Although employee work schedules sometimes appear simple to create, building a “good” labor schedule is extremely difficult using traditional methods such as Microsoft Excel or pen-and-paper. Managers must build a schedule so that qualified employees are available to meet the forecasted demand for service or goods. And a good schedule accurately reflects projected sales for the upcoming week or month, providing adequate work hours for employees.
Labor Schedules Take Time to Create
The employee schedule informs employees when to arrive at work, and in some cases, when to leave. In other cases, employees are “cut” from the schedule based on demand (or volume) at the business. In almost every case, the labor schedule is created by management staff in the back-office or at home after hours , a point of discontent for most managers who must work longer hours and weekend hours to build schedules.
The steps to create a labor schedule reads like a long list of tasks, occupying several hours of management time every week:
- First review the manager’s log book and estimate or forecast upcoming sales and the demand for labor.
- Next check the employee request log and availability sheets as well as individual work preferences while remembering which employees are minors or restricted in working.
- Look-up required employee certifications; for example, an ABC license is required to serve alcohol at a restaurant or necessary certifications to dispense medications.
- Identify trustworthy and experienced personnel to open or close the business.
- Try to fairly distribute shifts while meeting employee minimum hour works, but do not exceed a maximum number of hours.
- Make sure that employees are not likely to receive overtime if someone fails to show up on the schedule.
- Identify convenient times to provide break and meal periods for staff members who are required to receive breaks.
- Calculate the likely cost of payroll, being mindful of budgetary constraints , if the cost is too high, start over.
Juggling all of these factors to create a good schedule for the workforce is a complicated task that can consume more than ten-percent of a manager’s time throughout the week. In many cases, especially in owner-operator businesses, this schedule is posted late in the week for the upcoming week. Posting the schedule late causes problems with employees and creates higher turnover and reduces tenure at the business, reducing overall profits!
The final version of the labor schedule, which the manager has likely spent hours creating, may be bulk-emailed out to the employees (if the manager used a tool such as Microsoft Excel and a schedule template to build the schedule), or more commonly, printed and posted on a wall in the back of the business (inside the management office, store room, or kitchen).
Theoretical Labor Schedules are Important for Staff
This posted work schedule is the “theoretical labor schedule” – it is the necessary labor needed to operate the business and meet expected customer demand. The posted work schedule will change throughout the week as employees fail to show up, swap shifts with other staff members, arrive early or late, or business requirements change and employees are cut or added to the schedule. The posted schedule should be saved and archived (as it was created by management) for later comparison to worked hours, and for issues arriving from Labor & Industries audits, availability conflicts, labor disputes, or even lawsuits.
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