I’m a manager – should I be using an employee scheduling tool?

I’m a manager – should I be using an employee scheduling tool?

June 30, 2017

With the rise of the hourly worker the need to schedule workers, having regard to their availability and preferences, is a challenge common to businesses of all sizes regardless of industry. Employee scheduling tools are not a new thing but in today’s fast paced world where communications and transactions happen in the online realm they’re becoming ever more intelligent and integrated into the lives of workers and operations of businesses. The options available for business looking to try such a product have never been greater but before you start looking for a specific product – how do you know if your business even needs a scheduler? What features would you use and what would you be happy to pass on? In this article we go back to the start and give you a checklist so that you can evaluate your own scheduling needs and hence answer the question ‘should I be using an employee scheduling tool?’.

1. Do you have a constantly changing/rotating roster?

This is the starting point to understanding whether you should be using an employee scheduler – if you have a pool of staff and the days/hours they work can change week-to-week or on a periodic basis then you will need some form of scheduling solution. The benefit of a scheduling tool is that it provides features that save you time when creating the schedule and minimise scheduling errors through automated checks around conditions such as worker availability and overtime. Advanced scheduling features such as the ability to create a schedule template that can be re-used in future weeks, the ability to import schedules from previous weeks and smarts that help you find the most suitable worker for a shift all work together to reduce the time to produce and errors associated with a schedule.

2. Is staff unavailability making creating the schedule more difficult?

If you’re having trouble keeping track of when your staff are available then a scheduling solution can help with that. In an ideal world all of your staff would be available to work for you all the time but with personal commitments and even other jobs getting in the way, this is not always possible. Manager’s tip – If this is important to you consider using a product that allows workers to update their own availability as this cuts down on the amount of effort required by the manager and means availability is more likely to be up-to-date.

3. Do your staff swap shifts?

Swapping shifts is a common way of doing business – the schedule published at the start of the week is a manager’s best effort of factoring everything in but inevitably things come up for staff and the ability to facilitate staff swapping shifts can be a real win-win for the business; with the shift still getting done and the employee happy and appreciative for the flexibility. Manager’s tip – Not all employees are equal and while swapping shifts can be a real positive it can also cause the schedule to get thrown out of balance so look for a product that supports configuration of which worker can/can’t swap shifts and the ability to turn on/off manager approval of swaps.

4. Do you find it difficult to get communications out to all your staff?

If you’re finding it difficult to send targeted comms to individuals or to your entire pool of employees then a scheduling solution can help with that. Features such as manager notes for the week or for a particular shift provide a consistent and easy way to send a message. More advanced products provide in-app chat functionality similar to WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger which provides an easy and non-intrusive way for co-workers to communicate without having to reveal personal details such as mobile phone number. Manager’s tip – Remember that effectiveness of communications through any product is reliant on successful uptake and engagement by the user base i.e. it’s important that any product you choose doesn’t present obstacles that get in the way of staff using or wanting to use the product. To that end choose a product that’s simple and easy to use, doesn’t cost your staff anything and is easily accessible. In the digital world in which we all live a product that has a mobile app offering, either through iOS and Android mobile apps or a responsive site for mobile, is essential.

5. Does your business share workers between different departments?

Does your business have multiple departments that require their own schedule and a dedicated manager? Common examples of multi-department businesses are hotels offering different restaurants and retail groups with multiple shops within close proximity of each other. When this is the case it is common for each department to have a dedicated manager who’s responsible for managing the schedule for that department. Ordinarily, this approach works just fine, however, each schedule is created without knowledge of what’s happening in the other departments and when workers are shared between departments there can be unintended consequences. Chief among these is a worker being put into over time hours. This occurs because within each individual schedule the worker’s hours are fine but when the hours are totalled across all the departments in which they work then their daily or weekly limits are exceeded. If this is a scenario that you are familiar with be sure to look for a scheduling tool that can be customised to accurately reflect the different departments within your business. Once that is established managers will have a real time view of worker hours across the business not just their own schedule. It will also help managers with creating their schedules as they’ll know when a worker is unavailable to them because they have been assigned to a shift in another department.