Business owners say that running a business is not for the faint of heart. It takes a measure of guts, determination, and energy you never knew you had. But for business owners with shift employees, matching schedules to business needs, maintaining fairness and equal treatment and just trying to keep everyone happy can often feel like a full-time job in and of itself.
Why Restaurant Employee Scheduling is So Challenging
At the top of the list of businesses that present employee scheduling challenges: restaurants. (Hospitals and all kinds of retail businesses are also up there). One Word Nation tackles some of the most common issues around restaurant employee scheduling, which include:
- Rotating the various available shifts among employees. Obviously, some shifts are more attractive than others. On one hand, you need your best employees in the most demanding situations. But you also shouldn’t over-rely on them and concentrate the best shifts among just a few. You’ll quickly find yourself with significantly fewer good employees.
- Matching employees to business fluctuations, while spreading around the opportunity. Just figuring out how many people you need during restaurant staff scheduling can be a huge puzzle. At the same time, your busiest times are the most lucrative for employees. Somehow, you need to find ways for everyone to have the same opportunities, while also having people in the bullpen, ready to step up as needed. No small feat.
- Making sure employees have time to rest and rejuvenate. In your busiest seasons, this can be an exceptional challenge. Some restaurant employees will want to work back-to-back shifts for the money. But effectiveness suffers, and you’re better off to do everything you can to make sure there is ample time/days off.
- Working around the unanticipated. Regular schedules are the ideal for everybody, the holy grail of scheduling. But things are going to happen—a lot—like illness, jury duty, family emergencies, etc., that can make restaurant employee scheduling way more difficult. Be ready with backup plans so you can make things work in any contingency.
Scheduling your employees is so fraught with potential problems that many say it’s their biggest and most intractable business headache!
How to Make Restaurant Staff Scheduling Easier
Setting aside the mechanics of scheduling for the moment, there are ways to make scheduling your employees less painful for everyone. This involves operating according to a set of basic practices and principles in how you schedule; how you communicate scheduling issues and information; and how you treat your employees generally.
The following are some insights from various resources at shiftplanning.com that can help you make your own restaurant employee scheduling process smoother and easier for everyone involved:
- Go out of your way to be fair. There are bound to be unpopular scheduling decisions along the way. But if you’ve arrived at the decision fairly by scheduling your restaurant employees according to the same policies and procedures, you should be able to avoid the resentment that comes with unfairness.
- Good scheduling practices is a big factor in satisfaction and productivity. Involve your employees, and let them know the whys behind your scheduling decisions. Do everything you can to keep regular schedules, but with everyone’s understanding that sometimes changes can’t be avoided.
- Try some self-scheduling. It’s empowering. Having some control boosts morale and job satisfaction. How do you implement this type of change? Before completing your own employee schedule, put a monthly calendar up and ask your staff to sign up for the shifts they want. Do your best to honor those requests and let them know if and why you can’t if you’re unable.
- Have contingency scheduling plans for the inevitable. When someone calls in sick or employees want to trade shifts, have defined procedures in place that everyone has bought into. It makes sense for employees needing coverage to be responsible for putting it in place.
- Move scheduling online. Scheduling restaurant staff online saves time and money and increases scheduling accuracy. Studies show that employees favor this, too. And why wouldn’t they? In this day and age, most everyone has a smartphone or some type of mobile device. Therefore, enabling your employees to check their schedule online fits perfectly with this.
- Try some software scheduling resources. This may take some trial and error. But software claims are compelling. Some say their products will reduce time spent scheduling by 90 percent, are automatic and foolproof.
- Acknowledge and respect your employees’ lives. Sure they like and need their jobs. But never forget that the job probably isn’t the most important part of their lives.
When Restaurant Staff Scheduling Issues Occur
No matter how much you follow this type of advice though, you’re bound to experience scheduling issues at one time or another. How you handle them can make the difference between watching staff leave and being graced with the best, longest-staying restaurant workers you’ve ever had.
When faced with some type of restaurant staff scheduling problem, the first step is to make sure you understand exactly what the issue is. From there, you also want to look at whether this is a one-time issue or if it’s a scheduling issue that’s likely to occur regularly.
If it’s a one-time staff scheduling issue, you may want to let it go as it likely won’t happen again. Learn from it, yes, but don’t dwell on it because it probably isn’t going to impact your scheduling process in the future.
On the other hand, if the issue has a high likelihood of happening again, the next step is to figure out how to stop it before things get out of control. The quicker you nip restaurant staff scheduling issues in the bud, the more cohesive (and easier) the process will be. In that case, everyone wins.