Scheduling is a Life Skill


How many of you had a retail or restaurant job before, during, or after college?

  • Today, 39% of retail employees are under 28 years old
    • The average age of retail employees (37 years old) is right around the average for all industries (41 years old).

If you did or do work in these industries, then you’ve felt the effects of poor scheduling. You either don’t get enough hours, or you get too many. You either wondered when you might come in, or you felt pressured to come every time you got a call from your manager. I worked as a server in restaurants back in college, and afterwards I even worked as a manager. In both positions, I found scheduling to be guided by the gut. Urgency prevailed and you flipped shifts like bacon strips hoping to avoid any conflicts or grease splatter to the eye.

There was no real method. You were handed the workers’ contact information, their hand-scribbled leave requests, and a blank sheet of paper. Go.

Really? No process, no explanation, no guidebook? How would I know if I did it right or wrong? What happens if I got stuck? These questions too often go unasked and unanswered. Although my stint as a manager was short-lived, many retail workers will stay in the industry for the better part of their lives. They will continue to be victims of the schedule until they “learn” how to schedule.

We can start improving schedules with education. Colleges and organizations are missing a huge opportunity. We hear both sides discuss the gap between graduate skills and the needs and realities of the workplace. 43% of retail employees have post-secondary degrees or higher, yet not a single college course is offered on scheduling or staffing. In the workplace, managerial training seldom includes training on how to use automated scheduling technology or create schedules on their own. The results of this lack of education show up more frequently in the news than the boardroom.

There are several reasons for teaching college students about scheduling.

First, we can assume that at some point in their lives, almost every student will either need to schedule someone or be scheduled. Scheduling is a social issue. Our life, and the lives of others, will be directly affected by our schedules. Students will understand this, especially if they’ve worked work part-time retail or restaurant jobs.

Second, create leaders. We all want our work to matter—students nonetheless—so have them focus on something they can affect. Encourage them to improve scheduling, if not for the greater good, then for themselves.  One day that student might be a manager in charge of department staffing. Instead of seeing it as just another task, show them the business and social impacts of that work.

Third, the classroom provides more room for creativity and experimentation. Without the pressure of budget constraints, managerial politics, or underlying workforce culture, students may explore a wide range of alternatives and potential. Giving students an opportunity to solve realistic workforce problems gives more meaning to classroom work. We all recognize the value of practical application. Why keep students from demonstrating that their studies were practical instead of disjointed and ideal? They may even be able to immediately apply their senior thesis to their new career.

If we want to transform and improve our schedules, then we need to institutionalize a better method of creating and curating them. We can learn slowly over time through trial and error, or we can wait for regulations to force our hands; but what I’d rather see are proactive efforts to inform, educate, and lead.

Who’s with me?


Statistics based on the following report:

Written by: Rachel Disselkamp

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