The COVID-19 pandemic has changed life as we know it. Although the development and distribution of vaccines has brought back at least some sense of normalcy, a few aspects of American life — including the American work life — aren’t going back to business as usual. A report commissioned by Upwork found that the number of remote workers in the U.S. is set to double in the next five years, climbing to 36.2 million people by 2025.
Additionally, the U.S. continues to experience a labor shortage. Although its definitive causes remain up for debate, suggestions include COVID-19-related health concerns and a desire among workers for higher wages, remote options, and greater flex time.
With so many obstacles facing the workplace, it’s never been more important for employers to choose wisely when selecting an employee scheduling software. Failing to choose and implement software that can address current challenges is a recipe for ruin.
In this article, we’ll explain why employee scheduling software is essential, as well as how it can benefit employees and operations alike.
Benefits of Scheduling Software
Large-scale businesses have their particular staffing issues, and their schedulers sometimes have a hard time with staff scheduling. Small business owners often need to take care of employee shifts themselves, since a Human Resources department is merely a plan for the future. The best employee scheduling software saves time for large companies, corporations, and small businesses alike, offering tremendous benefits even for the smallest businesses with only a handful of employees.
The reason is simple: Scheduling software automates an essential process, carrying companies into the modern, digital age. You wouldn’t (hopefully) try to balance your business expenses and income on paper templates; it’s antiquated, slow, and ineffective, not to mention inaccessible to anyone who doesn’t have direct access to it.
So why would you use outdated programs, spreadsheets, or — worse yet — physical copies of shift schedules to schedule employees and communicate with them?
It’s a simple fact: Companies who fail to innovate fall behind their competitors. This is especially true when it comes to digital transformation. We live in a digital age, and scheduling software has the ability to streamline many repetitive, time-consuming tasks. Doing your time tracking via a user-friendly scheduling app instead of using Excel spreadsheets might be the way to streamline your shift planning.
However, the transformation doesn’t come without a set of challenges along with the many benefits it provides. We’ll try to paint a bigger picture here, making sure to touch upon all the possible stumbling blocks on the way.
The Staffing Impact of Scheduling Software
Simply put, a happy employee is good for business. Data suggests that happy workers are 13% more productive than unhappy workers, better at customer service, and less likely to quit. Giving your employees the tools they need to ensure schedule stability will not only improve their lives but also benefit your business in numerous ways.
Many employers don’t realize the ways in which their scheduling practices affect their employees’ lives. Employees should not be burdened by inefficiencies in scheduling or juggling time-off requests. Keep in mind that scheduling software can reduce the stressors of workplace operations for employees in numerous ways:
- Short notice and same-day changes: Providing the schedule shortly before implementation leaves employees unable to make plans, and having open shifts in the work schedule translates directly into staffing issues. Scheduling software automates processes, ensuring that managers don’t slow things down or withhold crucial communication about scheduling needs. A same-day schedule change goes one step further, requiring an employee to put their plans on the backburner; scheduling software automates this as well, ensuring that real-time notifications and messaging provide as much visibility into schedules as possible, even last-minute ones.
- The dreaded ones — on-call shifts and clopenings: Your employees might not be on the clock, but they might as well be — on-call shifts require employees to keep their schedules free in the event they are needed. And any shift worker can recount the dread of being scheduled for a closing shift, directly followed by an opening shift in the morning. When you have a large body of staff, the logistics will exceed the possibilities of manual processes using spreadsheets or templates — so don’t just hope that people will keep it all straight. Employee scheduling software exists to make the scheduling process easier, reducing the risk of overworking and burnout, and managing work schedules to make sure your shifts are always covered.
