5 errors you're making if you're scheduling on spreadsheets

by Rotageek on 23 November 2021

For decades, retailers have been manually inputting their workers’ shifts into a spreadsheet and sticking a printout on the break room wall. Or this might have evolved into a WhatsApp group in more recent times. 

But whilst this might have worked previously, in today’s technologically advanced world, coupled with the rise of flexible workforces and a worldwide pandemic, anything less of a digital solution isn’t going to work. There are countless apps and platforms making our personal and work lives easier - so why not for our shifts?

A digital solution gives you the power to create schedules in a matter of clicks, easily forecast your labour to demand, and provides a slick platform to communicate with your employees. And for the employee? Mobile apps that send notifications, provide reminders and allow them to take control of their working lives are the norm.

So if you're still on spreadsheets, here we share the common pitfalls you'll be experiencing - and how an automated digital solution could revolutionise your scheduling.

The biggest pitfalls of using spreadsheets to schedule

Wasting precious time and energy

How long do you spend scheduling staff? The probable answer is longer than you’d like. Inputting data into a manual spreadsheet not only takes a lot of initial time to produce (over 9 hours a week for a third of retail managers) - it also causes hours of admin to edit, understand and share. 

Each time an employee requests a day off, asks to swap a shift, is sick, unavailable or worse, doesn’t show up, it takes a manager away from their day to day role. It also costs time congregating the worked hours to send onto payroll - a much more difficult task when using a complex spreadsheet (more on this later).

But this doesn’t just affect shop floor workers. Head office is also a factor here. Compiling information from different stores, different teams and regions is a hefty job that takes senior staff hours upon hours to complete every month.

With a data-driven digital solution, this entire process takes minutes. An initial schedule can be created in thirty seconds or less, giving all employees complete visibility at all times. Overall, this immediate benefit can save companies up to 80% in administrative time.

Increased labour cost

Excel = a waste of staff’s time. Got it. But what about the number of hours staff are scheduled when they’re actually not needed? Matching staff to your customer demand is a tricky business. Add in a lack of automated technology and it’s near on impossible.

The problem is that spreadsheets - and even non-automated scheduling apps - don’t allow for accurate forecasting. Employees are assigned a set of predefined shifts that can’t efficiently fit demand, especially when footfall fluctuates against unexpected patterns.

To maximise your labour costs, a digital solution is a must. Using only 0.5% of your staffing budget, automated scheduling can in return save up to 10%. Meaning you’ll never over, or under, staff again.

Poor accuracy 

Struggling to keep on top of staff requests? We get it, making sure every employee’s availability, contracted hours, holidays and general preferences are taken into consideration is a headache. And this leads to errors. 

Relying on manual processes and spreadsheets ultimately results in missed requests and multiple versions which cost companies thousands in time and money. Plus when it comes to then paying your workforce, you are subject to compliance cross-checks and legal ramifications when a team member is incorrectly compensated.

Sadly, many retailers are still left battling ineffective ways of scheduling employees that ironically cause more stress than implementing a digital system. However, by taking the leap, retailers can immediately remove these costly barriers with very little effort from the user.

Digital scheduling solutions seamlessly integrate with payroll workflows with automated cross-checks, eliminating any room for human error. Any changes to the rota are updated in real-time on one, accessible version. And if an employee is scheduled for longer than permitted, the system simply won’t allow it. So you’ll benefit from automated ease and compliant accuracy.

Lack of reporting 

Another issue with scheduling through Excel is a lack of visibility. Area managers and head office teams require an accurate view of staffing levels and costs, often across multiple sites. However, spreadsheets do not offer a uniform or real-time representation of this data.

A digital solution offers better upwards reporting, allowing managers to gain a quicker, simpler understanding of key labour statistics. Users can log in at any time across multiple devices to see how many hours have been used. This enables the opportunity to be more proactive and strategic when it comes to cost control.

It’s also worth mentioning that staff annual leave allowance is much easier to navigate with digital scheduling. Oversight of days taken/remaining per employee is key within most industries, particularly for retail where time is typically taken off is often busy for high street stores. With such visibility, you can quickly say goodbye to having a lack of available employees during the Christmas rush due to unused annual leave!

Negative employee experience

How easy it is for your employees to find their shifts? If you’re using a spreadsheet, the chances are it’s pretty difficult. Excel, WhatsApp, even the office notice board… these archaic methods aren’t just a waste of time. They are incredibly frustrating for the user and can lead to employees missing shifts, missing personal events or simply just not turning up.

A good digital solution reminds employees they have a shift, notifies them of new schedules and gives them a bunch of self service tools to help them achieve a better work / life balance. To enhance employee experience, solutions with swap and drop functionality, or that allow employees to pick up shifts from other sites in the area, can enable them to have more control – all difficult to achieve on spreadsheets.

By bettering the experience of scheduling for your workers, you are ultimately able to increase productivity, motivation and engagement. Each of which are vital to improving the overall customer experience and store performance.

Retire the spreadsheet

At Rotageek, our automatic scheduling solution is trusted by leading retailers worldwide from Pret A Manger to Lush Cosmetics. Find out more about how our technology can work for your business and get in touch with our expert team today.

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