Retail Worker Scheduling

One essential part of a retail manager’s job is creating the employee schedule. You have to know what the store needs, have a sense of sales trends, and be able to anticipate shopping spikes, all while making sure to keep the wishes of your employees in mind.

Is scheduling retail workers easy?

It depends on who you ask, and what tools the manager is using. For instance:

  • How big is your store?
  • Do you share employees with other store locations?
  • What’s your payroll budget for a given month and/or quarter?
  • Do your employees have second jobs, or personal scheduling conflicts they can’t work around?
  • Do you have enough employees to cover shifts?

The last question is perhaps the most interesting. For many retailers across the US, hiring is an issue on all levels, including associates, middle and upper management. Whether it’s about low pay, a lack of bonuses, or minimal career advancement, it’s getting harder and harder for retailers to keep employees.

What happens when the store is short-staffed?

Sometimes the manager jumps in to greet customers, handle stocking, and even head behind the register. Of course, these tasks take managers away from responsibilities like monitoring finances, ordering stock, finishing payroll, conducting performance reviews, and interviewing would-be job candidates (assuming there are some resumes on hand).

Or a manager will ask other employees to pick up shifts. This can lead to morale issues, especially if an employee feels like they have no choice but to say yes. This can also force a store into paying overtime.

Is the way you schedule retail workers causing you to lose employees, or lose out on job candidates?

As we explored in a previous article, there’s a move across the US calling for fair scheduling practices. In the past few years, a number of bills and ordinances that have been proposed or passed seek to curtail scheduling abuses, especially those that affect low-wage workers. And retail happens to be one of the target sectors many of the bills focus on.

Retail worker scheduling abuses come in all shapes and sizes, and can include things like:

  • Cancelling an employee’s shift at the last minute.
  • Making schedules only a day or two in advance.
  • Randomly updating the schedule without notice.
  • Requiring employees to stay past their scheduled time.

When employees who are earning $10 per hour feel like they have no control of the schedule, it’s natural for them to consider other lines of work.


When setting the schedule, it’s important for managers to match the needs of the workplace with the concerns of his or her employees. Our recent report, “Always On the Clock,” offers tips and practices to help you stay aligned with what your employees want, and what the workplace needs. Read it today, and discover the benefits of giving employees more say over their schedules.

Download “Always On the Clock” here.

The cost of losing retail workers may be bigger than you think.

As a 2012 study from the Center for American Progress illustrates, the cost of replacing a low-wage employee is often a lot higher than the cost of keeping them happy. According to the report:

  • Losing a worker who earns under $30,000 a year can cost you roughly 16% of their salary.
  • That means if a $10 per hour employee quits because of scheduling issues, it could cost your business $3,300 to replace them.
  • That’s more than eight, forty-hour work weeks!

How scheduling can help you retain hourly and low-wage retail workers.

The idea of offering everyone on your staff a raise may be out of the question. But there are other ways you can make your employees’ lives a little happier, starting with the way you schedule. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you prepare the schedule next time around:

  1. Make sure you know your store.

This feels like a no-brainer, but as it turns out, it’s easy for overworked managers to lose track of what’s happening at their stores. Do you know, for instance, which day tends to be your busiest? Is your business located near a movie theater, or other type of event space? If so, do you tend to draw an after-show crowd? Whether you choose to review your POS system’s reports, or ask your employees, be sure to arm yourself with data. This will help you create a balanced schedule, and pair peak customer flow with the right amount of staff.

  1. Be aware of what your employees need.

As you know, your employees are going to ask for days off. Sometimes, they’ll know a month in advance. Other times, they’ll have an urgent situation. Whatever the case may be, they’ll appreciate the fact that you take their personal needs into account when creating the schedule. As a recent UK study points out, this type of one-to-one engagement with workers can inspire a more positive outlook, and higher levels of job satisfaction. You can even go so far as to check in with employees before you make the schedule, rather than waiting for them to come to you.

  1. Use advanced scheduling software.

Using cloud-based scheduling software can make life easier for you and for your employees. From a usability standpoint, today’s systems allow employees to request time off and swap shifts with a few clicks or taps. On the managerial side, you’ll be able to check schedules and keep an eye on things such as vacation and PTO accruals. And as a group, you’ll be able to use consistent templates, and create policies around shift-swapping if necessary.

  • Employees will be able to see the schedule through the online portal, rather than having to come into the store to check it.
  • Employees who want to pick up a shift will be able to check and see if there’s an opening due to an unexpected absence.
  • Employees who need to swap shifts can send alerts to everyone at once, and can handle the swap on their end.
  • Scheduling software provides the types of reports that can help you stay on budget. It can also be your time clock, and integrate seamlessly with your payroll.

With the right advanced scheduling software, you can make work a little happier for your employees, and a little easier for you. As scheduling-related issues begin to disappear, more of your retail employees may decide to stick around.


Have scheduling issues come up during recent employee reviews? Find out how stratustime can help you simplify the process, and give your employees new ways to engage with the workplace. Give us a call today. We’ll put stratustime on the clock for you.

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