Does your business need employee scheduling software? If you do, we're here to help you find the one that's right for you. We've listed our recommendations for three employee scheduling tools we think are most appropriate for small businesses.
What is employee scheduling software?
Even small businesses may need to manage complex employee schedules that may change from day to day or vary by location. Online employee scheduling software helps managers quickly create schedules that can be altered online or even via a mobile device. Small companies may not need advanced features such as complex reporting, but they can benefit from tools such as integrated time clocks and basic payroll features.
Small businesses that need to track varied shifts, such as small retail stores and restaurants, will likely benefit most from using online scheduling software. Many scheduling software tools can coordinate shifts at more than one location. Some allow employees to check in at a specific location using their mobile device, which may be a convenient feature for employees such as cleaning or landscape crews. Most often, mobile scheduling apps are free, and subscriptions are charged based on the number of employees managed.
How we evaluated employee scheduling software
Top Ten Reviews (TTR), a sister site of Business News Daily, has been reviewing employee scheduling software for nearly 11 years. We spoke with the team that did this research and learned more about which features are important to small businesses. We focused on companies that had fewer than 20 employees and needed to manage complex shifts — specifically, restaurants, retail stores and companies with off-site workers.
Small businesses do not need enterprise-level reporting functions and certainly not an enterprise-level price tag. We considered affordable products that were simple to use and provided good mobile tools, integrated time clocks and basic human resources tools. With this kind of employee scheduling software, managers can easily create schedules, keep employees abreast of changes and track hours worked for payroll.
TTR conducted about 80 hours of testing research on 10 employee scheduling systems. Because many of the high-end services offer basic features in one form or another, it was not enough to compare the features offered by each product. So, to rank the software, TTR tested the administrative and employee interfaces for ease of use. Though they expected a small learning curve for management features, they looked for software whose employee functions were intuitive and required minimal training. In addition to conducting this research, we reviewed the mobile interfaces to see if they were up-to-date and easy to use.
Using both TTR's testing and our own research, we identified the top three products we think would be particularly useful for small businesses. We looked for products that were affordable and offered plans for fewer than 20 employees. We also looked for up-to-date interfaces, advanced mobile features, and integrated mobile and PC time clocks. We found three products that stood out:
Flat pricing for up to 20 employees, email and SMS schedules, employee-request managementUsing the Humanity dashboard you can configure your time clocks, schedules and calendars.
Humanity includes the three basic functions that small businesses need: employee scheduling, an integrated time clock and payroll tools. Pricing starts at $2 per user for basic scheduling features and $3 per user for the full set of features, including time and attendance and payroll. Using this software, you can easily create schedule templates with generic positions to quickly create weekly schedules. Once the schedules are created, you can send them to your employees by email or SMS (text). Employees can sign in to their shifts online via a desktop or mobile device, and they can trade shifts if you allow it. The software can create payroll reports, and Humanity will remind you when the reports are due. This is an easy scheduling tool for those who create the same types of schedules every week, such as restaurants and retail stores. Free trials are available, and there is 24/7 support. Click to read a full review of Humanity on our sister site Top Ten Reviews.
Homebase allows you to manage your employees' schedules all from a mobile interface. The developer offers a free version of its mobile app, with just its basic scheduling, time tracking and communications functions. The paid plan includes SMS notifications, GPS timeclock, timesheet approvals and other alerts. Its pricing plans begin at $10 per location, instead of per user like similar services. This program revolves around its mobile interface, but can be access from any device, including a point-of-sale system. The notification system can alert you to missed clock-ins and if an employee is going into overtime. Employees can communicate with each other over the app and accept shifts. The mobile-centered interface and pricing structure can make this a great pick for smaller teams that are spread through only a few locations. Click to read a full review of Homebase on our sister site Top Ten Reviews.
Flat pricing for up to 10 employees, multi-device scheduling and time clocking, support for multiple locationsThis software allows you to easily create schedules for specific job titles. Credit: Ximble
This software works well for businesses that have a lot of small shifts to fill, because it allows employees to use their mobile phone to pick up dropped shifts and swap shifts. Restaurants, coffee shops, bars and nightclubs may benefit from these tools because they might have a lot of 3- or 4-hour shifts that need to be filled at the last minute. Employees can even send messages to one another, thus reducing the time managers must spend facilitating small shift changes. Ximble also supports company messages. So, for example, you could use it to tell your restaurant employees what the specials are for the night. Pricing starts at only $1 per employee per month, and you can easily add features after you sign up. Click to read a full review of Ximble on our sister site Top Ten Reviews.
Designed for hourly employees, GPS location tracking available, iOS and Android compatibleThis scheduling software includes a simple to use time clock for tracking exact employee hours.
Another product we discovered while conducting our research was ZoomShift. Plans start at $15 per month for up to five employees. It provides iOS and Android apps for mobile devices, and you can add GPS tracking for only a few more dollars per month. If you have a mobile crew, this might be a product to consider. ZoomShift allows employees to receive SMS and email notifications, and it can be configured to send shift reminders to mobile phones so that employees will be less likely to miss shifts. This is a relatively new product, but it may be worth checking out. Free 14-day trials are available.
If these products don't look quite right for your company, you may want to consider time and attendance software, which is quite similar. We evaluated a few for small business and provided brief descriptions of more than 50 time-tracking options.
Editor's Note: Use the questionnaire below, and our vendor partners will contact you to provide you with the information you need on Time and Attendance Software:
Pamela S. Stevens also contributed to this article.