How to schedule instructors: The ultimate guide for maximum results

  • February 27th, 2018
  • in Operations
  • By Steve Jones
How to schedule instructors: The ultimate guide for maximum results

When it’s time to schedule your driving school instructors, do you continually struggle with this cumbersome task? If you do, you’re not alone. How to schedule instructors is the one question that owners ask me the most when I attend conferences or lectures.

Coming up with the right instructor schedule is critical for any business, but even more so in the driving school industry. A great schedule ensures that the right instructors are in the right place at the right time. It also decreases costs and increases productivity.

How to schedule instructors: The wrong way

red road sign warning wrong way

Yes, it’s true. Most driving school owners don’t know how to schedule instructors for maximum results. Why is this? Believe it or not, driving schools don’t use a systematic approach when determining their instructor schedule. In fact, 90% of all driving schools go about scheduling their instructors using a backwards approach.

They hire employees first and then ask when they can work. This method is not only inefficient, but it also does not maximize your fleet utilization.

Most owners ask me about how to schedule instructors, but they’re not willing to put in their due diligence and homework to develop a system. If YOU want to learn the best process for developing effective schedules, I can help.

The first step is to become a better planner. You have to look into the future, estimate demand and fully utilize your resources to meet the demand. Yet, so many schools still get this SO wrong. Break the mold and become a better planner.

How to schedule instructors: The right way

hot to schedule instructors drive scout

So, is there an ideal solution to the issue of how to schedule instructors? Well, yes there is! It’s a forward approach that will help reduce labor costs by matching resources to demand. According to The Aberdeen Group, a good instructor schedule…

  • Will help reduce the need for shift changes downstream.
  • Since staff scheduling is an inherently repetitive process, it is easy to simply repeat what was done before.

Many driving school owners WANT to become better schedulers, but they don’t realize how effective instructor schedules can decrease costs and increase their bottom line.

Below explains the benefits of proper scheduling through a fuel pump analogy…

If appointments are the vehicle that moves a service organization forward, then scheduling those appointments is the fuel. Using that analogy, the goal of any expanding enterprise is to have the fastest, most cost-efficient, and most productive fleet possible.

Now imagine if you were relying on a single gas pump to fuel these vehicles. As cars sat idle, waiting in line, employee productivity would plummet. And as gas gauges moved toward “E,” vehicles would have to return to your location and get at the end of the line again. The scenario would be laughable if it weren’t so reminiscent of the 1970s.

You wouldn’t dream of wasting the time and energy it would take to fuel your fleet with a single gas pump. So why would you employ a stationary, single-location method for managing appointments?

How to schedule instructors for maximum results

Maximum results Drive Scout

Now that you know about the benefits of an effective instructor schedule, let’s delve into the steps required to actually producing one.

How to schedule instructors: Step #1 – Determine shifts first

The key to effective and efficient instructor scheduling is to plan your shifts ahead of time. This should be your very first step when creating a master schedule.

Think about a popular local restaurant. Its tables are just like your cars. A restaurant needs to fill its tables just like you need to keep your cars busy and on the road at all times. A good restaurant manager determines how many tables a waiter can handle at peak times. He then creates morning, afternoon and evening shifts. If the restaurant has 50 tables and a waiter can handle 5 tables, then it needs 10 servers per shift.

Now, think about your own fleet of cars. How many shifts do you need to maximize your fleet utilization? If you have 8 cars and want to run lessons from 6 am – 9:30 pm (in 2 hour increments with 30 minutes between lessons) during the busy summer season, then how many shifts do you need?

Examples of instructor shifts for driving schools

  • Example 1: 6 am – 10:30 am, 11:30 am – 4 pm, and 5 pm – 9:30 pm. To maximize your fleet of 8 cars, you would then need 24 instructors.
  • Example 2: 6 am – 1 pm and 2 pm – 9 pm. To maximize your fleet of 8 cars, you would need 16 instructors.

