How Retailers Can Avoid Scheduling Chaos This Holiday Season

The holiday season is here, and for retail managers this means onboarding a stampede of new workers. According to the National Retail Federation, retailers are expected to hire between 700,000 and 750,000 seasonal workers this holiday season alone.

Picture of Santa and his helpers

With this wave of new hires flooding in, managers are tasked with reconciling the availability of their new employees, with their existing staff schedules and the demand patterns of the holiday season. According to a new study by WorkJam, 68 percent of employers say the most difficult part of scheduling is assigning shifts that match both staff availability and business needs – and this is even more of a challenge during the holiday season.

Here are three ways managers can effectively schedule seasonal workers amid the holiday mayhem.

Implement simplified ways for employees to swap shifts

Scheduling employees throughout the year is already a cumbersome process, but add holidays into the mix and managers face a whirlwind of chaos. Between travel plans and holiday obligations, managers receive a plethora of shift requests – and with an influx of shoppers to worry about, they struggle to find the right schedule balance.

Typically, the easiest way to manage changing, unpredictable schedules is to assign a general schedule and have workers then swap shifts. But the majority of businesses don’t have effective processes in place for trading shifts, opening the door for absenteeism and lost holiday revenue.

According to the same WorkJam research, 69 percent of employers claim to have a system for workers to trade shifts, but of this group almost half use paper trade requests in a break room or other communal area, while nearly one-third say staff use a phone directory to contact each other to trade shifts. Texting, Facebook and other social media are also being used, but offer employers no control and often lead to miscommunication, causing double bookings and no shows.

Given these tedious, manual and disjointed processes, employees are often unable to get their shifts filled in time, leaving retailers understaffed and putting operational efficiency at risk.

To eliminate absenteeism this holiday season, employers must make shift management a top priority. By implementing an easier, centralized process for employees to swap shifts, retailers can avoid trying to find replacements at the last minute and breathe a sigh of relief when the holiday masses come in.

Embrace tech to reduce employee turnover

With Black Friday at our doorstep, the height of holiday shopping is just days away – making it vital for retailers to have enough hands on deck. However, businesses are still relying on outdated scheduling processes to get the job done and it’s costing them their talent.

Earlier this year, New York’s attorney general scrutinized 11 major retailers over their labor practices causing several well-known brands including J. Crew, Urban Outfitters and Gap to nix on-call scheduling. While some have hopped on board, many retailers continue to promote on-call scheduling practices.

According to WorkJam’s study, almost a third of hourly workers rarely receive consistent schedules, while nearly half report their hourly workers are frequently or sometimes scheduled to work “clopenings” (back-to-back closing and openings shifts). Furthermore, the same study says that more than half of employees receive their schedules a week or less in advance. This tight timeframe, however, leaves employees scrambling to accommodate their holiday plans.

As holiday shopping ramps up, these problematic labor practices will be reason enough for employees to jump ship. WorkJam’s study found more than a third of service companies report a quarterly turnover rate of at least 26 percent for their hourly employees.

If employers want to retain their workforce and enhance in-store operations amid the holiday mayhem, retailers need to step up their scheduling game. This means finding new, tech-centric solutions that cater to both employee and business needs – the perfect gift for all retailers this holiday season.

Streamline communication to avoid confusion

Adding to managers’ workload, hourly employees often submit their availability and shift requests through a myriad of channels. Of the 84 percent of respondents in the WorkJam survey who have processes in place for workers to share their availability, 43 percent rely on written requests, 31 percent use conversations with shift managers and 11 percent submit preferences via email. Between the emails, phone calls, texts and handwritten notes, managers can get overwhelmed and cloud the lines of communication with employees.

As the holidays kick into high gear and more shift requests flow in, managers will need to seek out ways to streamline employee communication. To cultivate consistency throughout the workplace – and lighten the stress load – employers should opt for an integrated communication channel that hourly workers and their managers can access autonomously. With 65 percent of workers admitting they’d try harder to find shift replacements if they had an easier way to communicate with coworkers, and more than half being more likely to pick up open shifts, employers can directly benefit from improving staff collaboration.

While there will always be shopping mayhem during the holidays, retail managers can alleviate some of the chaos by seeking out more efficient processes for scheduling their hourly workers. By being proactive and implementing solutions to combat manual scheduling, both employers and employees can reap the benefits of a less chaotic and more profitable holiday season.

November 26, 2015 / Karen McCandless / GetApp

2018-07-27T10:58:48+00:00