by Rakesh Sharma
Published on 14 March 2013
In their concept, scheduling solutions and human resource functions are supposed to be generic. In practice, however, they are specific. This means that they are dependent entirely on the type and nature of the industries they serve.
This week, we will look at a solution designed specifically for the services and retail industry. In this TimeForge review , an easy and powerful labor management software for the restaurant and retail industry, we will look at its features, interface, and see how it can be of use to you.
It is rare to find a labor management solution focused on a specific segment of the retail industry. However, Anthony Presley, who started the service after observing a friend's problems, has a simple rationale for focusing on the restaurant and retail industries. "In these markets, labor is a key controllable expense," he says. "Also, there are a lot of hourly employees in the restaurant and retail industries - with fewer salaried staff." Labor problems can result in staff churn and directly affect the project.
TimeForge enables managers to control key project constraints such as time and resources by using real-time information from TimeForge's scheduling solution. For small businesses, this can also mean the difference between profitability and bankruptcy.
Presley defines TimeForge as an operations-centric labor management platform. This is because businesses generally use the solution through labor budget entry (either hours or costs) or sales forecasts. In turn, TimeForge uses this information to build out a schedule for them. Alternatively, they can create their own custom schedule using the solution. TimeForge also has built-in checks and balances (in the form of business rules) to enable managers to enforce the schedule. It also integrates with third-party solutions. According to Presley, TimeForge will soon come integrated with multiple payroll platforms, applicant tracking systems, and POS/ERP systems.
As I mentioned earlier, TimeForge has several solutions pertaining to labor management. Among these products are Daily Logs (which enables back-office communication in an electronic format) and Human Resources (which can be used for HR-related activities for your restaurant and retail business such as onboarding, review and update of vacation time, and skill set management).
However, the core of their solution lies with scheduling. Hence, for the purposes of this review, I focused on the TimeForge's scheduling solution. Company configuration begins during the registration process. During this step, you can add details such as employee names, positions, and hourly rates. This process can also be automated by uploading an excel sheet containing these details.
Once schedules are published, you can dispatch them to your employees for shift confirmations. TimeForge also enables you to reallocate shifts, adjust them based on availability or approve and deny allocations. Maintenance of schedules is fairly easy and automatic. Employees can bid for shifts or swap them between each other (with managerial approval). You can also configure automatic scheduling rules, such as denying cancellations to reschedule on critical days. Finally, TimeForge has a wealth of analytics and reporting features that enable you to make sense of your customer and employee data.
The TimeForge Scheduling Lite solution is free. Pricing for other solutions within their suite of applications is based on the number of users. While several solutions can be used as standalone applications, TimeForge also has a comprehensive product - TimeForge Max - that integrates all apps into a simple and effective HR solution for restaurateurs and retailers. Presley says the free products are designed for small businesses who just want to get away from Excel. He recommends using the paid versions in a variety of combinations. For example, Scheduling and Attendance apps can be used in conjunction with each other to track employee time.
There are several reasons why the solution is excellent for small businesses. Here are just three of them:
TimeForge takes the pain out of scheduling by enabling a 360-degree perspective of the task. Thus, managers and employees are equal stakeholders in the task. Because it has several built-in features such as approval and resource management, scheduling becomes an integrated task, one that fits in with your overall project management activities.
The TimeForge suite of applications are designed to empower employees. They contain several features that enable employees to perform specific activities between themselves. For example, the TimeForge scheduling software makes it easier for employees to trade shifts with each other or bid for additional shifts. Thus, managers can rest easy, instead of constantly following up itwith them to plan rosters for the coming week.
More than anything else, the restaurant and retail industries are defined by their focus on human interaction. As such, messy excel sheets and expensive, on-premise software that is piecemeal and difficult to maintain can only get in the way of your small business.
The TimeForge suite of applications makes it easy and affordable for small businesses to focus on their core unique selling points by automating several HR-related tasks such as scheduling and attendance. For example, you can configure automated rules for scheduling. Similarly, you can generate reports with a single click. What's more, the TimeForge suite of solutions can be used in conjunction with each other to minimize conflict and valuable setup time.
TimeForge has done a good job recently at integrating with third party apps. They have a Facebook app, an Android app, an iOS app (being reviewed by Apple). They integrate with most major 3rd party payroll provider, have iCal and RSS exports, integrate with all of the major POS platforms in restaurant and retail, and also have a full API to allow their customers to write their own.
Because it is an Excel-killer, the application has eschewed the messy formulae ethic of the application. Instead, the application displays schedules and data in a simple, easy-to-read format. Setup is form-based and enables businesses to be up-and-running in the matter of entering data in a few screens.
The application has contextual help on each screen. Besides this, it also has an online forum, where users can share knowledge or ask questions.
Taken together or on a standalone basis, the TimeForge suite of applications is a value-add to your small business in more ways than one. If I were a small business owner in the restaurant and retail sector, I would definitely try the application.