Scheduling has long been a daunting task of retail management. Optimising the scheduling process could help increase margins considering that labour is among retailers’ largest operating costs. Additionally, improved scheduling greatly contributes to better relationship between employers and employees. Morale and productivity will be higher, and customer satisfaction will be too. If you are a manager or business owner in the retail industry, you may want to consider the following best practices for retail scheduling.
Schedule at least 3 weeks in advance
It may seem counter-intuitive but this is how you deal with the problem of your staff constantly want to change their shifts. When the staff are given plenty of advance notice, it’s their responsibility to arrange their personal matters or switch shifts with someone else. It gives both employers and employees enough time to resolve almost any scheduling conflict.
It is equally important that you send your employees a copy of their schedules and request their confirmation. You should also keep all scheduling records – you may need to deal with complaints or legal challenges later.
Take into account employees’ skills and experience
You should ensure that each shift/store is manned by an optimised team with complementary skills. For instance, each shift should have at least one staff with adequate language skill if you expect some foreign customers. Or there should be at least one staff experienced in POS or retailing management system troubleshooting.
Maintain a skeleton crew
Always be prepared for the unexpected. Such incidents may be as simple as employees call in sick at the last minute or as serious as a major natural disaster - blizzard, typhoon, flood, etc. You should determine the lowest number of staff that is required to run your store, and maintain a list of employees who live nearby and are willing to replace absent ones at very short notice.
Take employees’ input into consideration
Happy employees make happy customers. When you recruit a new employee, find out their availability right away. You also need to know your staff’s preferred days and shifts. Some may prefer night or weekend shifts. Give them the opportunity to choose to work flex-shifts as opposed to dictating schedules. You probably cannot always accommodate your employees’ preferences, but at least you can show them that they have a say in that matter.
Standardise a core schedule with the ability to get flexible
In most cases, it is not absolutely necessary to keep one fixed schedule from one week to another. Mixing things up allows you to divide the unpopular shifts among employees. The ability to create flexible and adaptive schedules also helps you response quickly to any change. One way to accomplish this is to develop a standardised core schedule that guarantees a baseline number of hours, then add more hours to cover the actual demands. Another simple rule is to schedule your top performers first at peak times, and then fill in the rest.
Adopt automated scheduling applications
Managers used to spend countless hours struggling with timetables and rosters to come up with the right schedules. This task is much easier now thanks to many available automated scheduling software. When combined with employee and productivity management capabilities of a retail management solution, such software could save you a lot of time and effort.
Enforce a clear and detailed leave policy
Every employee should be well aware of what the policy is and how to request for leave. Specify the amount of notice that is required; set limits of the number of off days can be requested too.
There are plenty of factors to consider if you want to achieve a more effective scheduling process. Following those practices could substantially increase both employee and customer satisfaction.
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