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Staff Scheduling and Time Management

Strategically making staff decisions

For many years we had felt that the best way to improve the "bottom line" of our financial statement was by increasing sales. Perhaps with some additional advertising, or increasing the depth of our inventory, we could cause the sales to increase and thus the "bottom line" would increase accordingly. We found out that this theory does not always work.

We are still trying to accomplish this same goal, but by using different means. During the past three years we have worked very hard to improve our financial statement by increasing the efficiency of our time management. We have addressed scheduling and time management in two areas: our staff and our management.

We calculated a "sales per person employed ratio" by dividing our annual gross sales by the number of hours on the payroll. Individuals that are on a salary basis were calculated as 40 hour per week individuals. The three of us that are family members were also calculated at 40 hours. Our initial answer showed that our sales per person ratio was far below the national average.

Your regional hardware association has management reports available that can help you calculate a ratio for your store according to geographical region, sales floor size, gross sales, or profitability. Using this figure, you can create a goal for your store. In our store, we were able to decrease our weekly staff schedule through attrition, students returning to school, and team members that had previously worked full time that were wanting to decrease their work load.

We also examined jobs that had "grown up" in our store. These jobs are the type that we had hired someone part time to perform. Yet, this part time person was now working full time and doing a menagerie of odds and ends projects. This type of position was eliminated with the job assignments being divided among several team members. The most important factor was having a goal of a number of hours and a deadline set to accomplish this goal. After arriving at the goal, the individual that creates your work schedule needs to know that this number of hours, seasonably adjusted, is not to be exceeded.

In the case of our store, the difference between our worst sales month and best sales month of the year, is less than the national average. We are able to work the same schedule year round, and have done so for the past 18 consecutive months.

If you are tracking your sales by the day and hour, you will be able to calculate which days and hours need the most team members on your sales floor. In calculating this schedule, you will need to remember to calculate a "bare bones" staff which will give you a sufficient quantity of team members on the sales floor for security reasons.

If you are planning to add to the number of hours that your store is open, as we did a couple of years ago, you will not be able to increase the quantity of hours in your weekly schedule, but instead will have to spread your schedule thinner so as to keep this formula intact.

After arriving at this goal, it did take a period of time for team members to adjust. We began to chart what needed to be done and on what days. We included items such as writing the warehouse order, stocking the shelves, and time to work in assigned departments to make sure items and bin labels are in their proper place. Within a couple of months we found that all of the weekly tasks were still being accomplished. We are now able to block out time to work on projects such as building end caps or resetting displays.

Now that the schedule for our staff was working smoothly, we began to examine our work schedule. We used as a guideline, a definition of managing that goes like this, "If you are doing the same job, on a daily and weekly basis, such that you do not have any time to look at new projects, you are not managing." In using this definition, we found that too often, we were performing tasks that could be assigned to team members. As we consider our time to be more expensive than our team members, we continually work to pass some of our daily tasks to qualified individuals.

Now it is our turn to block out time slots to perform the weekly tasks that we have reserved for ourselves. We created a chart which is on our office wall, naming the various projects that we want to complete. In working to fill in the time periods that we now have open, we try to separate them into different types of work. This chart usually contains projects dealing with our computer, resetting a department, improvements for our building, increasing sales, and something new for our team members. Some of our projects have deadlines, while others are completed on a time available basis.

By having this schedule for ourselves, we find that we are able to be more creative due to the lack of pressure of deadlines everyday. We are currently working on an idea supplied by one of our wholesalers, that of taking an afternoon each week and visiting the various motels, hotels, and apartment complexes that shop at our store. It is designed to be our way of asking for more of their business as well as developing some new accounts.

The plans are in the works, and as we make these visits we will refine the procedure. When it gets to the point that we are pleased with the format, we will assign this task of weekly calls to one of our team members. This way our time will again be free to be creative, and we will have fulfilled the definition of management.

It did take some additional effort initially to find time to begin creating this scheduling and time management. It takes more effort to maintain the smooth operation of such a project. But, in our opinion, there is a large amount of pressure that has been relieved, and the ability to be creative and innovative has greatly improved.

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This article is copyrighted by Tom Shay and Profits Plus Solutions, who can be reached at: PO Box 1577, St. Petersburg, Fl. 33731. Phone 727-464-2182. It may be printed for an individual to read, but not duplicated or distributed without expressed written consent of the copyright owner.

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Profits Plus Solutions, Inc.
PO Box 1577
St. Petersburg, Fl 33731
(727) 464-2182
Fax: (727) 898-3179