The Evolution of the Paper Schedule

Once upon a time, there was a man named Bob who owned a corner store. This business owner was very successful, and over time, had more work than he could handle himself. So Bob hired several sales clerks to help him get his work done.

Bob became alarmed when his employees would show up to work whenever they pleased. Sometimes they would all come in on the same day, and fight over the cash register. Other days, no one would come in at all.

And so he decided to invent a system where he would tell his staff when to come in so that he always had a helper. He called this a work schedule. He would write down when each employee was to work, and they always knew when to show up.

The problem is, Bob was constantly responding to the messenger pigeons (the telephone was not yet invented) from his employees asking when they worked. And then they’d grumble because he would schedule them when they wanted to go to the tavern down the road.

This is completely made up, but it illustrates my point: some businesses are still using this archaic and outdated means of scheduling employees, with the same problems as the cobbler had.

Flash Forward a Few Years

Over the past century, we moved from handwritten schedules (using a feather pen, I am sure) to typing them with a typewriter to using spreadsheets. While the spreadsheets seemed to organize the schedules a bit better (it made them easier to read, at least), it didn’t solve those underlying issues:

Employees interrupt the store owner’s day to call and find out when they work

  • Owner would accidentally schedule an employee when he couldn’t work
  • Owner had to continually make changes to the schedule

Retailers just accepted this as par for the course, and wasted tons of unnecessary time in scheduling.

The Scheduling Situation Today

Many retailers are still creating paper or spreadsheet schedules, unfortunately. But a new solution came onto the scene a few years ago, though many retailers still aren’t aware of it: employee scheduling software.

With software — or even a mobile app — retail owners can now easily schedule employees when they’re able to work, as employees input their availability into the software. When the schedule is complete, the employer can instantly email or text it to his staff. No more disruptive phone calls keeping him from other duties. And the retailer can keep an eye on staffing costs and ensure that shifts are always covered based on demand.

We’ve come a long way since Bob first struggled with his employee schedules, but with the right tools, retailers can spend less time worrying about who’s working, and more time focused on increasing their bottom line.

Contributed by Susan Payton, a writer for ScheduleBase – online employee scheduling with free mobile apps that makes it easy for retailers to schedule their staff. 

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