Connecting the Dots: Employee Scheduling and Sales

employeesBy Krystina Morgan

One of the biggest complaints with working in retail is the unsteady hours. One week you may be working thirty-five hours and the next you could be working fifteen. It’s hard to make plans with inconsistent hours and there’s never a definite paycheck. “It’s not uncommon for retail workers to be unsure of what their schedules look like just a few days or even a few hours out, which makes it difficult to plan child care and schedule doctors’ appointments, much less rely on a stable paycheck,” according to Slate.

A study was done at more than two dozen Gap® retail stores in the San Francisco and Chicago areas over a thirty-five week period, which showed that more predictable and consistent hours aren’t just compatible with profitability, they can significantly improve a store’s bottom line, according to a New York Times article. Researchers of the study examined twenty-eight Gap® stores in the areas and randomly selected nineteen to implement new scheduling rules beginning in November 2015, according to the Huffington Post.

The managers of the selected stores were encouraged to provide employees with more consistent schedules from week to week. The results showed that the selected stores for the experiment had a seven percent increase in sales. That’s an additional $6.20 per hour of labor and a $2.9 million increase over the thirty-five week period. “The results suggest that employers can improve work schedules in hourly jobs and also meet their business goals,” Susan Lambert, a co-author from the University of Chicago, said in a statement from the school, according to the Huffington Post.

Happy workers equal more sales. An employee can gain more experience with longer and consistent hours, and therefore can use their experience to boost sales. This seems like an easy win-win situation for businesses and employees. Even still, there seem to be issues with stable scheduling.

According to Slate, many businesses attribute unstable working hours to uneven store traffic. Many retail companies cut down on costs by sending workers home early if the story isn’t busy enough. Or, if the store is too busy, they call in someone who isn’t normally scheduled.

But, as both Slate and the study showed, in fact,  store traffic only accounted for thirty percent of variation in staffing levels. In the study, Gap® still gained a major profit from consistently staffing their stores, and that was only from nineteen stores. Imagine the profit they would make if they consistently staffed every single one of their locations.

After the staffing study ended, it was reported that all Gap® stores in the U.S. made two important changes: eliminating “on-calls,” which are when employees are scheduled to work shifts that can be canceled anytime up until two hours before they are scheduled to begin, and requiring employee schedules to be posted two weeks in advance. These two simple changes can help retailers appeal to people looking for jobs and also help reduce turnover.

In a recent New York Times piece, Marshall L. Fisher, a professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and expert on retailing, said the Gap® staffing study provided compelling evidence that “if you treat people decently, you get better results.”

Many retailers are opting for mobile or tech-enabled apps that allow workers to swap shifts and managers to post shifts. This enables employees to find coverage for their shifts without involving management and management to find shift coverage without asking each employee individually. Some other tips that can help keep staff happy and confident with their jobs are offering a stable shift structure, core scheduling for managers to improve the associates’ shifts from week to week, and offering a guarantee of at least twenty hours per week.  

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