Employee scheduling can be challenging for managers with expanding teams. They have to handle shift schedules, time-off requests, unexpected shift changes, etc., on an ongoing basis. In addition, when creating schedules, they have to consider factors such as limitations on working hours, employee availability, and potentially a remote workforce.
In short, creating employee schedules can be arduous, time-consuming, and prone to error, which can result in low productivity.
But, employee scheduling software automates this process, saving your managers time and resources. This type of software allows managers to consider employee preferences when making scheduling adjustments, while employees are automatically notified about any rescheduling or shift changes.
There are many other benefits to using this software, but before you can enjoy those benefits, you have to choose a vendor. In this guide, we define the core features of employee scheduling software, look at the deployment options, highlight emerging trends, and list important questions that you should ask potential vendors before making a purchase.
Here's what we'll cover:
Employee scheduling software is software designed to help users create, track, and manage employee schedules. In instances of unexpected absences, the software notifies managers about required staffing changes and provides a list of available team members to find a substitute. Some solutions offer mobile integration so managers can make changes on the go. Employees can also view their schedules and swap shifts with their colleagues through these tools.
This type of software offers real-time reporting, which helps managers develop their employee management strategies. For example, reports on shift duration can help managers efficiently track employee workload in real time, and therefore, reduce or eliminate overtime.
Other benefits of using employee scheduling software include:
Faster employee scheduling: Manual employee scheduling is time-consuming as managers may have to ask employees individually about availability and make several changes before getting the schedule right. Employee scheduling software automates this process, eliminating manual effort and saving time.
Efficient shift change management: The software helps you efficiently manage shift changes. In the case of unexpected absences, the tool notifies managers about the required staffing change and provides a list of available employees. It also sends alerts/reminders to employees about their upcoming shifts to prevent no-shows and scheduling conflicts.
Better compliance with labor laws: The Wages and Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) has strict requirements for wages and overtime pay. Noncompliance can result in severe penalties. Employee scheduling systems give users real-time reports on scheduled hours, calculate overtime accurately, and ensure that overtime pay meets FLSA requirements.
To select the right employee scheduling tool for your business, you first need to understand the various types of solutions on the market. This section breaks down the most common types of employee scheduling tools:
Static scheduling software: This software is suitable for businesses with fixed working shifts that typically don’t change in a 24-hour period. It can be different for all employees every day of the week, but a shift’s start and end times need to be consistent each day.
The software can recognize the periodic pattern of shift allocation and automates the scheduling process. Businesses that operate 24/7 (such as restaurants and hospitals) and schedule their employees across different shifts will benefit from this tool.
Dynamic scheduling: This software is helpful when shift changes depend on client needs and service level agreements (SLAs) such as for home care contractors and HVAC technicians. The tool helps them swiftly respond to new ad hoc job requests and avoid scheduling conflicts by ensuring that everyone has real-time scheduling updates.
Key question to ask your vendor before you buy: Is your software suitable for my business size and the kind of business I do?
After you decide the type of software you need, the next step is to select the right deployment model. Here are the deployment methods offered by most vendors:
Cloud-based: This deployment is typically offered on a per user per month subscription, with the solution hosted on the vendor’s servers. Employee data is stored in the cloud, which allows employers to access it any time, anywhere. The subscription fee usually includes online data storage, backup, and some level of technical support. There are low or no installation or maintenance costs.
On-premise: This option is offered as a license agreement, with the software being hosted on the end user’s servers. On-premise deployment requires a higher level of security and dedicated IT support to manage the solution. Generally, it’s more costly, as it requires setup and installation as well as IT support to maintain it.
Web-based: Users access these tools via an intranet or a browser such as Google Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer. Employee data is stored on a central server, so you don't have to transfer files from one system to another.
GetApp.com recommends software-as-a-service (SaaS) or cloud-based deployment for small businesses. Cloud solutions typically have lower upfront costs, a faster implementation time, and automatic updates. This way, small businesses can avoid the hassle of regular data backups and minimize the need for IT staff to maintain the software.
Key question to ask your vendor before you buy: What are the pricing plans for your employee scheduling tool based on the deployment options?
In this section, we cover the key employee scheduling software features that you should consider when purchasing a solution. Most businesses need these core features.
Employee scheduling: Helps you create, manage, and communicate employee work schedules based on the time, location, and employee availability. Managers can view employee availability in real time and generate schedules without any overlaps or time conflicts.
Employee scheduling feature in When I Work software
Employee database: Records employee contact details and information related to a job such as the demographics and availability.
Vacation/leave tracking: Lets managers track, approve, and manage the leave, holidays, and absence of their workforce.
Vacation tracking feature in Resource Guru
Time clock: Records employees’ work hours, including clock-in time, break time, and clock-out time. Managers can then use this data to calculate employee wages.
Time clock feature in TSheets
Task scheduling: Allows managers to assign employees to different projects or tasks in different locations during their shifts.
Task scheduling feature in Deputy
Employee self-service: Helps employees perform basic administrative functions such as submitting expenses, requesting time off, and tracking their leave balance.
Employee self-service feature in Ramco HCM
Shift swapping: Allows employees to swap their shifts with their colleagues in real time. Managers can approve or deny shift swap requests based on employee availability. Some solutions offer an employee portal for submitting shift swap requests.
Key question to ask your vendor before you buy: What are the most relevant features in your software that suit my business requirements?
Integrating third-party applications with employee scheduling software provides you vital data from disparate systems that can be used to make nuanced and informed business decisions. It also makes data entry and reporting easier, faster, and more accurate.
Here are some key integrations that you should consider adding to the employee scheduling solution you purchase:
Accounting: Generate project costs based on billable hours, project expenses, etc. Check with your employee scheduling software vendor about integration with third-party accounting software tools such as Xero, QuickBooks, and FreshBooks.
Payroll: Integrate time and scheduling data with the payroll tool to transfer work hour details and calculate employee wages. This helps HR managers eliminate or reduce payment errors arising from duplicate data entries.
Email: Add third-party email accounts such as Outlook and Gmail. This allows employees to access and view shift schedules, tasks, appointments, and get notifications in one place.
Key question to ask your vendor before you buy: Does your solution offer integrations with accounting, payroll, or email tools?
Look out for the following software trends in the market and talk to potential vendors about how they're preparing for these trends or incorporating them into their products:
AI schedules employee workflows better than humans: Artificial intelligence (AI) is the next up-and-coming technology that will optimize the performance of small businesses. The technology simplifies the employee scheduling processes as AI-based algorithms can make optimal scheduling arrangements based on criteria such as shift timing, leave, and project priority.
Chatbots will be the new leave managers: Capterra notes that 68% of small businesses either already use or plan to implement chatbots by 2020. Small businesses have begun developing chatbots that can approve or deny employees’ time-off requests. For example, some chatbots manage sick leave requests by asking employees a set of questions and forwarding this information to managers for approval.
We referenced the following documents while creating this guide:
GetApp Applicant Tracking System catalog (Date accessed: 04/02/2019)
GetApp Employee Scheduling Software directory (Date accessed: 04/01/2019)
5 Tech Trends for Small Business, Capterra (Date accessed: 04/03/2019)
Note: The applications selected in this article are examples to show a feature in context, and are not intended as endorsements or recommendations, obtained from sources believed to be reliable at the time of publication.