Scheduling is never easy. Efficient scheduling sets the tone for how the rest of the project will be carried out, requiring a significant amount of time dedicated to reviewing the project deliverables, timeline, and your employees' capabilities and availabilities. Moreover, it is not without the risk of human error.
If you're feeling a bit intimidated by the whole process and unsure of where or how to begin, you're in luck! We're laying out scheduling best practices in this article and providing you with a complete guide to effective scheduling, so keep reading.
What practices should individuals adopt for efficient scheduling?
Individuals should adopt the following practices for efficient scheduling:
Make a plan
Complete your WBS (Work Breakdown Structure)
Pair the right skills with tasks
Allow for shift bids and trades
Roll out the new schedule in advance
Use the proper scheduling tools
How can businesses ensure optimal utilization of schedules?
Businesses can ensure optimal utilization of schedules by:
Analyzing the project needs
Getting familiar with staff’s skills
Dividing the work evenly
Being flexible with swaps
Planning for emergencies
Rotating the diary regularly
Which tools and techniques can enhance scheduling efficiency?
The best tools and techniques to enhance scheduling efficiency include:
Online scheduling tools – These allow for full visibility, integration with other tools, and easy access
Task management tools – These help visualize and administrate tasks and responsibilities
Online calendars – These enable effortless sharing, efficient calendar management, and straightforward meeting scheduling
HR management tools – These provide an avenue for leave requests, time trackers, and absenteeism monitoring
Get rid of the nerves brought on by the challenges of scheduling and prepare to get busy strategizing and planning. Eliminate the risk of errors, duplicates, and overlaps by reading up and following our list of scheduling best practices. We also have tools as well as a list of software that can help you get the job done better.
1. Understand your deliverables and goals
A warrior never goes into battle without sizing up the enemy first. Before getting started, understand what's expected of you and your team, appreciate the goals and deadlines set before you, and review all of your deliverables so you can plan accordingly. Involve your clients, stakeholders, and team to create a comprehensive plan that covers all aspects and leaves no stone unturned. Reiterate the project specifics to your team and ensure their understanding before obtaining their commitment and proceeding with scheduling.
Once you have everything in order, it's time to familiarize yourself with your team, and then you can move on to conquering the mountain and completing the project at hand.
2. Get to know your team
You want to pair the right people with the job that needs to get done, so knowing who you have on your team, what they can do, and how quickly they can do it is key. Efficient scheduling means pairing the employees with the right skills, knowledge, and temperament with specific tasks within the project for optimum results. As a means of a backup of sorts, line up those employees who may not be as skilled or knowledgeable right now but are willing to be trained and ready to learn.
This is also a good time to find out your team’s availability. Let them know that they are not guaranteed to get their preferred schedule, but they will be taken into consideration once you get started on getting the schedule together.
3. Develop your work breakdown structure
Before you can break the iceberg apart, you need to chip away at it one little piece at a time. Only then can the whole thing crumble and become more manageable. This is the same concept as the project you have before you.
It’s called a work breakdown structure (WBS) when you take a whole project and knock it down into little subprojects and subtasks and assign them to your team. Drill down into the project and distribute each piece evenly among all your team members. This keeps them on their toes, challenged but far from getting burned out or overly tired of the work.
Use task management software when task scheduling to help you keep track of what you’ve assigned to your team, the timeline, and the deadline you’ve set for each one. Being able to do all of these, as well as measure the amount of time it takes for each task to get done, is one of the scheduling best practices.
4. Sort out the team’s availability
When scheduling, you also need to pay attention to your team’s available hours and days (if you’re working 24/7) as well as the times in the day when they’re most productive. Not minding these can lead to a significant loss of team motivation since your employees will feel like they’re not looked after and only the job is important.
You also need to make sure that you have someone working on momentous days such as holidays, when everyone else would much rather stay home and lounge. If the project is big and you need to have people working on it round-the-clock, tap your most available employees before anyone else.
5. Use a scheduling template to automate the process
Streamline scheduling by automating the process and utilizing templates. Invest in an online calendar that can be shared with your team, featuring everyone's schedules and tasks. You can also encourage your employees to create their own calendars with itemized to-do lists, providing everyone with a clear view of their workday. Both public and private events can be added to these shared calendars to ensure ultimate transparency.
Grant your staff access rights so they can customize their calendars and view their schedules, especially if you have a rotating scheme that changes over time. Ensure that your software supports synchronization with other online apps for efficient calendar management.
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6. Keep communication channels open
Welcome open dialogue and communication around scheduling even before you get started with plotting your teams. Whether you choose to go with instant messaging, calls, emails, or even video conferences, your employees should be able to have discussions among themselves. Your clients or higher-ups should also be able to pitch in, review, and give you their feedback about staff availability and task delegation.
Let your employees know that they can come to you if they need anything – whether it’s changes to their schedules or assigned tasks. Adopt an open-door policy so they can approach you if they feel like they won’t be able to work properly given their schedule or if you want to avoid scheduling conflicts.
