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Workforce scheduling – make it a competitive advantage

Workforce scheduling
12 minute read

Workers and their time are important competitive factors, and even more so in today’s complex world, which is saturated with distractions. 

Therefore, well-thought-out workforce scheduling is a fundamental requirement for companies to be successful.

Nevertheless, workforce scheduling is often very complex. Many companies already rely on digital solutions, which are often not as effective as they should be. 

So, how can you find out what the right workforce scheduling software for your company is?

In this post, we'll give you tips on how to find the right workforce scheduling solution and introduce some value points for you to consider.

What is workforce scheduling software?

The main task of workforce scheduling is to have employees with the required qualifications in the required number in the right place at the right time. It is always a matter of deploying the right number of suitably qualified workers exactly where and when they are needed. 

Personnel requirements can change in the short, medium, or long term., and there may be staff shortages or expensive idle time and overtime to deal with.

Workforce scheduling is the central area of ​​responsibility of the human resources manager and operations management. Scheduling of personnel capacities and costs can have a lasting effect on corporate planning and strategy, and it is more and more important to control this complex planning process precisely.

Workforce scheduling is therefore not an easy task, considering:

  • the complexity of the process,
  • high demands in terms of data quality (making workforce scheduling mistakes can cause a lot of trouble),
  • the large number of people involved in the scheduling process,
  • the quick coordination of processes needed on a daily basis
  • and the numerous sources of information and scheduling needs

The use of scheduling software is therefore indispensable for many companies. It not only reduces workforce scheduling efforts, but it can also make the coordination of the planning process much more accurate by keeping all the scheduling goals transparent.

It is just too time-consuming and tedious to work out and manage shift schedules manually or with poor quality workforce-management software. 

Planners have to take into account a large number of different aspects, such as company internal agreements, legal regulations, and the wishes of employees.

If duty rosters are created using Excel, or on paper, this can lead to cumbersome and error-prone lists, paperwork, and time-consuming communication via email or telephone.

Digital shift scheduling, on the other hand, offers numerous advantages for management, HR operations, shift planners and, last but not least, for the employees concerned.

For example, workforce scheduling solution helps with:

  • the correct deployment of individual and rotating shifts,
  • creating overviews, taking into account daily attendance checks and annual vacation planning, and
  • supporting the analysis of deployment and vacation times and the creation of duty rosters for each employee.

The software for workforce planning is usually industry neutral. However, there are also solutions for special sectors such as healthcare, retail, social institutions, and facility or event management.

What are the benefits of workforce scheduling software?

Anyone who plans to deploy a software solution to schedule their staff will benefit from several advantages: 

The company will manage human resources more intelligently and efficiently, reduce personnel costs by avoiding expensive overtime and idle time, motivate its workers, and improve the satisfaction of its customers through precise and transparent planning.

Software for personnel deployment planning offers these advantages:

  • Automation
  • Flexibility
  • Cost optimization
  • Transparency
  • Employee retention
  • Data protection and labor law compliance

1. Automation as the key to precise workforce scheduling and planning

If scheduling processes are automated, this saves time and avoids errors. This also applies to the planning of workforce assignments. 

The manual creation of complex duty rosters with piles of paper and excel sheets, which are also confusing and difficult to handle, takes time. With digital workforce planning, on the other hand, many processes are automated, and that helps save time.

Shift scheduling is also an error-prone process, especially if it is done manually. Shift planners have to take numerous factors into account and always adapt their planning to changing circumstances. 

For example, the manual entry of an assignment in a shift schedule agreed by telephone is not only time consuming, but it also leads to inconsistencies and overtime. Corrections and changes in the plan can lead to further errors.

Such errors can be avoided with the help of workforce-scheduling software, since the processes are automated. Changes in the plan are immediately visible, and the intelligent software detects schedule clashes and warns you if you try to assign an employee to the same shift more than once, or reports if a team member cannot be assigned to a shift due to vacation or illness.

In the case of manual scheduling, you need to look at additional information in other files such as vacation plans, etc. during the process of planning.

