Scheduling Employees When You Aren’t Sure of Demand

August 18, 2021 | 364 views

Scheduling Employees When You Aren’t Sure of Demand
Scheduling Employees When You Aren’t Sure of Demand

Yesterday, I walked into a retail store where a sign greeted me, apologizing ahead of time for long wait times due to limited staff. Limited staff is a recurring news topic these days, so I expected my shopping service to be a bit slow. Instead, I found a store nearly devoid of customers. It was a quiet time of day, so that was not so odd. What surprised me was that after reading the warning sign and seeing an empty establishment, I discovered three employees on the clock with no customers to help.

Even if I didn’t work in scheduling software, the situation would be comical if it weren’t so tragic. Small businesses took a hit over the past year, certainly, but this one appeared unable to manage the internal scheduling. Labor costs are such a large part of expenses, of course, and wages are increasing, making the need for correct staffing especially vital to business success. Scheduling employee shifts is not easy, of course—it seldom is. Finding ways to balance scheduled shifts with demand requires a bit of research and flexibility, but it can improve.

Right-Sizing Your Staff Using Data

Having the right staff at the right time is important because it affects the customer experience, and staffing directly impacts profits. Matching staff to business needs means avoiding having too much staff (like I saw yesterday) or not enough staff to manage busy times (and we’ve all been frustrated by that scenario).

Matching staff to demand requires that we staff based on business needs. Seasonality and busy hours are trackable, and successfully matching staffing levels is possible with good data. Most POS systems collect data on revenue and transactions daily. Collect and analyze this rich resource to guide your staffing decisions. Use your data wisely, and it will save money by not overstaffing, and it will keep customers by increasing service at busy times. When you have historical data, you are less likely to be caught with too few employees or with too many.


Employee self-scheduling is another option for scheduling your workforce based on customer demand. It is one way to augment staff hours. With self-scheduling, a manager who uses employee scheduling software can schedule shifts based on data, but then allow employees to manage and modify their shifts. This flexibility within software makes scheduling easier for managers and allows employees to modify their shifts as demand changes.

Communicate Often and Quickly

Mobile access to scheduling software apps provides immediate communication with employees about your busy seasons and anticipated busy days. If demand increases and more shifts are needed, consistent and easy communication on mobile phones and computers makes meeting demand much easier. You can accommodate an unexpected but happy bump in business through timely communication to employees who want more hours.

Matching staff levels to demand is improved with good data collection and analysis, intelligent scheduling, and options for self-scheduling. The customer experience is enhanced, the employee experience is upgraded, and the business performance is improved.

Author Profile Jon Forknell is the Vice President and General Manager of Atlas Business Solutions, Inc., a software marketing company specializing in employee scheduling software, including ScheduleBase employee scheduling software, and other business software solutions. In the past, Jon has been recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration as a SBA Young Entrepreneur of the Year. For many years, Atlas Business Solutions has been named one of Software Magazine’s Top 500 Software Companies.

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