Measure High-Potential Scheduling

How Do You Measure and Maximize a High-Potential Schedule?

Julie Bushee 
Retail Labor Manager 

How does a retailer know if its schedules will be operative or predictable? Can it measure them based on service surveys, management feedback or employee satisfaction? How should a retailer analyze schedules after they are posted? These are difficult questions, especially since there are multiple ways to measure whether or not a schedule is “effective.” Generally, scheduling effectiveness is how closely your planned labor matches required labor.

Introducing scheduling effectiveness

Before moving on, it’s important to reiterate that there is not a universally accepted definition to summarize scheduling effectiveness. This makes perfect sense because retailers operate with their own unique values and objectives guiding performance. Since each retailer measures effectiveness differently, it may be more meaningful to consider the qualities or metrics that they use to increase scheduling potential. In this blog post, I will talk about scheduling effectiveness as high-potential scheduling to reinforce this point. Here are a few components to consider:

  • Hours accuracy
  • Placement accuracy
  • Service effectiveness
  • Labor effectiveness

Individually, each of these high-potential scheduling measurements provide some guidance, but together, they offer a more holistic picture. The process of comparing scheduled labor data to actual labor data (i.e., “actuals”) is a tedious process. It is time consuming, and if you can only evaluate one of the components, it may offer less actionable insight. Having software that can quickly and accurately measure all four components delivers a much higher ROI.

Four mighty metrics

Let’s discuss each of the components listed above:

  • Hours accuracy: A schedule is a plan based on a forecast. Hours accuracy measures how close the forecasted, scheduled hours were to the actual, required hours. This component offers insight into whether a retailer scheduled more (i.e., overscheduling) or less (i.e., underscheduling) hours than necessary.
  • Placement accuracy: This measures the placement of the right people at the right place at the right time. Employees may have been scheduled for the correct number of hours, but unless those hours were scheduled while customers were shopping, the time was not used effectively.
  • Service effectiveness: If a retailer underschedules to actuals, service expectations simply cannot be met, regardless of service strategy. This component measures how many instances of underscheduling occurred and assigns a grade to the schedule. The fewer times these occurrences appear, the higher the grade.
  • Labor effectiveness: This component measures the occurrences of overscheduling. Every time overscheduling happens, labor expenses increase. Unused hours equate to higher payroll. This incurred expense without increased service is painful to any business.

All the above components must be balanced to achieve high-potential scheduling. If they aren’t, retail leaders won’t have enough insight to consistently understand how well their schedules meet their needs. Let’s illustrate with an example of why this is the case.

High-potential scheduling in action

A hypothetical produce department scheduled 250 hours one week, although their labor model produced 255 earned hours of work. This schedule looked good on paper, as the hours were comparable, although slightly under the need. The central scheduling team and produce manager accepted the schedule without changes.

Upon closer analysis, a central scheduler noticed overscheduled mornings and uncovered evenings. Both times of day missed placing the right number of employees on the floor while customers shopped. Hours accuracy alone was unable to catch this miss. An equivalent number of hours were scheduled, but they were not slotted to meet demand.

Using service and labor effectiveness would have helped the hypothetical produce schedulers. They might have noticed mornings scored well to meet service initiatives on availability of labor. However, evenings lacked in labor and led to poor service. When service effectiveness varies dramatically, so does labor effectiveness.

In our hypothetical scenario, the retailer saved evening payroll, but at what cost? On the other hand, haphazardly scheduling more people does not always equate to great service. When employees saturate the floor, productivity can decrease without specific direction from leadership and can lead to sales dollars lost if not deploying associates on activities that would drive sales higher. Having the appropriate number of associates on hand at the right time and place, doing the right things, is key to improved service, efficiency and ultimately sales.

The impact of measuring performance

High-potential scheduling requires the ability to manage and quantify performance, and this means having the visibility to drive continuous improvement. Whether you determine schedule effectiveness by the four metrics discussed here or by other indicators, tracking and grading execution will give you critical visibility into how your stores and organization are performing to your specific KPIs. Gratefully, present-day technology makes this much easier.

What used to be tedious is now intuitive thanks to modern, easy-to-interpret visual dashboards that transform key data into practical intelligence. Best-in-class technology will optimize your scheduling and deliver the performance scorecard insight you need to quickly identify improvement areas as well as analyze what is working. Use system-generated KPI ratings that are based on your chosen scheduling effectiveness metrics to motivate ongoing improvement, refocus training and resources, and understand root-cause issues to refine performance over time.

In ending, scheduling requires a holistic approach allowing retail leaders to define, measure and analyze the aspects of scheduled plans that translate into scheduling effectiveness for their unique businesses. What you can define and measure, you can understand and improve upon. No matter how you define effectiveness KPIs in your organization, you can efficiently track and turn your high-potential schedules into high-performing operations. Sounds like a healthy tradeoff!