- Variability and unpredictability: It’s difficult to budget when the number of available hours varies from week to week. As your practice or facility grows, the numbers will only increase. On top of that, work schedule unpredictability can add a general instability to a person’s life: They’re unable to budget, plan trips, or fully put work out of their mind. A recent example shows that healthcare workers are calling for better support for mental health and stress management. Research indicates that chronic schedule instability can increase psychological distress, interfere with sleep quality, and even erode workers’ happiness levels. Your best bet is a scheduling solution that is built on reliable systems which can help administrators perform all calculations, account for all variables, and ensure precise shift scheduling.
Making It All Work Seamlessly
There are a few essential components that are found in most scheduling tools. Deploying the scheduling software you choose requires some key points of integration as well — the functionality you choose will depend on your business needs. Your tech team should be on board as you add any service like this to your tech stack, and here are the recommendations for making all systems go:
Software solutions designed for streamlining are not devoid of issues that need to be addressed person to person. This means that the communication tools inherent in the system should operate in tandem with your current communication methods. You don’t want to merely introduce another place employees have to check for notifications — it may be worthwhile to learn if a scheduling software can coordinate with your current email or contact management systems.
There’s an inherent risk in deploying without a clear definition of how centralized, controlled communication will take place. Scheduling software that requires users to exit the app and contact their team members via other platforms increases the likelihood of forgetting or relaying incorrect information, leading to reduced employee engagement in the long run.
Another consideration when implementing employee scheduling software is financial management and processes. If your scheduling software is going to allow for flexible shift changes, it needs to also be able to calculate and communicate payroll changes. Many top scheduling apps integrate with payroll providers, so that’s another feature to keep an eye on. Streamlining and automating schedule creation could be another way of boosting your bottom line.
Streamlining Procedures and Introducing Automations
An employee scheduling software should allow your employees to self-schedule. This may require some maneuvering since employees will likely log in from personal devices. Most organizations have a BYOD or a similar device policy, but there is a security aspect involved here. In the deployment phase, you will want to ensure that any data is only tunnelled through secure connections (such as VPNs), and your employees are safe as they enjoy the autonomy of self-scheduling.
Time-off management is a great feature of employee scheduling software that somewhat relieves HR’s burden of logistics. Undoubtedly, your current system has a PTO program that tracks hours and provides calendar options for employees. In the intense and fast-paced business world of today, taking time off is good for both employees and businesses.
Scheduling software makes the process of time-off requests and time-off management as easy as possible. Automating these processes should be an easy upgrade, with the added benefit of migrating data and streamlining communication within your scheduling system. And let's not forget that empowering your staff via simple benefits such as shift swapping will do wonders for your employee satisfaction.
Employees should be able to access your scheduling software at any time of day or night. Having an accessible system that ensures easy access to employee availability is critical for preventing open shifts and no-shows. Basically, employee scheduling tools facilitate last-minute requests and mitigate scheduling emergencies. Cloud-based software should be interoperable with your existing systems. It may not be a plug-and-play solution, so be sure to beta test how it will integrate with your current tech stack.
The benefit of this feature is that it allows employees to log in and see their schedule from any device, promoting greater accountability among team members, higher productivity, and greater security.
Emerging technology in employee scheduling is also capable of providing in-depth data analytics. In addition to providing administrators with key insights, these systems are often algorithmic, which means they improve as the data set grows. This is a hands-off, behind-the-scenes benefit that can have an exponential impact on your busy practice or facility.
We recommend getting a scheduling software that provides the following insights:
- Resource forecasting
- Labor costs
- Schedule analysis
- Employee reports
- Financial reports
- Time clock data
- Data export
With enough data, there’s not much that a business can’t improve upon. Data analytics can also give small businesses a distinct competitive edge. Although 51% of small businesses believe data analytics is critical, only 45% actually track data, partially due to time restraints. The right scheduling software can deliver that data and so much more directly to you.
Implementation: Start Today, Grow Over Time
Employee scheduling software is one piece of the tech stack that human resources administrators need to add right away. It is mission critical to improve efficiencies, support employee well-being, and glean insights into the effectiveness of operations. The right software can provide all of this and more.