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.

Superemployee
It’s amazing what employees can do when there’s less uncertainty in their lives.

 

 

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