Let’s face it, in business, the only constant is change. You plan, strategize, and then life—or business—throws a curveball. You can try and predict your schedule all you want, but things happen. Whether it’s a surprise rush of customers or an unexpected staff shortage, your business is going to need to adapt. This is common for all small businesses; we promise it isn’t just you.
This is where a schedule forecast comes in. Schedule forecasting involves predicting future scheduling needs based on a bunch of factors—weather, local events, time of year— to make sure you’ve got good coverage during your busy periods.
This article is about turning employee scheduling into your secret for success. We’re talking about balancing under- and overstaffing and everything in between. So, get ready as we explore the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of schedule forecasting so your scheduling game is top-notch.
Make great employee scheduling a priority for your business
Employee scheduling isn’t just about covering shifts; it’s the center of your business. Getting it right means you’ve got a happy team and a smooth-running business. Here are some things to think about before you even start scheduling.
Get your team’s input
It’s simple—when your team has a say in their schedules, they’re happier, more engaged, and stick around longer. Allowing your team to have input creates a sense of ownership and respect, which can lead to increased productivity. It also builds a positive work culture and shows your team that their work-life balance is valued, which can be a huge morale booster when work gets busy.
Keep compliant with labor laws
Navigating labor laws can be a headache. But, a good schedule keeps you in the clear and out of legal hot water. Staying compliant not only avoids legal repercussions but also protects your business’s reputation. It demonstrates your commitment to ethical practices and respect for your employees’ rights.
Allow things to be flexible
Life is unpredictable. A flexible schedule is like having an ace up your sleeve, ready for whatever comes your way. It allows you to adapt to last-minute changes or emergencies—because they’re going to happen—making sure that your business continues to run smoothly. We’re going to tackle exactly how to do that next.
|If you’re new to scheduling and want to start off on a good foot, download our free Weekly Planner Templates for Small Businesses. Click here to download
6 tips to keep your schedule flexible and ready for anything
When it comes to scheduling, you want to make your life easier, your team happier, and your business running. The best way to do that? Keep your schedule flexible. But how do you do that? Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting out, these 6 tips are going to help your schedule stay ready for anything.
1. Track your employees’ requests and availability
Knowing who can work when is half the battle. Make it easy for your team to share their availability and time-off requests. This way, you’re not just guessing who can cover that Friday night shift. Plus, it shows your team you respect their time outside work, which is a big win for morale.
You’re going to hear us say this over and over again—because we really do believe it’s your best bet for schedule forecasting success—but get yourself a scheduling software where everyone can submit their availability and PTO electronically. It’s a win-win situation for you and your team.
2. Understand your busy times and match your staffing needs
Ever had too many staff on a slow day or not enough when it’s slammed? That’s what you want to avoid. Your schedule should fit your business like a glove, adapting to the ebb and flow of demand. It’s all about efficiency. Matching your business needs makes sure that your customers get the best possible service, that you stay profitable, and that you don’t overburden your team.
It’s all about being a step ahead. Look at your sales data, customer footfall, even check the weather report. It’s like having a crystal ball that helps you predict when you’ll be busy and staff accordingly. This way, your team isn’t stretched too thin, and your customers aren’t left waiting.
For example, it may be a Saturday night which is typically busy, but it’s calling for the first sunny day in months. That means, if you run a restaurant, your patio can be opened, and people are much more likely to get out of their houses. You’re going to need to adjust your team so you aren’t understaffed.
|Want to keep track of your historically busy times? With Homebase, you can build schedules in line with your sales forecasts and labor targets. Learn more
3. Stay up-to-date on local events that may influence your schedule
Local events can bring in a flood of customers or slow things down. Other local business’ may be able to help give you an idea of what traffic looks like during events. Keep an ear to the ground and plan your schedule accordingly.
Events also gives you an opportunity to come up with deals or specials that are in line with the event—bringing in more customers. But don’t forget to schedule more team members. It’s about seizing opportunities and being prepared, so you’re always a step ahead.
4. Create a schedule forecast and adjust when needed
Taking everything we mentioned above into account, it’s time to build out a schedule forecast. Think of a schedule forecast as your business’s weather report. It helps you predict the busy times based on many factors, so you’re never caught off guard. But just like the weather, things can change. So, having a schedule forecast can help you be ready to tweak as needed. Maybe it’s an unexpected local event or a sudden illness from one of your team members—staying adaptable is key.
One of the ways to stay adaptable is to add on-call shifts to your schedule, depending on your line of work. During those predicted busy times, you can call someone in to support the team if needed. And if happens to be a slow evening, you won’t be overstaffed.
5. Make it easy for employees to swap shifts
Life’s full of surprises, and sometimes your team needs to swap shifts. Having a simple process for this is a lifesaver. It keeps things running smoothly and cuts down on the last-minute scramble. Plus, it’s a big thumbs up for your team, showing that you get that sometimes, life just happens.
|Want an easy way for your team to shift swap? Check out the Homebase team communication tool. Learn more
As an added bonus, a connected team is a strong team. Setting up a group chat or using an app where everyone can keep in touch, sets everyone up for success for their shift. They can share important info that doesn’t get lost in the shuffle. It’s all about making communication easy.
6. Ditch the pen and paper for scheduling software
In our opinion, this is the biggest tip we can give. Ditch the pen and paper. This is the digital age where scheduling apps are your new best friend. It saves time, reduces errors, and gives you insights you never knew you needed. Plus, it’s a breeze for your team to check their schedules and make requests, all from their phone.
Look, we totally know that there are things that just can’t be prevented when it comes to scheduling snafus, but if you can run your schedule through these 6 tips, we feel pretty confident they will be fewer and farther between.
How Homebase can help you forecast your schedule
In the whirlwind world of business, your scheduling needs to be as flexible and efficient as you are. That’s where Homebase can help.
- Your team can submit their availability and time-off requests through our software
- Use our templates or auto-schedule based on availability and staffing needs
- Have your team easily swap shifts and submit for approval once it’s all worked out
- Share any scheduling changes quickly and post available shifts for pick-up
- Set up notifications if someone is heading into overtime
We’ve thought of it all and are here to take away all of your scheduling headaches.
Want to become a scheduling pro?
Feel confident scheduling your team, whatever challenges come your way, thanks to Homebase. Get started today