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How to choose the right scheduling software

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Employee scheduling plays a fundamental role in the productivity and cohesiveness of your company. Inputting schedules in a timely and accurate manner allows the business to operate smoothly without interruption.

This is easier said than done. Members of your workforce may have complicated schedules, differing and sometimes conflicting expectations of work hours, and constant changes in availability.

Proper scheduling is a must to attain an efficient business model. To aid your company in achieving this goal, this article will help you find the best scheduling tools for your specific needs, allowing you to streamline and simplify the scheduling process.

Benefits of scheduling software

Crafting schedules is a complicated business: different employees have different needs, expectations, and availability. These various moving parts combined with irregular data can cause management to become easily overwhelmed and fall behind, forcing a constant game of catch up.

Utilizing a scheduling software offers an all-in-one solution to:

  • Keep scheduling information structured and organized
  • Receive updates and notifications automatically in the background of your business
  • Save managerial hours by minimizing the need for manual data entry
  • Provide statistics concerning hours logged and productivity
  • Empower team members to feel more in control of their schedules by allowing them to submit requests in real time through the online scheduling portal
  • Easily display all information across simplified and readable calendars that can be customized to focus on days, weeks, or months
  • Maintain housing for employee clock-in/clock-out
  • Automate alerts concerning conflicting schedules, holidays, shift coverage, dropped shifts, surpassing overtime, falling short of providing hours promised to workers, and more!

The benefits of scheduling tools are seen outside the workforce as well, with management and administration gaining more time for leadership decisions rather than wasting time rewriting drafts of revised schedules.

While it’s clear that scheduling software can benefit any business, it can be difficult to identify the best fit for your exact business. Softwares are not all built the same, nor do they all offer the same features. Researching options and determining what features are necessary to you is essential.

Next we’ll work through the first steps in finding a quality scheduling software.

Free trials

Before starting your search, it’s important to quickly discuss scheduling software Free Trials.

Free trials can be a double edged sword: on one side, they can provide a great preview of the software’s offerings, which can inform your final decision on whether or not to commit to one. However, trialing a software can also quickly make a business dependent on its technology, making a switch to a different software a hassle, and therefore driving you to continue use based on convenience alone.

Another temptation often seen are businesses that try to make do with free trial versions of softwares, managing off of either limited features from one software or continuously hopping from free trial to free trial.

The issue with this is that scheduling softwares in full are designed to bring consistency and ease to your management and workers. Switching between free trials does the opposite of this, as your workforce will constantly have to relearn new programs, make new accounts, and resubmit their availability. In addition, when making do with a free trial that offers limited features, the options missing from these trials are usually too good to pass up. These can include automated updates, alerts, and employees being able to submit changes to their availability.

For this reason, free trials should be thoroughly examined to make sure they are easy to withdraw. Businesses shouldn’t plan to rely on their limited features, and should use them to preview a software they are considering adopting.

Starting your search

A bit later we’ll discuss the more specific needs of your company, but for now, there’s some general things all businesses should seek in a scheduling platform:

Value for the money: Scheduling softwares are designed with different business types in mind, and you may end up spending too much on a software that carries features your business has no need for. You can also get the perfect software that has the exact features you need, but they can end up costing your business more money than they save. The best software will do what you need within your business's budget.

Ease of access: Integrating a scheduling software should ease and simplify the workflow process, not make it more difficult to get schedules out. Look for a software that has a user friendly design, reliable customer support, and the ability to function on various platforms (mobile devices, computers, tablets, and POS systems).

Security: The scheduling process holds a significant amount of sensitive employee information that business owners are obligated legally to keep secure. For this reason, a software that has encrypted data, strongholds on certain files, and the ability to customize what employees can or cannot see is of utmost importance. In addition, human resources or payroll may need to access information within the software, so the ability to offer those departments secure access to what they need is also important.

Responsive and customizable design: The best software will be user friendly and will offer varying options regarding layouts, displays, and designs. Certain softwares may provide a feature in which a company’s logo and business colors are used to differentiate the look of the software. This is a fun, easy implementation that can go a long way in boosting company morale.

The ability to remove functions or features that don’t assist your company is another huge perk that helps remove clutter and decrease software loading times, thereby increasing efficiency and helping to highlight the higher priority tasks at hand.

Integration with payroll: The best scheduling software is one that works in tandem with payroll. Scheduling softwares typically house the time-in/time-out data (or timesheets) of employee shifts. The ability to send this data directly to payroll saves managers (or payroll) the arduous task of having to manually enter and double check the information.

The right scheduling software will not only streamline the scheduling process, but will also allow various departments of your business to work more efficiently.

Determining your needs

Now that we’ve covered the general features almost all businesses should look for in their scheduling software, it’s a good idea to consider the specific needs of your business.

A company with a handful or so of employees is most likely better off having a manager pen the schedule and communicate with staff. But as a staff list grows longer, a business acquires new positions, or different departments begin setting up within a business, things can grow complicated exponentially fast and quickly become overwhelming.

Talk with the managers who work on your business’s schedules (or examine your own experience if you’re doing it yourself) and you may be surprised to hear just how much time and work it takes, even with a small group of employees. A great deal of this time comes from trying to contact individual staff members and staying up to date with their availability. A scheduling software can work wonders here, not just in creating a resource for employees to store their availability, but also in automating the process of updating this information, applying, and maintaining that information.

Some features that don’t necessarily increase productivity, such as customizing the layouts and designs of the software to your branding, may be an unnecessary cost. Similarly, for tech savvy managers who don’t think they’ll be needing that much customer support, they can opt for a software that’s functionality is less focused on providing customer support, and is more focused on providing online guides for managers to use as resources.

Every company is unique and comes with its own desired needs. Likewise, all scheduling softwares offer various features that affect their pricing. Talk with your managers and employees and work together to determine what you’re looking for.

Compare and contrast

After determining your company’s scheduling needs and becoming familiar with the features you should look for in a scheduling software, it’s time to research the different options and find the best fit.

Your search may be based on pricing first and secondarily on features, or vice versa, but by the end you should have a final list of potential options to choose from. Contacting a sales representative for each software will allow you to learn more and ask questions, and also may be a great time to set up a trial.

As with everything, be sure to check with your sales representative before signing on to a specific software to make certain of any stipulations, cancellation fees, or other conditions not quite clear from the onset.

The scheduling process is an integral part of any business, so the search for the best scheduling software will be a wise investment for both you and your employees.

Interested in teaming with our scheduling experts?

Heartland is the point of sale, payments and payroll solution of choice for entrepreneurs that need human-centered technology to sell more, keep customers coming back and spend less time in the back office. Nearly 1,000,000 businesses trust us to guide them through market changes and technology challenges, so they can stay competitive and focus on building remarkable businesses instead of managing the daily grind. Learn more at