Matching the right employees to the right shifts can be a challenge even for experienced grocery managers. The prior week’s schedule provides a starting point, but changes to staff availability, time-off requests, vacations, and seasonal fluctuations in sales volume can all complicate the process.
Once you throw holidays, inclement weather forecasts and compliance concerns into the mix, building an efficient schedule starts feeling like no more than educated guesswork.
But you don’t need a crystal ball to see and account for such contingencies in advance, provided you adopt a data-driven approach to scheduling. No mere magic trick, analytical scheduling processes can work wonders for you, your workforce, and your customers. Follow these five data-driven steps to create the optimal schedule—and make your scheduling difficulties a thing of the past.
1) Predict sales
Typically, store managers are able to predict hourly sales with 84- to 92-percent accuracy using manual calculations or by plugging formulas into spreadsheets. These numbers may sound good, but they still mean up to 16 percent of sales forecasts miss the mark. In other words, stores relying on these methods still have room for improvement.
Chances are you’re comfortable with your in-house methods and know how to forecast sales using historical data. Your preferred formulas, embedded in spreadsheets, feel familiar. You’re used to doing six-week averages and year-over-year look-backs to particular seasons to forecast sales volume for the upcoming week.
These techniques have delivered results good enough up until now, but advances in technology have dramatically expanded the types of data you can collect, integrate, and analyze. Workforce management tools that feature POS integration can simplify the task by producing sales forecasts in a fraction of the time you would spend with spreadsheets. Moreover, because the data is so much more robust and reflective of real-time transactions, the results are inherently more accurate.
2) Determine required coverage
Workforce management software can break sales forecasts into hourly increments, giving managers the precise information needed to optimize scheduling. For example, sales may be weak at 10 a.m. but spike at noon. Access to different levels of data makes it possible to fine-tune schedules, so you can ensure sufficient coverage for the lunchtime rush while not overstaffing during slow periods.
This approach should form the foundation of your staff schedule template, complete with coverage requirements, which you can then use to build out the actual shifts.
3) Build shifts and breaks
How do you create shifts that ensure coverage and compliance with local labor regulations, but also for which employees are likely to show up? Optimizing this is tough, especially if you’re using pencil and paper or even spreadsheets. And if they aren’t scheduled for enough hours to make it worth their time and transportation costs, employees are less likely to report for work.
Workforce management technology that includes shift-building functions automates the process of efficiently dividing your hours of operations up into manageable shifts. Many solutions even allow you to preprogram compliance requirements and account for other regulatory issues to make quick work of this step.
4) Process employee requests
Whether you have a standardized system for employee schedule requests or still rely on handwritten notes, text messages, and face-to-face conversations, you need a central repository for all employee time-off and shift swap requests.
The simplest version of this is a large, month-at-a-glance calendar or logbook in a common staff area. A digital solution that gives employees the power to submit requests electronically is more powerful and flexible and can deliver multiple benefits.
Figuring out the maximum number of requests you can approve requires considering coverage needs, workforce size, and the average number of employee requests. In a simple example, if you employ eight cashiers and need six for the Saturday morning shift, no more than two may have the day off. But it can quickly become complicated. A scheduling system can help you put the necessary guardrails in place, ensuring your managers aren’t overwhelmed by schedule changes while also speeding the personal leave and shift-approval process.
Finally, keep in mind that turnover is costly. You want to keep employees happy, and flexibility with schedules is critical. Flexibility is a natural byproduct of the transparency that comes with implementing enterprise-level scheduling software.
5) Assign shifts
Now it’s time to plug actual employee names into your schedule. Of course, you probably already have your own system for assigning shifts. Only certain personnel have been trained for opening and closing, for example. Employees with seniority may get preferred hours. Meanwhile, your part-time employees cannot be assigned more than a specified number of hours a week.
Whether these “rules” are store policy, governmental regulations, or just standard practice, they can sometimes come into conflict. Scheduling software can help you navigate those challenges, not to mention help you perform the oversight necessary to ensure that all conditions have been met.
Grocers don’t really need a crystal ball to create optimal shift schedules. Workforce management technology can help perform these steps in a fraction of the time, ensuring you have the necessary cover at the least possible cost. Integrated scheduling, attendance, payroll, and POS software and hardware are not just for big box stores and nationwide chains.
TRUNO can help design a workforce management solution to meet your store’s unique needs.