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Scheduling Basics for Your Service Business

Ask your employees what matters the most to them and you might be surprised to learn that benefits and compensation do not always top the list. In fact, many service industry employees put work schedules at the top of their job criteria lists.

As a business owner, you need to understand the basics for scheduling employees. If your service business’ employees do not like their work schedules, you can expect to incur high, costly turnover rates that drain your time and sap your money.

Scheduling 101

The primary objective of creating employee schedules involves placing employees in positions that match their skill levels and experience.

Scheduling training and shadowing of veteran employees is an investment worth making to ensure that more of your employees are capable of a breadth of work, making future scheduling easier for you.

Start with the numbers

Determining the amount of business you expect to receive is the first step of scheduling basics. You accomplish this step by predicting the sales for each week of the year.

Sales forecasts typically depend on sales from the same time period during previous years. However, if your business is relatively new, you might not have the track record to refer to the sales generated during previous years. If this is the case, you need to ask yourself a few questions.

  • What motivates your customers to request your services?
  • Do you experience sales swings during specific times of the year?
  • What skills do you need to address business demands?
  • Do you have enough people to cover every needed position?

Create the schedule framework

You’ve reached the point when you plug in numbers to match projected business demand. If you run a 40-person lawn care crew, you need to schedule most of the workers every day during the summer.

Conversely, when your lawn care business slows down in the winter, you may decide to schedule only a few workers for on-call snow removal duty.

Plug in the numbers and then attach wages to each position. Once you determine the amount of labor you expect to pay, compare the number to your weekly labor budget.

If you have dollars left over in your weekly labor budget, you may decide to reassign that money to equipment or marketing, or keep it in reserve in case business booms and you end up scheduling more hours than your forecast.

If you are short dollars in your weekly labor budget, then you might need to put a cap on how many hours of work you can accept from clients each week. Because these hours are based on predictions, you don’t want to plan for more staff and hours than you’ll actually get. Slower growth can be healthier and more sustainable for your business in the long run.

Next come the names

After you create the schedule framework, you then add names to each scheduled position.

The goal during this step involves putting your best people on the busiest shifts, as well as matching each employee’s skill set with the position required to meet projected business demands.

You must remember to use an employee availability sheet to ensure that you never schedule employees on days when they cannot work. The quickest way to alienate an employee is to schedule him or her on a requested day off.

Stay on top of the work schedule

You cannot simply post a work schedule and walk away confident that you have met your company’s labor needs. Employee schedules require monitoring every day your business opens its doors to customers.

Employees might call in sick, switch shifts with each other, or perform the classic “no call, no show” that leaves you shorthanded. Make sure to publish the work schedule in a high traffic area of your service business or consistently share it digitally. Email or a shared online document such as a Google sheet might work, or you can use software such as Jobber to keep employees in the loop at all times as they’ll have access to the app and their schedules on their smart phones.

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