Harness the Power of Your Employee Schedule

Harness the Power of Your Employee Schedule

Recently, I was brought in to help out at a restaurant and on my first day I asked a server “will I see you tomorrow?” His frustrated response was “I don’t know, our schedule hasn’t been posted yet.” Sadly, this is all too common. A recent Workjam survey of service industry workers found that 56% of hourly workers get their schedule with one week or less notice, and 29% reported that they “rarely receive consistent schedules.”


I get it. Scheduling is tough. Scheduling is thankless. But there may be nothing a manager does that has as big an impact on the smooth operation of a business. Effective scheduling impacts the guest experience, our employees’ health and well-being, and the bottom line.

Common sense tells us that stable schedules are good for a couple of reasons:

  • Respect: Giving your team stable schedules with plenty of notice is a sign of respect. The simple act of acknowledging the value of their time is a powerful morale booster. 

  • Fulfillment: Whether it’s child care, hobbies and interests, or even a second job, outside activities make your team more interesting and fulfilled people. These are the kind of people you want on your team: they perform at a higher level.

  • Avoiding Conflicts: Giving the team plenty of notice on their schedule allows your staff members to make plans around child care, doctor’s appointments and find coverage if they have a conflict. This reduces call-outs and turnover. 

This common sense was proven in a recent study from Worklife Law at UC Hastings involving 28 Gap stores over a 10 month period. It demonstrates that moving to a more stable schedule improves the health and wellbeing of employees and significantly impacts the bottom line. In the study, participating stores saw sales increase by 7% and productivity by 5% over the 35-week trial. (There is significant overlap in retail and hospitality industries due to the dependence on hourly workers.)


What’s even more compelling is the impact on employee health and morale. Research has shown that uncertainty (many times only 2-3 hours notice) around an on-call shift undermines worker wellbeing and can negatively impact an employee’s income. 60% of respondents working in environments where schedules are unstable reported a number of work-related stress symptoms including stomachaches, headaches, and sleep disruption. Particularly hard-hit are parents, of whom 39% of mothers and 50% of fathers report cancelling an event or appointment due to a work schedule change in the previous 3 months. 


For low-wage workers a missed or cancelled shift can have a big impact on their finances, and, at the same time, these schedule gaps have been shown to negatively impact the operation’s bottom line.  A recent Kronos survey demonstrated that retailers “are understaffed 25% of the time due to last minute absences” resulting in lost sales and a negative guest experience.


In order to harness the power of your employee schedule, follow these guidelines from the pros. In the UC Hastings study they achieved impressive results with these simple guidelines:

  • Post Ahead: Post schedules two weeks in advance.

  • Give Certainty: Eliminate on-call shifts and make every effort to increase the individual’s “consistency of start and end times throughout the week”.

  • Make Change Easy: Add tech-enabled schedule “swapping”. Introduce apps that allow staff to swap shifts through their phones (with manager approval). This gives staff more control and saves managers the headache of trying to cover every shift request. Note: Make sure that there is some accommodation for those staff without access to a smartphone or computer.

  • Make it Consistent: Set up “Core Scheduling” to improve the consistency of associate’s shifts from week to week.

  • Part Time “Plus”: Establish a minimum hour goal so that part-time staff are scheduled for a minimum of 20 hours per week.


If you thought it was good common sense to give your team the stability of a thoughtful and consistent schedule, you‘re on the right track. It’s not about being nice, it’s about being smart. That stability pays off in a happier, more productive team - with less turnover and increased sales. That stability will give your guests a better experience and give your bottom line a boost.

Kate Edwards & Typsy | Hosting Course

Kate Edwards & Typsy | Hosting Course

Addition not Subtraction: Give Yourself Options for Making Change

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