TopTenREVIEWS Employee Scheduling

Employee scheduling is a hard problem; and it is not uncommon for someone who is looking for an “employee scheduling” ‘solution’ to be unsure about what it is they are trying to solve. You will either be looking for a quick fix ‘widget’ to make life easier in your scheduling task; or alternatively be looking for a strategy to help you coordinate and control team management following some kind of review, or a general realization you can do better to drive costs out of the business. You will have an idea, but that is as far as it goes. So a good start is to search the web, and see what other people are saying, though that can offer a bewildering array of claims and semantics.

We believe “Employee Scheduling” is a management skill, and an essential requirement for anyone managing employees in extended or 24 hour work environments. To that end “employee scheduling” software, including ours, will not make you a good manager any more than Microsoft® Excel will make you a financial ‘wizard’ – but is used by them all the same. Software should make you more productive, and therefore a better manager, but the ‘good’ manager bit will always fall to you to make the right choices about the software you use. A good manager will check out the feedback from employees who have to work the schedules, and also understand what business goals need to be delivered, it may mean a few weeks ‘research’. Above all there is nothing wrong with intuition forged over several years of management – use it! Put another way employe scheduling software is a business decision not an IT decision. Evaluate the software in the working environment with those that are going to be affected by it. Software changes things, so is it going to change the way staff are managed, if not then why are you buying it.

Finally, as far as employee scheduling software goes, the further away it is deployed from the frontline workplace, team leader, and line manager and closer to the control of corporate management the probablity of failure increases – employee scheduling is a people thing.

We have analyzed shift pattern and employee schedules for many businesses across a wide range of industries for over 20 years, often in the context of Schedule24 employee scheduling software. Top TenREVIEWS provide their criteria to evaluate employee scheduling software and in that regard are better than most and here we offer you the benefit of a second opinion!

