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Why Employee Scheduling Is Key In Retail Operations

by Freya Swales, AI Workforce Analyst at Widget Brain on Mar 11

A store manager plays a significant role in the smooth-running of the store. They are responsible for hiring new employees, informing staff on new brands or products, creating schedules, inventory management, and keeping staff motivated on the floor.


Store managers’ tasks have a large effect on business operations because they impact employee happiness, customer experience, business performance, and the company’s compliance to labour law. 


We have found that employee scheduling is one of the most important and relevant store manager responsibilities. It has the biggest impact on those four aforementioned business operations elements and is universal throughout retail. We’ll break down exactly why it’s so important and how scheduling impacts employee happiness, customer experience, business performance, and compliance to labour law, below. 



The Importance of Employee Scheduling

The scheduling challenge is universal throughout retail, but for the sake of simplicity we’ll take a clothing shop as an example. Let’s start with the task of restocking the shop; this is an extremely important task that should take place everyday in every store. Therefore store managers must take this task into account when creating schedules. Every clothing item or product must be displayed in all available sizes in the store to ensure a positive shopping experience. If the store is badly stocked, this means store clerks will have to go to the inventory room regularly to retrieve the correct size for a customer. Consequently leading to fewer people on the floor = less sales = bad customer experience. 


Another example of scheduling and business performance is; labeling and tagging a delivery of new clothes. If a store manager schedules two employees to work the floor on a Friday, and a shipment of new clothes comes in, a floor worker must go to the inventory room to count, label and tag the new products so they can go in the store a.s.a.p. to increase sales in-store. However, often this is not taken into account when making the schedule, resulting in the floor being understaffed, leading to a bad customer experience, and fewer sales. The new shipment of clothes may also have to wait until Monday when it is less busy in the store, leading to a loss of sales, as there will be less products for customers to buy. Thus, this is a crucial aspect that needs to be considered when making schedules to increase business performance. 


These are examples that are crucial for brick-and-mortar retailers if they want to retain customers, and ensure a smooth customer experience. This also links to labour law compliance.  Store managers must balance business performance and good customer service with ensuring that the schedules created meet labour laws, for example, abiding to scheduled break times. Legally, people who have worked a certain number of hours must take certain amounts of time off, in order to rest and recuperate before continuing their shift. Another legal consideration pertains to underaged employees. People aged 16 -18 are simply not allowed, by law, to work more than a certain number of hours per week. 


Employee happiness is also affected by scheduling. Overworked staff who have no accurate overview of when they’re scheduled to work are unlikely to feel happy in the workplace. Beyond that, scheduling shifts must take into account various factors such as who is trained to work the register, who has not worked the night before, who is allowed the responsibility to open and close the store, who is fast at restocking, and who is the best at labeling and tagging clothes must all be considered. Failing to consider this may lead to unoptimized productivity levels and poor employee happiness. 


Selected list of store tasks

Multiple tasks have to be performed in order to run operations smoothly. The longer the list gets, the more challenging it becomes to make good schedules.

Why Employee Scheduling Is One of the Top Challenges in Retail

Employee scheduling is of key importance for business performance, customer service, labour law compliance and employee happiness. This being said, it is almost impossible for any store manager to find the time to create a schedule that takes all these aspects into account, especially when it is done manually; there are a lot of factors they need to consider.


First of all, shop workers, or clerk workers often have a 0-hour contract or work part-time. The consequences of this means they often have little company loyalty other than the fact they are getting paid at the end of the month. Further, they often feel no responsibility to work unless it is for their own benefit, or to help a friendly co-worker. It does not matter how nice the store manager is, and how well everybody gets along. No worker will cancel dinner plans to fill up an absence, short-term or long-term.  This makes it very difficult for store managers to create weekly schedules for all the absences or days off. Employees then have to work unexpected shifts, which leads to lower employee happiness. Many labour laws are now in place to ensure that staff have more accurate views into when they’re meant to work, too, so many last-minute changes to schedules can result in premiums and fines. 


When a shop is overstaffed it means that the store manager miscalculated or did not have the tools to calculate how busy it would be in the store. This creates a ‘chill mode’ amongst store workers, and once they start chatting about their weekend plans, or discussing their favourite holiday destination, it is very difficult for them to get back to ‘work mode’.  Then, when shoppers do end up entering the store, nobody will actively approach them or make sure they have a great customer experience. This has been proven by mystery shoppers reviews. Managers thus have to ensure that they are not overstaffing, in order to maintain business performance. 


An understaffed store has its own disadvantages. This entails that store clerks will be running around helping customers throughout their whole shift. From helping customers at the fitting rooms, getting the correct size of a product in the back for a client, picking up clothes off the floor, working the cash register, helping customers with their often bizarre questions. If only three colleagues are scheduled to work a Saturday for example, it is guaranteed that they will not sit still, or sometimes even be allowed to take their obligated break time, by the law, throughout their eight-hour shift. Resulting in staff on purposely declining to help customers when they need another size item that would be in the stock room, again leading to bad business performance and missed out sales. Mystery shoppers once again confirmed this. 


Another important part of shift creation, is making sure the shifts are ‘fair’ and labour law compliant. Making fair schedules is the responsibility of the store manager and has a huge impact on employee happiness and stress. Fair shifts in retail need to have a balance between who works the weekend shifts, and should avoid ‘clopening’ shifts. This is when employees have to work the closing shift the night before they have to open the store. The other big frustration amongst co-workers and managers is how often you have to close the store in a week. Closing a store entails counting the register and making sure the store is immaculate for the next day. This often takes at least 15 minutes after the store has closed and is often unpaid. Whereas working the opening shift means you are allowed to leave at 18:00 on the dot. Therefore, there must be an equal balance between all employees. 


Then, perhaps one of the worst outcomes of bad scheduling is not getting paid for the actual hours you’ve worked. This leads to very poor employee happiness. When bad scheduling occurs, lots of shifting takes place between co-workers. A store manager has already spent multiple hours making a schedule, then has to spend a couple of more adapting it to all the changes, and then needs to spend MORE time making sure the schedule given to the financial administrator at the head office is the definite schedule. But trust me, it does not matter how organised a store manager is, this is very difficult to keep on top of all the changes, amongst all the countless other tasks a manager has. Sometimes, poor employee happiness is a real challenge to prevent! 



Generating schedules with automation allows you to create employee schedules that are fair, labor law compliant and optimal for business performance. This, in turn, increases employee happiness. With this type of scheduling technology, you can balance all relevant factors and deliver the best schedules for your company. Software like this will relieve stress for the managers, allowing them to spend more time and energy on other important tasks such as actually managing and guiding the staff and store. This will result in better business performance, compliance to labour law and improved employee happiness.