Both examples assume your instructors work seven days a week, which is not practical.   Often, you’ll see full-time instructors work 4–6 days a week and part-time staff 2–3 days a week.  Hence, you’ll probably needs closer to 30 instructors for example #1 and 21 for example #2, depending on how many shifts each instructor works.

How to schedule instructors: Step #2 – Assess your resource pool and hire instructors

How to schedule instructors drive scout

First, hire your shift needs, then think about plugging instructors into these shifts. Assess your resource pool and hire new instructors, if necessary.

This plan will ensure that you have the right instructors in the right cars at the right time, thus answering the question of how to schedule instructors.

Assess your resource pool

After creating your master schedule and filling your shifts, it’s important to assess your resource pool. Do you have too many instructors? Do you need to hire more? In a perfect world, you now have just the right number of instructors to cover all of your shifts.

You don’t have to ask them when they can work because you already know. Once you know everyone’s availability, you’ll save major time and eliminate frustration when it’s time to create a new monthly or weekly schedule.

Hire new instructors

If certain shifts aren’t covered, hire employees to work these specific shifts. Bringing people onto your team who are a good culture fit for the company is also essential to success. Shoot for this gold standard.

During the interview process, ask your potential employees when they are available to work, and when they are not. For example, a driving instructor might not be able to work on Sundays.

How to schedule instructors: Step #3 – Create a master list

master list drive scout

Create a master list of when your existing and new instructors can work. Next, plug them into your available shifts. Once you know everyone’s availability, you’ll save major time and eliminate frustration when it’s time to create a new monthly or weekly schedule.

How to schedule instructors: Step #4 – Change your way of thinking

If you create monthly or weekly schedules by asking everyone when they can work, it’s time for a change. Yes, you may get some kickback and some resistance, but you’re the owner. Simply explain that things are changing. They can either adapt or leave.

You want employees that can adapt to change, right? Right! In the long run, your new employee master schedule will define what resources are needed, when and where.

How to schedule instructors: Step #5 – Manage Change

master list drive scout

You think your new master schedule is perfect. Congratulations. However, you’re unrealistic if you think you won’t need to make changes. Life happens. Your most dependable instructor may need to take off unexpectedly for a doctor’s appointment or if her babysitter fails to show up. It happens!

As a driving school owner, you need to be firm with your schedule, but also flexible. No matter how perfect your schedule is when it’s released, it will require frequent tweaking to accommodate last minute changes.

How to schedule instructors: The magic of automation

how to schedule instructors drive scout

Do the above steps seem a little (or a LOT!) daunting and intimidating? Well, guess what? They ARE! Not everyone has time to become a scheduling expert. That’s where automation comes into play.

With the right software, you can quickly create a master schedule and make changes even more quickly.  Software, like Drive Scout streamlines the scheduling process, giving you more time to focus on driving sales and helping students.

Get Your Demo Today!

Scheduling software makes changes a breeze

According to The Balance, employees value work schedule flexibility more than anything. That means that you have to create a master schedule that meets your staff’s needs and available hours, but is flexible enough to make last-minute changes.

Yes, it’s entirely possible to set schedule boundaries that blend flexibility and predictability. There are lots of reasons why work availability can change: people get sick, family emergencies happen. If you use a technology tool like Drive Scout, you can easily adapt your schedule at the drop of a hat without having to text/call/email your office and instructor staff.

Three major reasons for instructor schedule changes

If you decide to move forward with our schedule tips above, be aware that changes happen every day. Below are the three major reasons for schedule changes, according to The Aberdeen Group.

  1. Changes in demand – In the driving school industry, the summer months are the busiest. You may need a standby pool of instructors that can fill-in at the last minute. If you turn down business in summer, you’re turning down profit. Period. Turn down too much business and your driving school won’t survive during the slower months.
  2. Changes to employee availability – This is often the number one reason for schedule changes. Scheduling software that provides shift-swapping capability is critical.
  3. Employee no-shows – Reacting to same-day situations, such as employees who are ill or fail to show up, is stressful. Call lists and text messaging often won’t find you a last-minute sub quickly.