7. Use a specific scheduling tool
Ditch the old printed sheets for jotting down schedules; modern scheduling relies on dedicated tools. Consider setting up Gantt charts or Kanban boards to make tasks, subtasks, and dependencies visible to the entire team. Visual tools like these make meeting scheduling much easier for everyone involved.
The key is accessibility and comprehensiveness. Like you and your hybrid team, your calendar should be able to accommodate different functions, such as multiple viewers at the same time, display absences and leaves as well and send out reminders and notifications.
8. Split the work evenly among team members
There are just people that we tend to gravitate towards in the workplace, even managers, so we may want to schedule them for work as often as possible, which is not entirely fair. Doing this is not aligned with any guide to effective scheduling. You’ll run the risk of tiring out one employee while underutilizing the rest of your team.
Bring into service every member of your team and distribute the workload evenly among all of them. This way, the work gets done, those who are not as skilled or knowledgeable get to learn on the job, and everyone is productive.
9. Allow shift bids, trades, and swaps
There needs to be a little bit of flexibility when it comes to scheduling. Leave some wiggle room for your staff and allow them to swap schedules among themselves if needed or if someone is going to be unable to work on a given day. Schedule swaps can come in handy when you have a lot of work to finish, and someone needs to attend to another matter that’s not work-related or is unavailable.
If any team member is not happy with the schedule that they’re given and they’ve found someone to swap with, consider allowing that, too. It’s better to have two people trade schedules than to have an employee think about leaving the company because they’re having issues balancing their professional and personal lives due to their work diary.
You can also use shift bidding rights as an incentive for top performers. If a member of your team qualifies, they get to pick their preferred schedule. This will motivate your employees to work hard for the privilege of being able to choose their timetable or agenda.
10. Account for seasonal changes
This is especially helpful for sales teams and retailers. Like it or not, business supply and demand can ebb and flow depending on the season. There are lean seasons, and there are peak seasons. Be sure to account for these time periods when scheduling for better calendar management and to avoid a surplus of team members sitting around the bullpen with nothing to do.
You can keep a roster of seasonal agents and have them join your team just as the peak season is about to start. Then, once the demand for your products and/or services begins to calm down, you can let them go or put their contracts on pause until you need them again.
11. Make room for emergencies
Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how thorough or how careful you are when it comes to managing time and scheduling. Emergencies can rear its ugly head when you least expect them to. It may be impossible to plan for every single possibility, but having a plan B in case of crisis, accident, or disaster in the workplace helps ensure that the work itself never suffers, deliverables are turned over on time, and deadlines are always met.
Apart from allowing swaps and trades, keep a list of on-call agents on hand. Even when you do not have anyone in your actual team to fill in, you will still have stopgap workers that you can call.
12. Enforce strict schedule adherence
Now that the scheduling is done and the agenda is rolled out urge your team to adhere to it. Failing to do so defeats the purpose of efficient scheduling in the first place, and it would not be fair to the rest of the workforce. Make your team understand what absences and tardiness can do to the whole calendar and not just their own. This is apart from what their failure to schedule adherence can do to the project itself.
Give your employees ready access to their schedules and reiterate your shift swap policies. If you notice someone missing or coming in late, be quick to catch the behavior so it can be corrected right away. Be sure to always track any infractions in your HR management platform.
13. Review the schedule regularly
As with anything in the workplace, team schedules need to be tweaked or even overhauled completely from time to time. Ideally, a project timetable revamp should be done every 3 to 6 months for it to be efficient scheduling. Doing so makes the work fresh and interesting and the employees alert and motivated to work.
Rotating the roster or client list among your staff helps keep the work interesting, so you might want to consider doing so while you’re going over the current schedule and mulling over changes.
You can factor in schedule adherence, attendance, efficiency, and productivity when you’re reviewing the current roster and diary. Add this to your requirements for top performers to create a sense of FOMO and push your employees to do well consistently.
14. Roll out the new schedule weeks in advance
Getting used to a new working pattern or routine can take time. Even the body needs to acclimate to changes in the workplace. Give your team a chance to get adjusted to their new calendars and tasks by announcing and showing the team schedule weeks in advance. This will allow them the time to clear their personal calendars and attend to other matters outside of the workplace that can affect their performance. They can then focus on the job at hand.
15. Evaluate your scheduling methods and improve
There’s always room for improvement, even when it comes to efficient scheduling. It takes some time to get things right, and this doesn’t guarantee perfection in the matter. You also can’t do it alone. It’s always a good idea to have someone else review the whole schedule to see if it will all work and send it to everyone involved.
Set aside time to evaluate the current schedule, especially when you notice some of your employees failing to adhere to it. If it becomes apparent that what you have at the moment is not working out, it might be time to go back to the drawing board, redo the whole thing, and streamline the process further.
Efficient scheduling is not hit or miss that’s why it takes some careful thought, patience, and creative planning. You just need to be able to balance the workload, distribute it evenly, and adhere to the project deadlines. Save time, money, and resources by procuring a scheduling tool that provides everything you need for efficient calendar management as well as reliable task and team scheduling.
Bitrix24 has thoughtfully built online calendars and sophisticated scheduling tools at your disposal that go beyond saving time and effort and preventing errors as well. Sign up today and get a leg up on scheduling best practices!