CalendarAsk any store manager about their most dreaded chore and chances are that Scheduling will be the response.  Setting a store schedule that is fair, efficient and predictable is a difficult task that usually falls onto the shoulder of the store manager. Most store managers find that associates want to work at the same hours that customers are least likely to shop (weekday mornings.) Retail hours that include weekends and evenings interrupt store associate family plans. Each schedule is typically loaded with requests for time off, vacation and little flexibility for illness or other unforeseen issues.

First, scheduling has to fit within the budget. If a store has a $300,000 annual sales goal and payroll is 11% of the budget, only $634 is available each week for payroll.  That’s a thin line and hours have to be allocated in the best way to match customer needs. Reinforce with your employees that hours are allocated based on sales and that the way to increase their take-home pay is to improve sales.  Connect their greetings, suggestive sales techniques and gracious appreciation at the cash register with the amount they see in their paychecks.

Next, look at the peak hours for assisting customers. These are typically just as the store opens, over lunch and after standard work hours. Remember, customer needs come before vendor deliveries, remanufacturing tasks and other store operations. Use your POS system to track transactions per hour over several weeks or months and create a schedule that augments management during peak customer hours.  That often means scheduling part-time assistance during unpopular evening and weekend shifts. Keep these shifts in mind when interviewing and hiring job candidates.  Explain and reinforce that part-time positions require availability during your busiest times.

When associates withdraw their availability, scheduling managers have tough choices to make.  There comes a point when employees can make themselves so unavailable that keeping them on staff makes little sense. Changes can occur for employees which can lead to a steady weekend worker only making themselves available for work on Monday and Thursday mornings.  Seriously address these issues as soon as they come to your attention to reinforce your need to have employees flexible to work during your customer’s peak hours. Many retailers have a policy that says employees must commit to making themselves available for 30 hours for a 20-hour work week or 54 hours for a 40-hour work week.