Every day small business owners encounter a variety of situations that require individualized expertise – dealing with the day-to-day, planning and meeting long-term business goals, managing employees, staying on top of inventory, and so much more.
At times, the list may seem endless. That’s why successful time management is essential to navigating these tasks.
It’s also a key component of effectively managing staff. And small businesses that work to improve their time management habits may see improved productivity and efficiency.
According to Aldor H. Delp, Division Vice President & General Manager of ADPResource smart scheduling practices are one aspect of time management that can help rein in costs and meet company, customer, and employee needs.
Adds Delp, “aside from being a good business practice, efficient scheduling practices also may help improve tracking employee hours, which is especially important to make sure employees can meet deadlines and objectives without accumulating overtime.”
To help business owners get started, Delp offers four tips that may help manage employees’ schedules more effectively:
- Plan in advance. How much and what type of work needs to be done? What talent is already available? By keeping these questions in mind at the outset of a project or campaign, it can be easier to more accurately allocate hours around other tasks.
Try to schedule supervisors and experienced employees at the same time to ensure that operations run smoothly during each shift. The ability to delegate responsibility among those staffers will further enable managers to broaden the base of employees who can fulfill tasks. In planning, it may be useful to factor in possible adjustments, such as potential business growth. For instance, if sales are increasing by 10 percent, staffing projections should reflect this. Afterward, going back and evaluating whether those projections were accurate can ensure more precision in the next round of planning.
- Be flexible. Shift swaps and cross training can result in flexible staffing plans and help correct for overloaded parts of the business when blind spots arise. By allowing employees to swap shifts, it can be easier to maintain the desired staffing levels and give workers flexibility when work-life conflicts arise. Many businesses have peak times each day, week, or season, but special circumstances could also lead to an increase in business.
It may help to establish and communicate rules (e.g., written requests, notification timelines) to ensure a smooth process and consider cross-training employees to make it easier to find a back-up for unscheduled absences.
- Track time off. Track time-off requests closely and map out certain times of the year or days of the week where requests spike. Remember who has been approved for time off when scheduling employees. While these arrangements may not be practical for every job, consider offering employees flexible work schedules or telecommuting options to spread the work load.
It may help to post work schedules in advance; preferably at least two weeks. This practice will give employees as much notice as possible about their schedules. It also will give them more time to plan appointments and other commitments around their work schedules. Some local jurisdictions even require certain employers to provide employees with advance notice of their work schedule. If extra hours become available, or if changes arise in the schedule, post those as well.
Also, keep in mind that certain jurisdictions (including Seattleand San Francisco) have passed laws that establish rules for scheduling employees in particular industries.
- Keep an eye on overtime. Under federal law, employers must pay non-exempt employees overtime (1.5 times their regular rate of pay) whenever they work more than 40 hours in a workweek; some states, such as California, require overtime in additional circumstances. From an internal perspective, it may be necessary to consider the impact overtime work may have on morale and team dynamics. If overtime is available to employees, managers should spread that opportunity among all employees and track hours accordingly.
It’s vital to track who has been approved for time off to ensure they‘re not mistakenly scheduled, because an employee's paid time off can lead to overtime work for other employees. To plan ahead, managers can track time-off requests and look for certain times of the year or days of the week where requests increase.
Clearly, effective scheduling practices are good for business. It not only helps customer service, it can build loyalty among employees and contribute to the bottom line. Once refined, strong scheduling skills can help bring efficiency to the whole organization.