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How to Automate Employee Scheduling Processes
February 01, 2020

How to Automate Employee Scheduling Processes

Automation has been disrupting manufacturing, retail, and other industries on a massive scale for years. Yet as we marvel at the incredible amount of work being automated, it’s easy to forget the little stuff. Repetitive administrative tasks like employee scheduling are often ripe for automation.

Plus, by automating tasks that don’t contribute to your bottom line, you can focus on tasks that do. Therefore, not only does your business’s overhead go down, its efficiency goes up with automation.

Given how significantly automating employee scheduling can affect your business, we wrote this post to help you get started.

Employee Scheduling Is Time-Consuming When Manually Done

Even for a relatively small organization, manual employee scheduling is extremely time-consuming.

To create shift schedules effectively, at a minimum, you need to:

  • Identify and understand resource needs, including skills needed for various tasks.
  • Schedule workers based on availability and skill.
  • Account for and adjust to unexpected schedule changes quickly. This includes when an employee calls out sick or has another time off request.
  • Improve your scheduling process over time.

The toughest part about scheduling is, not only is it time-consuming, but it also requires comprehensive knowledge of the business. This makes it difficult to outsource this work to an administrative assistant.

In addition, when you’re focused on filling schedules, you don’t have time to dedicate to improving the process itself. Indirectly, a lack of continuous improvement makes the employee scheduling process more time-consuming over the long-term.

Finally, manually scheduling employees makes it very hard to scale. After all, as you grow and open locations, hire new employees, or expand internationally, things get more complicated.

As scheduling gets more complicated, all the issues with manually scheduling become significantly bigger.

Using Automation Tools Frees Up Time

At a high-level, automation essentially takes your knowledge and expertise and turns it into software rules.

For example, you can configure employee scheduling software to only schedule employees with a certain title for specific tasks. That way, when you have a certain task to do, the system automatically knows which team members it can choose from.

From there, it can check their schedules and assign whoever’s open to a shift. In addition, if your organization allows employees to pick shifts, the tool could provide a scheduling interface. With that scheduling interface, employees could pick their shifts without your involvement.

Similarly, automation tools help ensure issues are addressed early, which always saves time in the long run. For example, scheduling tools alert you when a shift is uncovered. With manual processes, it’s easy to miss that sort of thing.

All that said, there are far more ways — unique to your business — that automation will free up time.

The Benefits of Employee Scheduling Automation Tools

From delegating tasks to improving the customer experience, employee scheduling apps provide many advantages. In the following section, we’ll describe these advantages in more detail. We’ll also highlight what these benefits might mean in the context of your unique business.

1. Assists In Delegating Tasks

As we mentioned earlier, employee scheduling requires knowledge that makes it difficult to delegate. This makes it hard for you, as the business owner, to extricate yourself from the scheduling process. Fortunately, one of the great advantages of scheduling automation tools is that they enable you to delegate certain scheduling tasks.

For example, you can set overall resource allocation goals using your automation tools. From there, an assistant (or further automation) can work on communicating with workers to fill shifts. In this way, automation tools allow you to layer in strategic goals. So, when it comes time to do the more tedious tasks, that work is informed by your strategic direction.

This is a powerful advantage that can manifest in all sorts of ways. Depending on the tool you use, you can also delegate data collection. That way, you can focus on analyzing areas of potential improvement.

2. Is A Massive Time-Saver

Time is one of the few things you can’t get more of once you’ve lost it. That’s what makes scheduling automation tools’ capability to save you time such an important advantage.

To understand the amount of time we’re talking about, add up how much time you spend scheduling each week. Even if you spend two hours per day on scheduling, that equates to about two and a half weeks per year.

Essentially, at a minimum, you’re getting two and a half more weeks out of every year with scheduling automation. In reality, you’re likely getting more time than that because you’ll be making fewer errors caused by manual processes. Yet, that’s just time. You’re also saving the brainpower you usually use on scheduling for other, more important things.

So, automation tools don’t just make it easier to properly allocate your staffing resources. They also enable you to allocate yourself to higher-value tasks.

3. Helps Bolster Employee Retention

In general, having a flexible schedule is extremely important to employees. This makes them more likely to stay at your company. Consider the following:

In addition, a Stanford study found that flexible workers achieved more and used sick days less often.

Of course, the logistics of enabling workers to be flexible can be difficult to manage. However, employee scheduling automation tools greatly reduce the administrative cost of managing flexible work schedules.

As the statistics indicate above, workers achieve more, have higher morale, and are more satisfied when they have flexible schedules.

So, as an enabler of flexible work schedules, automation tools can greatly improve employee retention.

4. Provides A Strong Customer Experience

In essence, employee scheduling boils down to allocating the right resources at the right time for the right task. Of course, this is much easier said than done which is why scheduling tools are so important. With the help of these tools, your employee scheduling will improve which will help you provide a strong customer experience.

Regardless of the type of business you run, a strong customer experience is critical. For example, if you run a retail business, staffing is always an issue during the holiday season. However, if you don’t get your staffing schedule right, you’re going to have customers whose needs aren’t met.

In the short-term, that might only cost you one sale. Over time, though, that kind of failure to deliver service degrades your customers’ trust in your business. Ultimately, customer experience is a key source of competitive advantage that must be protected. Scheduling automation can help.

Our Favorite Employee Scheduling Automation Tools

  1. Subitup

Subitup is a solid employee scheduling software that automates scheduling, swapping shifts, and schedule distribution.

Your employees can use its online time clocks and you can pull insightful reports and analytics. Subitup also allows you to track workers based on their skills.

  1. When I Work

When I Work provides free employee scheduling tools including an online scheduler, mobile employee scheduling apps, time clock, and support. These are free for up to 75 employees.

This tool is mobile-friendly, so it’s a great fit for businesses that prefer scheduling on their phones.

  1. 7Shifts

Geared specifically towards restaurants, 7Shifts makes scheduling, communication, compliance, and time tracking easy for restaurant owners.

There is a free version of 7Shift but the more powerful features are on the paid version. However, they offer a free trial of the paid version so it’s easy to try if you’re interested.

  1. Homebase

Another great employee scheduling software is Homebase which works on any browser or mobile phone. It allows you to do drag and drop scheduling, automatically update schedules, highlight conflicts, and more. You can also set it up to send automated texts and emails to schedule your employees’ shifts.

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Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Fora Financial is a working capital provider to small business owners nationwide. In addition, the Fora Financial team provides educational information to the small business community through their blog, which covers topics such as business financing, marketing, technology, and much more. If you’d like to see a topic covered on the Fora Financial blog, or want to submit a guest post, please email us at [email protected].