Managing Your Team’s Schedule

As a manager, creating and managing schedules is tedious, but needs to be done.  A well-planned schedule allows you to stay a step ahead of complex situations and gives you maximum efficiency.  There are a number of ways to tackle the scheduling beast; here are a few.

Easy Peasy

For a small team, pen and paper might work just fine; a larger team might be better suited to an online, shared calendar.  You simply create a calendar and add anyone to the group to whom it applies.  As you make updates, you select to send those to the team members.  As your team grows, this method can become a little tedious and take up more of your time.

Spreadsheets are Another Way

Spreadsheets are not time savers.  They can certainly put maximum information in one place but are often confusing and one error slows the team down. Additionally, distribution of them wastes paper and causes more waste.

Is Software Right for You?

As your team grows, there are many software-based systems available.  They come at a cost and usually require training.  The benefit of these systems is that they are turnkey and instantly publish your updates.  Some even have mobile access through your smart phone or tablet.

Getting Started

Once you have your tools and you are ready to work, make a list of your employees.  Your list should include any special skills needed for the job, as well as any compliance requirements, e.g. training, licensing, etc.  You should keep a record of any time-off requests, as well as how it affects their current PTO.  Remembering these things will build confidence in the eyes of your team.

Begin Filling Positions

Next, make a list of the positions you need to fill, including the dates and times.  How you split these shifts between your team will determine their quality of life, so take the time up front to iron out the details.  Consider giving everyone at least one weekend day off, but at the very least give them two days in a row.  Schedule the right person for the job by considering the skills needed for each position.  Little things like this can determine your team’s happiness.  The more you know your team, the easier the process will become.

Set Policies

Lay out clear policies and hold your team accountable.  If you make your schedules out two weeks in advance, then you may want your team to submit any request three weeks in advance.  This gives you some time before you make the schedule to consider any upcoming projects.  Always have time-off requests submitted in writing, hard copy or email.  Take breaks needed into consideration when preparing the schedule.  Have them put it in writing so you can refer back to it later.  Make sure you take into account any breaks your team will need.  Have your team review and verify their schedules and check them throughout the week for changes.

Always hire more employees than you need.  As the week goes on, someone will call off for one reason or another.  Flexibility is vital to prevent any overtime or undue stress on your team.  Hope for the best and plan for the worst.  There are many things to consider when managing a schedule, so find the tools that work for you and pay attention to the details.  You can always change the method later but start with something and see what works.

Are Deadlines Weighing You Down?

We are all guilty of waiting until the last minute to do certain things.  December 24th, who’s online shopping ready to pay a fortune for overnight delivery?  I see those hands!  On the way to a potluck dinner and you forgot you were supposed to bring something?  Grocery store rotisserie chicken to the rescue!  In and of themselves, these are not tragic events.  In business, however, waiting until the last minute can be the end of a client relationship.  It does nothing but make you and your team unhappy and stressed out.  You can relieve this stress by helping everyone set clear, and realistic, goals and objectives.  It is better to be forthright with a client about the reality of their expectations than to make promises you can’t hope to keep.  The ability to meet deadlines on time reflects well on both you and your team.

Make the Goals Clear

When setting goals, it is important to make sure they are clear.  Take the time to write them down on a whiteboard or send a memo to the entire team.  Be prepared to gather everyone to go over the expectations of the goals so each team member is on the same page.  You and your team will have a better chance at success if you stay organized.  Each team member has certain strengths so delegate responsibilities accordingly.  Be careful not to overwhelm any one team member.

Reaching the Milestones

Each team member should be aware of the milestones that you are looking to achieve, along with deadlines for each.  The timely completion of these will give your team a sense of accomplishment.  In addition, schedule regular meetings and keep the lines of communication open.

Get (and Stay) Organized

Never touch the same piece of paper twice.  Read the information thoroughly the first time so you do not have to waste time reviewing it time and again.  This saves time, money, and heartache, especially on long projects.  Keep your team focused on their goals, and on reaching their milestones.  This will keep you on schedule, and lead to a successful project.