The Center for WorkLife at the University of California Hastings College of the Law recently conducted a study titled "Stable Scheduling increases productivity and sales." As the title indicates, employees produced more, and sold more when they worked a stable schedule.
But if you dig a little deeper into the minds of the employees, there's a broader lesson here. And it's a lesson that can be applied to any organization that wants to boost productivity - not just those in retail.
A Great Find at The GAP
The GAP, like a lot or retailers and organizations in the service industry, felt there was too much financial risk in scheduling their employees to work a consistent set of hours each week. Their collaboration with the Center for WorkLife helped them to see that the opposite could in fact be true. Consistent scheduling didn't lead to financial challenges. Instead, the consistent scheduling lead to financial gains - an average increase of 7% in store sales.
Here’s the bigger lesson from the study: Remove uncertainty from your employees' lives, and you'll have more engaged and productive employees.
Sam Stephenson is an hourly employee at a GAP store in North Carolina. A New York Times article about the study quotes Mr. Stephenson:
"I don't count on the hours in my schedule (so) I don't count on the money I'm supposed to be getting."
Think about that for a moment...
If an employee feels he can't count on a consistent paycheck, there's going to be more uncertainty in his life. And uncertainty causes anxiety.
For example, the anxiety of not being about to pay rent on time. Or the anxiety of not being able to come up with the money on time for next Tuesday's school field trip for a son or daughter. And anxiety doesn't exactly lead go greater employee engagement.
The study's research demonstrates that employees can be productive when their work schedules are consistent. The consistency reduced employees' uncertainty. And less the uncertainty meant less anxiety in their day-to-day lives. And with less anxiety, they were able to focus more clearly on their work, leading to a higher level of engagement.
If you're looking for ways to increase employee productivity and engagement, one way to start may be to identify practices and policies that cause uncertainty among your employees.
- Take an inventory of "uncertainty triggers."
- Which ones can you change?
- Where can you begin on a pilot basis?
- How can you measure the impact of the change?
This concept isn't new. But it's not practiced as much as it could be. After all, if a 135,000 employee / 15 billion dollar / 48 year old behemoth like the GAP is just now implementing it in a place that might have seemed obvious, surely there are others among us who missing out on the business opportunities that exist when employees feel less uncertainty.