Top TenREVIEWS Second Opinion…
Will save you time so you can get back to doing what makes your business great, whether that’s mixing up a perfect cappuccino, beautifying residential landscapes or cleaning teeth and preventing cavities. We looked at many products and found the best applications and fully hosted web services available. We might agree. Business is not just about being ‘great’ but also about being ‘profitable’. So it’s not just about saving time doing poor schedules faster, it’s about doing better schedules faster. Staff costs are the only costs a business can control, and getting “Employee Scheduling” right, will be the most productive time you are ever likely to spend.  
Opinion about Feature Set
Employee scheduling software should provide you with advanced tools that make scheduling easy. We disagree. Employee scheduling software should enable you to solve scheduling problems. Words like ‘advanced’ and ‘easy’ need to be defined in the context of your scheduling problem.
Look for applications and web services that let you print schedules, export data and post shift information online. We agree. Coordination is one of the three ‘C’s “employee scheduling” software should deliver: Coordination; Communication; & Control. Sharing information online is one of the most effective ways to coordinate teamwork in the workplace.
The key to streamlining your scheduling processes is making those schedules accessible to your employees. We agree. However, think about posting web schedules to your own ‘Cloud’’ and avoid recurring costs. Hosted services are not cheaper, and not the only service to offer ‘Cloud’ access.
Another important feature to look for is a schedule set-up wizard We agree provided the functions of the Wizard are capable of being spelled out. We all know what a washing machine does… but what does your ‘Wizard’ do?
The best among these help you identify positions one step at a time. We disagree, this is a secondary consideration. The first thing to identify is a pattern of shifts that delivers a defined staff supply to achieve business objectives.
After this, you are guided through a process that automatically assigns employees to shifts. We disagree. You may not know how many staff you need until you have completed the shift pattern. It must be capable of working out additional staff when it has run out of named staff, or let you know when you have a solution that doesn’t need all your staff.
We also checked for specific options such as scheduling for multiple locations and data backup and restoration capabilities. We partly agree but mixing schedule features with system functions is confusing, they are different concepts. Hosted systems, ‘Cloud’, SaaS, SMS, and Smart Phones are not scheduling solutions but devices capable of publishing ‘bad’ schedules as well as ‘good’ schedules.
Opinion about Scheduling Capabilities
If you’re paying for advanced scheduling software, you need it to do more than act as a basic spreadsheet. Scheduling applications should be a storehouse of information that can be used in a variety of ways. We agree. However, if scheduling data is maintained in a relational database all this will come for ’free’. Again words like ‘advanced scheduling’ needs defining in the context of your scheduling problem.
We checked for options that let you define employee positions, skill levels and required hours. We also looked for features that let you assign departments, let employees sign up for open shifts, let you assign on-call status and alert you of scheduling conflicts. We disagree. Workflow is more important and determines how efficient your features will be at solving scheduling problems; and how effective the solution will be. You need to be alerted to issues that are not necessarily scheduling conflicts e.g. “legal” and best practice working hours and rest period thresholds.
Opinion about Reporting
The most important part of scheduling software is, of course, helping you assign shifts that meet your needs and your employee’s needs. We agree, with the added proviso that ‘need’ can be quantified; otherwise it becomes a subjective exercise. The three almost universal staff measures are hours; count; and costs.
But a great benefit to this software is its ability to combine data into easy-to-understand reports. We agree with the added proviso report content can be exported into a range of other formats to enable information sharing and/or further analysis.
We looked for software applications and web services that show you total employee hours in a single click. We agree with this basic requirement, and add a proviso about displaying employee hours across a range of days, and average and projected hours based on a small subset of actual scheduling data.
We also checked for daily, weekly and monthly viewing options. We disagree. Employee scheduling decisions are more effective when managed in a time continuum. It’s too easy to focus on a discrete period of time and miss events either side. Daily, weekly and monthly constructs are best managed at the point of printing, previewing and publishing.
The most advanced applications show time-off summaries and total shift costs as well. We agree. This is a more advanced requirement. Additional capability to cross-reference hours, staff count and costs to analyze the impact each has on the other is even better. For example, staff & hours that are within plan but still generate a cost overrun needs investigating.
Opinion about Ease of Use
This software is all about increasing efficiency. We disagree. You can have efficient schedules that are ineffective; and effective schedules that are inefficient. Worse of all you can have inefficient schedules that are ineffective. The software has to deliver both – efficient schedules that are effective.
Therefore, employee scheduling software should be easy to download and intuitive to use. We looked for software applications that are accessible to seasoned tech users and novices alike. We disagree. Employee scheduling is not an IT problem or even an HR problem. It is an Operations or business problem. ‘Easy to Use’ is overplayed; rather the software should be ‘Easy to Understand’ particularly for business managers.
Opinion about Help & Support
Even with the most intuitive employee scheduling software, having access to technical support is a must. We disagree. We offer comprehensive technical support to over 500 customers in over 15 countries yet we have designed our software to operate on existing office computers without specialist IT support.  ‘Technical’ support is not a euphemism for ‘Training’.
Some of the applications we tested come with lifetime support, whereas others offer no support at all. We checked for help resources through avenues such telephone, email, online FAQs and user forums. We agree. No customer should ever go unsupported; and the support cost is a business decision. An online ticketing system offers access to more consistent support than email alone.
Opinion about Employee Scheduling Software

TopTenREVIEWS – Employee Scheduling


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3 comments on “TopTenREVIEWS Employee Scheduling
  1. GabeC87 says:

    I agree with your overall feeling that the software used to create schedules cannot be the ultimate solution to the problem, that intelligent management must be present in order to ensure the best scheduling outcome. However, surely a shift scheduling software solution that automates the process and follows rules set by the manager is better than leaving the manager to try for himself and sometimes make mistakes and break those rules?

    • Admin says:

      There are three levels we can consider. First, automating repetitive procedures e.g. cut & paste editing or publishing multiple channel content; second, managing a rule base that will automate a guaranteed scheduling outcome e.g. shift patterns; and third, automatically checking scheduling logic e.g. staff availability, working hour and rest period thresholds. “Automation” in the general context of employee scheduling is a bit of a ‘red herring’ in that if the ‘rules’ cannot be proved to do the right thing, or the manager understands the rules he is setting, all you end up automating is a mess.

  2. Woodrow Jnr. says:

    I reviewed all of TopTen’s scheduling recommendations and for me, yours was the best. Straight forward setup, good range of scheduling features (breaks were a big deal) and been able to post staff schedules to the cloud has been fantastic. We never thought of that one! Anyway just my 10c.

    Thanks again,
    Matt Woodrow Jnr

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