Creating schedules that work for everyone is hard, and maintaining them on the fly can be even harder. But being an employer that masters scheduling challenges can be a significant competitive advantage when it comes to hiring and retaining top talent.

The war for talent is back. Who would have thought that it would be so difficult to hire and retain people after a pandemic that drove record unemployment numbers? But the reality is that people are rethinking what their job desires and needs are, and whether they are comfortable returning at all.

A Microsoft survey of more than 30,000 global workers showed that 41% of workers were considering quitting or changing professions this year.


For your business to continue to thrive and grow, you need employees. You need to attract and retain them. Traditionally, being flexible when it comes to worker schedules has been hard. Varying coverage and patterns and allowing changes from week to week created headaches for managers, so they were reluctant to accommodate them.

More than ever, people want and need to work the shifts that best fit their schedules — both their predictable and unpredictable schedules. Being an employer that can accommodate that can be a significant competitive advantage when it comes to hiring and retaining top talent.

Here are seven practices that can go a long way toward improving employee satisfaction:

  1. Gather availability in advance

Don't waste your time creating schedules that won't work for people. Find out in advance when they are available and/or unavailable to work. This helps improve the quality and acceptance of the schedule from the start and will save managers and employees time and frustration.

  1. Ask for preferences

Understanding preferences in addition to availability can improve satisfaction. Employees not only like to work when they are easily available, but they may prefer certain hours and working with certain people as well as performing certain jobs. They may also prefer to work remotely if that's a possibility. Tracking preferences and matching the schedule to them is a big bonus.

  1. Keep employee skills up to date

Perhaps an employee has learned a new language, taken a class, obtained a certification or earned a license or a degree. If these new skills can open a door to more interesting or higher-paying jobs, they may be more satisfied. If you have jobs that require certain skills, make note of that, and then schedule the workers who match.

  1. Follow the rules

Most work rules have evolved from situations that were either undesirable or unsafe for workers. Whether it's not working consecutive shifts, not exceeding maximum hours in a day or a week or another rule, it's best to follow them. Otherwise, you risk a burned-out team who could be unhappy or causing injury to themselves or others. Nobody wants to work in those conditions and knowing they won't have to can be very attractive.

  1. Empower employees to swap and request coverage

Face it, stuff happens. And that means even a schedule that's perfect for everyone could need to change. Letting workers work that out for themselves will save managers time. Having a clear process and some rules around who can swap with or cover for whom is key.

  1. Allow and prepare for employees to drop shifts

Again, stuff happens. Plan for employees to need to drop shifts or to have a more permanent change in their availability. Understand and predict unplanned absence rates and schedule accordingly. Have a way for employees to quickly communicate that they need to drop a shift and do your best to be able to approve it when it happens. Otherwise, they might have to drop you as an employer.

  1. Make it easy for people to claim open shifts and work overtime

If you are going to let people drop shifts, you may need a way to quickly fill them. Having a way to announce or post open shifts, and for employees to claim them, could be key. Keep in mind that some people will take all the hours and income they can get, while others have obligations or situations that make picking up shifts or working overtime a burden or inconvenience. Find out and make note of who is willing to work late and who is not; schedule and offer extra time accordingly.

Creating schedules that work for everyone is hard. And maintaining them on the fly can be even harder. The practices above can be done manually, and managers in a small business with little turnover, or who have been on the job a long time might have the workforce knowledge to do it all in their heads.

For others, technology can help. Modern scheduling solutions make it much easier to match the right person to the job. They also offer mobile and online tools to ease collaboration between employees, managers, and peers. Using such technology can not only make the scheduling process faster and better for the employees, but it can also save managers time and headaches, which in turn can make them happier. Both outcomes can lead to an advantage when it comes to being an employer of choice.

Learn about advanced scheduling solutions from ADP here and by watching this video.

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