8 min read
Jan 18, 2017
Workforce Management

What Is Microsoft StaffHub and Does My Small Business Need It?

Microsoft's StaffHub solution combines shift scheduling with chat and content functionality as part of Office 365. But do small businesses need it?

Karen McCandlessAnalyst

Earlier this January, after almost four months in public preview, Microsoft released StaffHub, a workforce management (WFM) and shift scheduling app aimed at deskless workers and their managers.

According to the company, the software’s target workers include “baristas, hair stylists, waiters, bus drivers, and so on.”

The idea is that workers in these kind of industries who don’t have a fixed computer or desk will be able to more efficiently manage their schedule, replacing manual tools such as bulletin boards, paper schedules, or Excel spreadsheets.

Human resources software has been on Microsoft’s public roadmap since late 2016 through its Dynamics 365 business applications, that it hopes to sell as a suite in the same vein as the Office applications.

StaffHub is automatically enabled in certain Office 365 plans (K1, E1, E3 or E5) at no extra cost, adding to the likes of Office, SharePoint, Yammer, OneDrive, Planner (Microsoft’s new project management solution), and the new chat app Teams already available in this productivity suite.

It’s important to note that StaffHub is only available within Office 365 plans and not as a standalone product.

There are already many highly-rated and fully featured WFM and employee scheduling solutions on the market, so in this article, we'll look at:

  • StaffHub's main features

  • How StaffHub compares to other shift scheduling software?

  • Is StaffHub suitable for small businesses?

  • The future of StaffHub

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What are StaffHub’s main features?

StaffHub focuses on helping deskless workers and their managers handle their schedule more efficiently and accurately, both on the web and through Android and iOS apps (no Windows Phone app is currently available).

Features for employees

Like many other WFM apps, StaffHub allows workers to:

  • View their shifts on the web or on their mobile phones.

  • Put in requests to swap shifts.

  • View other workers scheduled for the same shift.

  • Submit requests for time off, sick leave, and vacations.

Features for managers

With StaffHub, managers can:

  • Create, update, and manage shifts (such as approving a shift swap or vacation).

  • Color code, label, and add notes to different types of shifts.

  • Send content and files, including PDFs, bulletins, and videos, to their team.

  • Send messages to individual employees and create group chats (in a Slack-like way).

Microsoft also allows schedule information to be imported from Kronos’ Workforce Central Platform, although this feature is currently in private preview to a small group of both companies’ customers.

In terms of integration with other HR systems, companies can create links within the app that point to other resources or applications, such as HR record and reporting software.

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How does StaffHub compare to other shift scheduling software?

Looking at StaffHub as a standalone shift scheduling or WFM product, it doesn’t excel in terms of features, especially for larger businesses with more specific needs, or industries such as retail. The shift management features (creating, swapping, approving) are found in most other WFM solutions.

StaffHub’s chat functionality is interesting as you can connect with both individuals and teams, whether you’re an employee or manager. This has led to comparisons with Slack (or a more enterprise version), although Microsoft already has its Teams offering, introduced in November.

The downside is that more fully-featured employee scheduling and WFM solutions such as Humanity, 7Shifts, and OpenSimSim also offer chat functionality.

The content sharing hub is another highlight, especially due to its integration with SharePoint, Office, and other Microsoft productivity apps included in Office 365.

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Is StaffHub suitable for small businesses?

As we mentioned earlier, StaffHub is only available as part of Office 365. Figures suggest that Office 365 adoption rates for small businesses are still low, with only 7.5 percent of small and midsize businesses in the U.S. currently using the suite, compared to 16.6 percent of businesses between 51 and 250 employees.

If you run a small business with limited resources and don’t currently have a shift scheduling solution then StaffHub is an interesting option. For example, if you already have Office 365 licenses for your employees, or you’re on an annual license and can’t get out of it, you might want to get more out of the productivity suite or make your workers happier about using it.

It’s also a lightweight addition, with useful messaging and content sharing features.

If you don’t currently use Office 365, then investing in a license for every employee just to get StaffHub is a big investment for small businesses, even if Microsoft does seem committed to developing and adding more products to Office 365, such as Teams and now StaffHub without raising the prices (thus far). This is because Office 365 then starts becoming too large and unwieldy for small businesses.

@MS_StaffHub Too bad, every staff need to subscribe Office 365 in order to use this apps. It is a cost for SMB.

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The future of StaffHub

This is only the first release of StaffHub and often Microsoft only gets going with iteration two and on, so it will be interesting to see how much the company invests in and develops this product. Will new features be added, or will this app die a slow death because it’s not quite developed enough to compete with similar standalone or all-in-one solutions?

@MS_StaffHub Are you looking into having a check-in/out functionality for shifts?

Another question surrounds whether Microsoft will develop StaffHub as a standalone app outside of Office 365 or offer a lighter version of the productivity suite tailored for small businesses that don’t need or want all the different apps, and, if not, whether the suite itself will gain more small business users.

If Microsoft decides to add integration with Dynamics 365 and the HR functionality that it’s building into this suite of products (such as payroll), this will add a lot more value to businesses of all sizes.

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Overall, StaffHub is currently a useful product for small businesses who already run Office 365 and don’t have an employee scheduling solution. Its focused shift planning, content, and messaging features make it a great replacement for manual shift planning methods for deskless workers.

Even if you don’t already have Office 365 in your small business, then it’s a good option due to the low price plans and the fact that Microsoft continues to invest in it and add more useful apps without raising prices (apart from due to currency fluctuations, for example).

If you already have a WHF or employee scheduling solution, then in its current state, StaffHub doesn’t offer anything new or special.

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