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Overworked managers have enough on their hands without throwing employee-scheduling issues into the mix. Although the majority of retail and restaurant managers still use printed calendars and digital spreadsheets to manage their staff schedules, a crop of new web-based employee scheduling software tools are making the process easier.

The average restaurant manager spends between one and eight hours a week creating employee schedules using spreadsheets and printed ledgers, according to a survey by TimeForge. As a business grows and the number of employee increases, the complexities related to scheduling issues can quickly multiply. Vacation days, work hour limitations, and employee preferences all have to be taken into account when creating staff schedules, and last-minute changes can throw a major wrench in the process.

Although there is no doubt that employee scheduling software is more expensive than traditional methods of scheduling management — after all, a pen-and-paper are almost free — the benefits far outweigh the costs.

Here are five reasons why companies should consider using employee scheduling software.

1. Time

Employee scheduling software automates what was previously a manual process for managers, saving employers significant time. Managers input each employee’s preferences once, and cloud-based scheduling platforms take those preferences into account each time new staffing schedules are generated. Managers don’t have to worry about remembering which cashiers can’t work on Mondays or which part-time employees go to school during the day. As a result, they are better able to focus their attention on more pressing management issues.

2. Automated Staffing Adjustments

Connecting their scheduling systems to their point-of-sale (POS) or customer relationship management (CRM) platforms makes it possible for companies to harness raw customer data and use that information to make better staffing decisions. Using POS data, managers can see when their stores or restaurants are busiest. Integrated scheduling tools take this information into account and seamlessly adjust employee shifts to account for customer demand. For example, if a retailer is always busy on Saturday mornings, then the POS system will feed that information into the scheduling software and an additional staffer will be assigned to an early morning shift.

3. Self-Scheduling

Let employees deal with last-minute shift changes on their own. Rather than asking a manager to find someone else to cover a shift, or emailing the entire staff to find a replacement, cloud-based tools offer a way for employees to connect with each other behind-the-scenes. Deals for shift coverage can be worked out via in-app messaging systems. Self-scheduling features allow employees to make the appropriate changes to their schedules without bogging down managers with unecessary requests.

4. Unlimited Changes

One simple change to a weekly staff schedule can have a rippling effect that takes hours to sort out. By switching from spreadsheets to automated software, managers can quickly generate completely new schedules at any point during the week. Most scheduling tools will still take employee preferences into account when making scheduling adjustments, and staffers can be notified automatically if any of their shifts have moved as a result of the changes.

5. 24/7 Accessibility

It’s not uncommon for employees to have questions after their weekly schedules have been printed. By giving employees their own logins for the company’s scheduling platforms, managers are providing a way for staffers to view their own schedules at any time, day or night. Systems can be set up to automatically notify employees via email, SMS, or push notification when their schedules are available to review each week. This cuts down on the number of back-and-forth emails and phone calls that come about when employees have questions about the hours they’ve been assigned to work. It also eliminates the chances of an employee claiming that he or she didn’t know that a particular shift was scheduled.

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About Christophe Primault

Christophe is the co-founder of GetApp, the #1 Cloud Business Apps Marketplace. In his blog he shares his opinion on cloud computing trends and provides tips on how businesses can benefit from cloud-based apps to improve their profit. He likes mountaineering, water sports and long-distance triathlons. He is a proud IronMan finisher! Christophe can be reached at [email protected] or on Google+.

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