How To Build Employee Schedules That Work

I get to speak with a lot of business owners about employee scheduling.

It really is amazing what some of you can pull of with employee scheduling templates and spreadsheets. I bet you know what I’m talking about. Excel schedules that started as simple spreadsheets, but have now evolved into complete systems of their own over time.

At some point you know your business will outgrow that template.

And everyone agrees on this: Creating and maintaining conflict free employee schedules is an incredibly difficult task to manage.

Even if you create the perfect schedules it goes stale within a few hours of being published and you’re already making schedule changes and shift trades.

So one of the questions I get asked most is about how to transition from Excel employee schedule templates to employee scheduling software like TixTime.  It’s a great question – and coming from smart business owners you have to expect they have a few really tough followup questions to go along with that easy introduction.

First.  A lesson I learned a long time ago about scheduling is that it is in fact unique to every business.  You can’t just make up an excel template and have every business in the world use the same thing.  That’s not how employees work, that’s not how the managers work, and it just doesn’t work for the business.  You have to recognize the differences between businesses and know that scheduling works differently for different workforces.

Second. There is always fear.  What happens if the system doesn’t work out? Can we revert? What is the cost? The answer is: it depends. The problem around this fear comes down to definition of scope of project. If you really define what you’re doing and what you are changing then the fear starts to go away.  Clearly when implementing an employee scheduling system you aren’t just replacing a spreadsheet.  You need to document all of the processes that go along with it and communicate clearly with your employees. Let me explain.

Third. Ask first and document.  Getting everyone involved is one of the most important parts of transitioning to any new system.  You can’t just jump in to new employee scheduling software and hope for the best. You need to talk to employees and ask what they want. Managers too. Once you know what you need you make a few promises to everyone about how the new system is better than the old one. When you deliver those promises people will buy in and use the new software.  If you get pushback you can refer to the promises you made and ask kindly that they keep trying. If you didn’t ask first, you have nothing to go on.

Fourth. Define everyone you already have.  You may not have it documented but your Excel employee scheduling template probably does account for much more than shifts. Employee scheduling includes seniority rankings, rotations, and overall schedule “fairness.”  Transitioning to online software provides an opportunity to review all of your processes and really dive into what you do when you schedule; the first recommendation I like to make is to document your process as much as possible.  Write down all of the rules you follow. How you assign shifts.  Who gets the first choice on shifts.  Do certain employees prefer certain shifts, etc. With everything documented configuring employee scheduling software becomes much easier.

The question of how to move from excel schedule templates to employee scheduling software like TixTime is a good one.  I think the best answer is that it depends. You need to consider all of these points and certainly do your planning before making the move.  Once you’ve made the move you will most likely never look back at the spreadsheet templates.

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