Automation to the rescue!

Hero drive scout

The good news is that since most schedule changes stem from the three causes above, you can manage them more efficiently with the right process automation.

According to the Aberdeen Group

Companies that effectively automate workforce management can reduce unplanned overtime costs to below 4% and worker productivity can increase by 12% on average.

The right scheduling software is your key to success

There are many reasons to automate your scheduling process, but below are a few more…

If you’re operating without online scheduling, you’ve operating in a vacuum and putting up a roadblock between you and your customers.

Remember, they’re as busy as you are. They have projects and meetings and personal obligations that make it difficult to find the time to remember to call you, much less actually do it.

  1. If a customer does remember to call you and finds the time to do it, this miracle has to occur during your business hours. If it doesn’t, he’s stuck, because you’ve thrown up the roadblock.
  2. He might be able to leave a message, and hope someone returns his call (and that he’s not busy when the call comes in). Or, he can send an email, and wait for a response.
  3. To your customer, it’s the twenty-first century equivalent of putting a message in a bottle and tossing it into the ocean. Not exactly the foundation of an award-winning customer experience strategy.

How to select the right scheduling software for your driving school

Tick and Cross buttons in green and red colors

Selecting the right software for your driving school can definitely rev up your profits, so it’s an important undertaking. The key to success is research. First, you need to determine what the benefits are, and then determine the potential return on investment before you can start to look at specific vendors.

Multi-location driving schools have an even greater need for software that allows for collaboration. Your customers expect to have a seamless experience with your brand, no matter the location. In order to provide the best service possible, customer information and appointment history has to be available at any of your locations.

The importance of mobile-friendly software

Whatever online scheduling software you choose for your driving school, it should be accessible from anywhere. As long as there’s an Internet connection, you can log in to view appointments. Each location can view appointment data for the entire customer base. And you control who has access, right down to individual employees.

How to schedule instructors with Drive Scout

Drive Scout logo

Drive Scout is the #1 all-in-one software that was designed by a driving school owner. It focuses ONLY on driving schools and their very specific needs.

Not only does Drive Scout manage your complicated instructor scheduling needs, it also manages payments, customer/staff data, your website and SO much more. It frees owners from admin overload, giving them more time to focus on students and sales.

Whether you have 1 or 100 employees, Drive Scout has the features you need to save time and drive profits.

Major benefits of Drive Scout

  • Drive profit – Reduce payroll costs by spending up to 70% less time managing schedules, calls & payments.
  • Save time – Eliminate duplicate data entry with one integrated system that connects your website seamlessly.
  • Website management – Stop stressing over your website. We can build you a new site and manage.
  • Customer payments – Integrated credit card processing allows you to process payments quickly & easily.
  • Free support – We love our customers & offer free phone, email & chat support. Our team is always a click or call away.
  • Anywhere & Anytime – Stay on top of your customers & staff from anywhere. In the office or on the go, on ANY device.

Click here for a free Drive Scout Demo to see our software designed exclusively for driving schools in action.

In review:

Below is how to schedule instructors yourself or with the help of technology and software.

How to schedule instructors yourself:

  1. Determine shifts
  2. Assess your resource pool and hire new instructors
  3. Create a master list
  4. Change your way of thinking
  5. Manage change

How to schedule instructors with software:

  1. Research and review software options
  2. Look for a good fit for your driving school
  3. Ask for free demos
  4. Pick the right software
  5. Start saving time and money!

About the Author: Steve Jones, CEO at Drive Scout

In 2009, I opened my first driving school with a $15,000 loan, used office equipment and my Honda Accord from college. Within three years, we hit one million in sales and were growing rapidly. After being unable to find a customized software solution to help us scale, I partnered with a brilliant engineer and built Drive Scout. Soon thereafter, I stepped down as CEO and started working full time on Drive Scout. I created this blog to share my experiences (both good and bad) to hopefully help your company become more profitable and easier to manage. Enjoy and thanks for reading!

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