Your Scheduling Software Isn’t the problem, You Are.

by | Aug 19, 2014

The New York Times recently published an article entitled “Working Anything but 9 to 5, Scheduling Technology Leaves Low-Income Parents With Hours of Chaos.” It documents the painful plight of 22-year-old, single mother Jannette Navarro whose life revolves around her erratic schedule as a $9-per-hour Starbucks’ Barista.  Along the way, we see the stress her schedule causes on her child, her friends and her relationships. 

The article blames Starbucks’ scheduling system for Ms. Navarro’s challenges.  Jodi Kantor writes, “Scheduling is now a powerful tool to bolster profits, allowing businesses to cut labor costs with a few keystrokes…Yet those advances are injecting turbulence into parents’ routines and personal relationships.”

Scheduling is a powerful tool but it is not to blame for Ms. Navarro’s predicament.  Starbucks’ scheduling policies – or lack thereof – are to blame. In fact, Starbucks acknowledged as much in an email to its employees following the New York Times article. The coffee giant promised to provide its employees with more stable and consistent hours, to end the practice of clopening, and to ensure that schedules are posted at least one week in advance. 

Starbucks should look at their scheduling system as a way to implement scheduling policy and avoid these problems.  Want to avoid clopenings?  Want to ensure schedules are created more than a week in advance?  No problem.  Scheduling systems can enforce these policies and many more. Here is the key point, even if a retailer has a policy and a system capable of enforcing that policy, they must configure the system to help.   

Consider Starbucks’ mea culpa to its employees.  According to the New York Times’ follow-up article, Starbucks told its staff that it would revise its scheduling software to allow for more input from managers.  In other words, each week, 13,000 US-based store managers will decide how the new scheduling policies will apply to their store, leaving room for 13,000 unique interpretations. 

Starbucks isn’t alone.  They are just the ones in the spotlight this time around.  Many retailers lack scheduling policies or a properly configured scheduling system. The result: chaotic schedules for employees. It doesn’t have to be this way.  Successful scheduling is too often measured only by the cost and coverage of a schedule.  A good schedule should also consider the impact on the employee.  Achieving schedules that are good for the business and good for the employee is possible, and today’s scheduling software can be the catalyst. 

I’m reminded of the line from Spider-Man (or Voltaire, depending upon your literary preference), “With great power comes great responsibility.”  Retailers – really any large employer – have great power in their scheduling systems.    It is their great responsibility to harness that power and positively impact their employees with every week’s schedule.




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