Have you ever noticed that the chores we dislike the most are often the tasks where we are most reluctant to change our methods? I cannot count how many times my wife has complained to me about spending hours creating a schedule that finally balances all of our employees requests for time off with their complaints that they need more hours, only to get a last-minute “emergency” time off request that changes everything. So being the ever-helpful and thoughtful husband, I would usually reply with “Why don’t you ditch the excel spreadsheets and the sticky notes and find some good scheduling software?”
Now I will admit (grudgingly) that software can’t solve every problem – but good employee scheduling and time management software can be the difference between spending Friday evening with the family or working the point of sale because you misplaced the pink sticky note reminding you that your eager young cashier was going to be at the prom.
The challenge is not finding simple scheduling software – a quick Google search will list dozens, but rather finding an integrated system that ties together the full employee time management cycle – from punching in and out to payroll and reporting. After all – the goal is to simplify and make things more efficient, and the idea of installing and managing a separate time clock system, scheduling software, and an accounting and payroll package starts to make my sticky notes and spreadsheets look significantly better.
So here is a short list of 5 things to look for when considering finally retiring the pen and paper and putting all that computer hardware sitting on your desk to work for you:
System Integration – a time clock system integrated into your point of sales software gives you the benefit of a single management application, and more importantly, allows you to easily compare important sales metrics such as cost of labor vs. gross income for a given time day or even shift.
Security – paper punch cards or plastic ID cards can be shared (or lost), employees trying to “help” each other share passwords and “Buddy Punch”, skewing the reports and hiding lost productivity. Your best bet in combating these security risks is to go with biometric (fingerprint) readers. They are inexpensive, accurate, and unless your employees figure out how to borrow someone else’s finger, they are extremely secure.
Simplicity – you want a solution that is intuitive, flexible and that minimizes repetitive tasks. Visual calendars with the ability to see at a glance where you have holes in your schedule coupled with customizable templates that allow you to create that perfect schedule and replicate it with just a few clicks will go a long way towards streamlining the scheduling process and getting you back to the things you actually enjoy doing.
Communications – this is where a good employee scheduling software package will really make you smile. An integrated system that doesn’t rely on email is preferred – where an employee can sign in, make see any messages from management (like “please remove all hardware from lips, tongues, ears, eyebrows, and other exposed areas prior to clocking in”), request time off or check the status of prior requests, and send other messages to management. This should integrate with your scheduling function to automatically keep you from scheduling an employee with approved time off, as well as give you the company-wide information you need to make good decisions in granting that time off.
Reliability – it doesn’t matter how many bells and whistles your software has if it doesn’t work – and time spent on the phone with tech support is not how you expected to spend the time you were saving by installing a scheduling system. So look for a company that has a solid reputation in the industry as well as a good understanding of your unique business. Call their support center before you become a customer – do you get an answer from a (preferably English speaking) human? Do they respond to your questions courteously and knowledgably – even if you are not yet their customer? After all, if they don’t have time for you when you are a potential client – how will you be treated once they have closed the deal and cashed your check?
So that’s it – 5 simple steps to scheduling paradise. Ok, perhaps paradise is a bit strong, but I can assure you that taking the time to replace your current scheduling scheme with a fully integrated employee scheduling system will certainly be well worth the effort.
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