Effectively and successfully managing staff shifts is critical to keeping customers and employees happy. It can be a difficult job, but those within the industry shared several ways they ease the process and ensure they have the right people in the right place at the right time.
Identifying Labor Needs
Darren Schulte, vice president of membership for NATSO, said operators should start by determining the basic number of employees they need in each profit center. “In a traditional travel center, if you have two registers up front, you should have two people working there. You need someone managing showers and you need someone outside taking care of the area,” he said. “You have to bite the bullet and staff appropriately. It might be costly at first, but if you don’t have the staff you need it will hurt operations and customer service.”
Tom Faricy, vice president of people and truckstop services at Jubitz Corp., said managers look at trends, such as when most truck drivers fuel up, when showers are the busiest and which days tend to be busy. “We monitor that data to set schedules effectively,” he said, adding that for Jubitz, Fridays and Saturdays are the slowest days and Sunday and Monday are busiest.
Stefanie Miller, restaurant manager at Hat Six, creates staff schedules for Schlotzsky’s & Moe’s Southwest Grill. She bases scheduled hours for the next week on sales of the previous week. “We make sure to stay within budget as much as possible with relation to very current sales. This also helps us know when to start adding staff or cutting staff and hours,” she said.
Tom Heinz, president of Coffee Cup Fuel Stops, said the company also tries to staff for peak hours, and places those people who want to work short shifts during the busy times. “The fluctuation is the constant challenge,” he said, adding that managers typically look over data from the previous two weeks.
Heinz said managers keep an eye on events in the area so they can be prepared. “We’re finding more and more of our profit comes between Thursday and Sunday. People are taking three-day weekends. You have to have your facility and your staff on hand for those peak days,” he said.
To be more efficient, Jubitz has been using a greater number of part- time employees to fill peak times. “We have some part-time people working four-to-five hours during peak periods,” Faricy said.
While data is important, Schulte said operators and managers should also factor in the feedback they’re getting from front-line staff and customers. “If you get too caught up on technology and what your percentage needs to be, you may be over or under staffing because of how the numbers play out,” Schulte said. “The system cannot account for a bus just showing up one day or a snow storm that has stopped traffic.”
Making the Right Matches
Effective schedules often go beyond numbers and look at the skills each employee has. “I always like to make sure that I have experienced people on with less experienced people,” Miller said.
Miller also makes sure the people scheduled can fill and know how to fill needed positions even if it’s one person covering more than one position, such as the register and line or prep and runner.
Heinz said when employees are cross trained, they can jump in and help in other areas when they get busy.
RayAnn Naugle, store assistant manager at Hat Six, creates schedules for the convenience store. She tries to keep employees’ schedules the same from week to week as she find it helps with call outs and morale. “The hardest part about making a schedule is working in all the time-off requests while trying to keep all staff at their normal schedules,” she said.
Naugle said Hat Six uses standard shifts—6 a.m. to 2 p.m., 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. and 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. “There are times where I will make an exception if absolutely necessary. I try not to make special accommodations to one when I can’t do it for all,” she said.
Miller also likes standard shifts mostly to keep it simple. “If I have one or two that need flexibility and the schedule allows, then I accommodate as much as I can,” she said.
One of the top challenges Miller faces is getting everyone the hours they need so they don’t quit while also staying within the labor budget. She also has to ensure the location staffed enough to give great customer service and have things prepped for the lines. “It is a struggle a lot of times,” she said.
Staffing During the Holidays
Being open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year is difficult, especially during holidays when many employees want time off to spend with families. Naugle said that during the holidays, Hat Six usually requires everyone work a four-hour shift so everyone can also spend time with their families.“If someone volunteers to work an eight-hour shift, that’s great for people leaving town,” Naugle said, adding that Hat Six pays time and a half for six holidays throughout the year.
Hat Six uses TimeClock Plus and its Mobile Clock app to manage schedules, said Tanya Keser, human resources manager for Hat Six. “This software allows us to create schedule templates and recurring schedules, and it can be customized for each department. “Employees can check their schedule, look at their punches, etc. on the app,” she said. “We have it customized to allow managers to clock in and out on the app when traveling.”
Naugle added that the app is a new program and, so far, not all staff likes using it. “I still print off paper schedules for all my employees per their request as they seem to like having a printed schedule to where they can see what everyone works,” she said.
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