As a business owner, scheduling your employees for shifts that ensure ample coverage and suit everyone’s needs can be challenging. You must consider which shifts need staffing, which employees’ skills are best suited for each open shift and when each employee can work. Factors, such as paid time off (PTO), payroll budget, human resources (HR) compliance and last-minute schedule changes, can make shift planning even more daunting.
Creating a grid with pen and paper is one shift-planning solution but this approach can be tedious and error-prone. Luckily, time and attendance software can streamline and simplify the shift-planning process and help set up your business for success.
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Shift planning is scheduling employees to fill your company’s required roles during a given timeframe. Here’s a shift-planning example for a small cafe.
To open at the crack of dawn, someone has to take the 5 a.m. shift. However, that employee likely won’t work until the cafe closes. Instead, another employee will come in at some point to perform the same work for the rest of the day. When that employee comes in, say at 1 p.m., the first employee will be relieved. Their shift ends when the next employee’s shift begins.
Shift planning is scheduling employees so all your company’s functions are addressed appropriately during operating hours.
Shift planning sounds easy at first ― how hard can it be to tell people to come and go at specific times? In reality, any small business owner who schedules employees on shifts (instead of a standard 9-to-5) can tell you that shift planning is full of challenges. Specifically, the obstacles to shift planning can include the following:
Predictive scheduling ― when an employer assigns employees’ schedules in advance ― can improve employees’ work-life balance. Employers must understand predictive scheduling laws to comply with local and state business regulations.
Time and attendance software solves many of the challenges of manual shift planning. These software platforms can improve shift planning in the following ways, which include:
The best time and attendance software can streamline shift planning, lower labor costs and foster a happier workforce. Here’s a breakdown of some highly rated solutions to help you evaluate and choose a time and attendance system that works best for your business.
Using intuitive drag-and-drop functionality, When I Work allows employers to build and share shifts easily with workers from a mobile or desktop device. Workers can use the platform’s mobile app to check their schedule, communicate with other employees, bid on open shifts, swap shifts and request time off. Managers can also use the mobile app to field time-off requests and last-minute schedule changes; a dashboard keeps them updated on unfilled shifts and labor costs.
When I Work also features an AI-powered auto-scheduler that automatically assigns shifts based on metrics like employee preference and maximum available hours. Workers can log in for their shifts from mobile devices, desktop computers or a shared kiosk and an optional photo clock-in feature allows employers to confirm worker identity. Read our in-depth When I Work review to learn how this platform integrates with payroll software to streamline the payroll process.
QuickBooks Time makes shift planning easy with its mobile scheduling app. Managers can use drag-and-drop tools to build new schedules via a computer or smartphone or copy and publish the same schedule for future time slots. Employees are notified when a shift schedule is published or changes; managers can assign access to determine who can control shift scheduling. All employee schedules are cloud-based and accessible via a browser or mobile device. Once a schedule is created, it can be synced to popular calendar platforms, including Google Calendar, Apple Calendar and Outlook.
QuickBooks Time offers flexible punch-in and punch-out options workers can use at home, in the office or at a job site. Our QuickBooks Time review details how this platform uses geofencing and GPS tracking tools to increase accountability and improve worker safety.
The time and attendance offerings from Paychex Flex, Paychex Flex Time and Paychex Flex Time Essentials have robust scheduling features that integrate seamlessly into the broader Paychex Flex human capital management system, which also features payroll, employee benefits administration and other HR services.
Paychex Flex Time is equipped with a visual scheduler and schedule templates to simplify shift planning. Via the Paychex Flex platform, managers can view worker availability easily and workers can swap shifts and access other features with online self-service tools. The platform helps managers comply with legal obligations like overtime rules. It will even send an alert when a worker’s hours approach a time or scheduling threshold that requires overtime pay.
Our Paychex Flex review details the platform’s various clock-in and clock-out options, including basic time clocks accessible via a web browser or mobile app and advanced products like a kiosk app with facial verification, biometric iris and finger scan time clocks and an interactive voice response system.
TimeClock Plus is a scalable time and attendance solution that allows companies to add features to suit their needs. Its employee scheduling product, Humanity, lets managers build complex shifts and ensure staffing across multiple locations and states. Its automated features match staff who are available and qualified for appropriate shifts. The platform ensures schedules are compliant legally. It can also integrate with hundreds of payroll, enterprise resource planning and human capital management platforms.
TimeClock Plus supports demand-driven scheduling and shift differentials, allowing managers to specify different pay for certain shifts, such as night or weekend work. Our detailed TimeClock Plus review explains how the platform’s permission settings allow managers to assign shift scheduling privileges to specific team members.
Whether you run a small business or a large enterprise, time and attendance software puts you in the driver’s seat when it comes to improving shift planning. Time and attendance software can help you schedule employees easily to the shifts that best match their skill sets while considering availability, ensuring legal compliance and minimizing shift disruptions. With a wide variety of options on the market, you’re sure to find a solution that fits your business’s needs.
Max Freedman contributed to this article.