personal lives. As a result, the demonstration of flexibility increases employee satisfaction and loyalty. More importantly, the policy allows clarity to occur regarding payroll or administrative duties.

Step#9: Have a system in place to deal with unexpected absences

Unexpected employee absences from work without notice disrupt the workflow and leave their coworkers to make up for the labor shortage. If these absences occur over the long term, customer experience may suffer, eventually leading to a loss of sales and profits. So it is critical to have a list of employees who are willing to work on an “on-call” basis.

Step#10: Review your employee schedule after each change and post

Regularly reviewing scheduling policies and procedures allows the organization to learn from past experiences, implement changes, increase efficiency and improve performance. Additionally, reviewing business practices provides opportunities to implement new technologies such as TimeWellscheduled’s Time and Attendance Software. Keeping up-to-date with technology can save your business time and money!

“(TimeWellscheduled’s) Very easy to use and well worth the low cost for the time it saves me. I can get in quickly, do what I need to do quickly, and get off so that I have lots of time to attend to my clients.” – Colin R. Manager, Information Services

In conclusion, the importance of staff scheduling in the retail and service sector cannot be overstated. Knowing your daily operational requirements and utilizing technology can optimize the scheduling process. Moreover, monitoring your staff’s performance, satisfaction level, and labor cost are crucial to ensure that staffing remains as efficient and cost-effective as possible. This way, you can keep customer service levels high while still operating a successful business. Though creating an optimal staffing plan can be challenging, with careful planning, it is entirely achievable -and ultimately essential- to all companies within the retail and service sector.

About TimeWellScheduled

Thank you for reading our article!

TimeWellScheduled is a secure online time and attendance software that is 100% tailored to meet your scheduling needs! In addition, TimeWellScheduled facilitates employee attendance tracking & payroll tasks and enhances staff management capabilities. Plus, our service is free for up to 10 employees!

Click: here to download our (Excel) employee scheduling template; IT’S FREE!

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