Musings of an Hourly Employee (and Why Scheduling REALLY Matters)

Once upon a time I wasn’t a content creator but a simple recent college grad working in a grocery store. Said job at grocery store promised “flexibility” and even “customization” once the weekly schedule went out, but I quickly learned there was a hidden preferential system that prevented me from getting the hours I really wanted.

Granted, the powers that be didn’t spend 100% of their management time worrying about the hourly employee schedule (It’s a grocery store! There are grocery-related things to worry about!) but continued complaints about the rigidness of scheduling, particularly because we were promised flexibility and customization, tended to be ignored.

I know a grocery store is a whole different ball game compared to the average small business, but I have friends who work in coffee shops and cafes who have communicated a similar struggle. Hourly employees tend to have an inconsistent schedule, and being surprised by the hours handed to you is all part of it.

So it’s imperative that managers and business owners understand the significance of how they schedule, and how it can affect their employees’ happiness. Fully understanding your employees’ needs not only ensures you’re keeping them happy, but that they can grow in their positions and be a crucial part of your business’s growth, too.

Communicate and Consider

Now that I’m working full time, my schedule is less of a roller coaster and more of a ferris wheel—stable, while still being enjoyable, and with a lot less chaos so I can take in the scenery, too.

But I remember the days when I would receive the grocery store schedule and see myself assigned to an unexpected shift. Funnily enough, I also recall that every time I requested time off, I was always “accidentally” scheduled for those times anyway. (Talking to my manager, though, always fixed that—shout out to great managers!)

When you create a schedule for your employees, consistency is a great rule to rely on. If you’re managing a large number of employees, mistakes can be made, but having communication with your employees can alleviate some of the stress that comes with scheduling.

Talking to your employees about their schedule preferences is something you should already be doing, but being transparent in how they go about requesting time off or taking a sick day establishes a good sense of security. Plus, your employees will feel respected, knowing you’re considering their needs ahead of time.

Preparation Matters (Because Your Employees Matter)

In the same way you may order inventory or plan a marketing campaign, you’ll need plenty of time to prepare a schedule for your employees. Some businesses do one week’s notice (which is what the grocery store did) but two weeks is standard and more practical.

With two weeks’ notice, your employees will be able to, you know, actually live their lives outside of work and properly plan around their work schedule. This also gives them a little wiggle room to tweak their schedule without leaving you short-staffed.

Scheduling two weeks in advance can also effectively prevent disaster: one of the biggest employee nightmares (uh, my big employee nightmare) is having to work overtime, which is typically a result of being understaffed or busier than expected. Like it or not, being understaffed or busier than usual can really only be pinned on you.

So it’s important to understand, that when you plan a schedule ahead of time, you also have some idea of the demand for the days you are scheduling for. You may consider certain employees’ skill sets and (after checking in with them, of course) scheduling them on those busy days, while also including any newer employees, so that they have the chance to grow and get the hours they need.

Happy Employees, Happy Business

You started your business because you’re passionate. Running it isn’t always lollipops and rainbows, but channeling your passion also entails having a genuine interest in the people who surround you—not just customers, but employees too.

There’s an old-old saying that states “Be a leader, not a friend.” You don’t want or need to be your employees’ friend, but a good leader is able to establish an amicable relationship that’s grounded on mutual respect. You can show this by being exceptionally good at scheduling your staff.

Because employee turnover can cost some businesses as much as $6000 every time an employee leaves, it literally pays to focus on the ones you currently have and ensure their happiness. When your employees succeed, your business succeeds, and it all starts with careful consideration of scheduling.