Introduction and ShiftPlanning
'Time is money' as the old adage states, and in business, nothing could be truer. A business is run by its staff and it's important to make the most of each person-hour that is available. Wasted time is, essentially, wasted money, so efficiency and productivity are key.
In order for organisations to be both efficient and productive, it's necessary for them to manage their staff time well. This can be done using employee scheduling software.
Employee scheduling software provides organisations with an overview of how many staff-hours are available, and the hours that different tasks need assigning. But its role extends beyond just assigning shifts and tasks to staff members. It can allow organisations to find staff members who are actually available to work based on skills and availability, move shifts around, calculate pay and overtime, and plan annual leave. Scheduling software might also flag up when there is a time resource conflict or problem, and will provide a means of delivering different reports on business hours and costs.
As with any business software, there are a variety of different employee scheduling software options from which to choose. Different platforms are built to suit different types of business and it's important for any organisation to know what it requires from its scheduling software. This article provides an overview of some of the most popular pieces of employee scheduling software available, providing a description of each.
Price: From US$33 (around £20, AU$38) per month
Shift planning was set up in 2009 and has since become a leading name in the employee scheduling software market. Indeed, T-Mobile, Hulu, Pizza Hut and AirBNB are counted amongst its clients.
The company says it was founded on the premise that online scheduling would reduce the time it took to schedule via other methods by 80%, affording managers and entrepreneurs more time to focus on other areas of their businesses. It also claims to boast the highest customer retention figures in the industry, which it puts down to taking on board customer feedback.
ShiftPlanning touts its service as being very easy-to-use with an intuitive interface. The platform provides scheduling, time clock, payroll and human resources features. Employees are able to set their availability and conflict-free schedules can be automatically created. Schedules update in real-time to ensure that everyone is always looking at the most recent version, and a user's schedule can be synced with third-party calendar applications such as Google Calendar, iCal, and Outlook.
Time clock software allows employees to clock in and log time online from wherever they are. Managers can limit where employees can clock in from, though, if needs be. Facial recognition can be used to verify users logging in, whilst managers can view who is logged in at any given time and can track lateness and absences.
ShiftPlanning integrates with a host of third-party payroll packages, ensuring that clocked time can be directly processed for wages. Overtime rules can be set up and managers can view detailed reporting. HR departments, meanwhile, are able to manage annual leave and absences, keep HR documentation in order and view or compare employee performance.
Users can access ShiftPlanning via desktop computer or via mobile apps for iOS, Android and Blackberry. New users can dip their toe in the water with a free 30-day trial, whilst free training and 24/7/365 support are provided for existing users.
NimbleSchedule, When I Work, FindMyShift, TimeForge
Price: From US$35 per month (around £22, AU$40)
NimbleSchedule was launched in 2011, apparently after a lengthy Thanksgiving Day phone call during which co-founder Peter Swaniker's sister was trying to facilitate what should have been a simple schedule change. Despite being a relatively young outfit, NimbleSchedule, like ShiftPlanning, is well regarded and boasts a number of high profile clients, including Burger King, Chipotle and Hampton Hotels.
As with other platforms for employee scheduling, NimbleSoftware promises to minimise the amount of time spent on the process. It claims to save businesses an average of 260 hours and US$5,000 (around £3,100, AU$5,700) per workforce task, per person, per year.
Amongst NimbleSchedule's features are a real-time schedule viewer with drag-and-drop functionality and the ability to view schedules for different locations or departments. The platform offers a lot of self-service functionality so that employees can take control of their own scheduling, such as for picking up shifts that are openly offered, dropping shifts, requesting time off or swapping shifts amongst themselves.
The platform also provides a means of communication with single employees or groups of employees, and provides notifications to keep employees up-to-date, such as for newly offered open shifts, approved schedule changes and newly published schedules. Employees can set how, for what and when they would like to receive reminder notifications as well.
NimbleSchedule allows employees to clock in and out via the web, text message, mobile app or phone. Restrictions can be placed on locations or devices from which employees can clock in and out. When clocking in from a mobile device, GPS data is provided, whilst remote monitoring is also possible via the web.
Managers can view a variety of reports to track costs and time metrics. System usage itself can be tracked, as can absences, lateness, early leaving and overtime. It is possible to see which staff members are the most valuable and the most costly.
When I Work
Price: From US$19 per month (around £12, AU$22)
When I Work is an employee communication and scheduling platform that focuses on simplicity and mobile working. The company claims to have over over 5,000 customers worldwide, serving nearly half a million people in over 50 countries. Amongst its clients are Virgin America, Ben & Jerry's and Ticketmaster.
When I Work allows managers to coordinate multiple locations, sharing staff across them. Off-site shifts can be set up with specific addresses and additional shift notes can be added. The platform also identifies staff members that are qualified and available when a shift needs to be filled.
The platform uses the web, mobile apps, text messaging and social media to keep employees connected and up-to-date. Employees can input their availability, make requests for time off, and trade shifts via When I Work, and work schedules can be synced with Outlook, Google Calendar or iCal (or even viewed via Facebook).
As with other scheduling platforms, When I Work also provides time clock functionality. Employees can clock in and out from a mobile phone or an on-site terminal such as an iPad. Notifications are provided to both the employee or manager if the employee clocks in late or at the wrong job site. Employee time can also be reviewed and approved prior to processing for payroll.
Price: From £16 per month (US$26, AU$29)
FindMyShift was set up in 2004 and is used by organisations including the NHS, St John's Ambulance and Specsavers. It is entirely web-based and so can be viewed in any browser so long as there is an internet connection.
The FindMyShift platform is pretty straightforward. Employee hours worked can be input and compared to scheduled hours, and timesheet data can be fed into payroll reports, budget reports and cost forecasts. Shift reminder notifications are automatically sent to employees via email, text message or push notification, and a host of tips and shortcuts are provided to make the platform as easy as possible to use.
Price: From free
One final piece of well-regarded scheduling software is Timeforge Scheduling. The company itself was set up in 2004 and Scheduling was its first product. It was aimed at the retail and food service industries. Amongst the features of TimeForge Scheduling are the ability to automatically create schedules, email notifications of new schedules for employees, text message reminders for shifts, cost monitoring and notifications of any schedule conflicts.