2. React flexibly

The creation of a duty roster is usually very time consuming, as various phone calls and emails can be necessary to find out which employee is available. 

A digital solution makes it possible to react flexibly and quickly through fast, direct, and uncomplicated communication channels.

Once the shift schedule has been published, each employee is automatically informed, instead of you having to contact each coworker individually. In addition, no private channels for employees need to be used for communication.

3. Optimize costs

As soon as it is clear what is required for the preparation and execution of a future project, workforce scheduling software helps to plan human resources effectively and is able to keep an eye on financial results over the entire duration of the project.

Thus, planning efforts can be reduced to a minimum and the time required for all planning measures can be reduced significantly. This increases effectiveness, avoids frustration, and saves work and money. 

The software tool gives a complete overview of the deployed workforce and helps to avoid resource bottlenecks and prevent possible difficulties.

Effective workforce planning also ensures that team members are deployed according to their professional qualifications, which can help to avoid overburdening employees and prevent possible project delays that could greatly cost the company.

4. A better overview and more transparency for everyone

Excel tables or schedules in paper forms are often confusing because you have to search in different columns and compare data. 

Digital workforce-management solutions, on the other hand, are designed to show the planner at a glance whether all shifts are adequately staffed, and which employees are available.

Working hours of employees are calculated online and possible conflicts can be displayed immediately. Every change is visible in real time. 

A digital tool also gives employees a better overview of their working hours at any given time. Many solutions have that possibility as part of a mobile app also.

5. Satisfied employees = higher employee loyalty

In addition, great scheduling solutions also involve employees directly in the planning process. This gives you the opportunity to get an up-to-date overview of your duty roster and any changes online at any time.

Scheduling processes are understandable for everyone. Some software solutions allow employees to independently apply for available shifts. This promotes self-determination and satisfaction among team members and avoids a lot of potential conflicts.

After all, the use of a software solution keeps organizations up-to-date, and creates greater loyalty to the company, especially among younger people.

6. Compliancy with data protection and labor law requirements

Data protection also plays an important role in workforce scheduling. Personal data, such as the name and address of the employee, but also working hours, vacation and sick days or overtime, must be protected and not simply published and made available to other team members. 

The public posting of a duty roster, as is common in many companies, is therefore problematic for reasons of data protection.

Workforce scheduling software should fulfill all GDPR requirements and must be functional at the same time. It grants employees access to their duty roster without giving them access to the personal data of other employees. 

Management and HR operations can use software authorization rights to control exactly what each employee can see.

The digital recording of work, breaks, or absences stirs up the fear of the "transparent employee" in some people. In fact, the use of a corresponding software solution has advantages: The detailed recording of working times is a prerequisite for employees to observe the breaks and rest periods they are entitled to.

The system can also warn when rest and break times have not been reached. In this way, employees are protected and the employer is supported in complying with legal obligations.

Which features are part of workforce scheduling software?

Software solutions for workforce scheduling have very different functions. In the simplest cases, they offer shift templates which the planner can assign to their employees, as well as tracking of working hours and absences.

More comprehensive systems also calculate the expected status of time accounts in the future on the basis of the current time accounts and schedules. 

In addition to the standard functions, some solutions can also show the extent to which the respective workforce requirements are covered or whether there is over- or under-coverage.

Comprehensive software for workforce scheduling includes the following functions:

  • Schedule templates for the planning of working time
  • Sharing of schedules with the whole team
  • Extrapolation of time accounts based on the created schedules
  • An overview of the covered requirements based on the scheduled work plan
  • Management of shift changes and automatic reminders for employees of upcoming shifts
  • Track the availability of team members, vacation requests, and approvals
  • Import data from time accounts or export planned schedules
  • Labor cost forecasting
  • Flexible access to schedules in real time via a mobile app

How do you choose the right solution?

The market offers innumerable software solutions that include functionalities for workforce scheduling. Some of them are explicitly dedicated to areas of scheduling so that all functions relate to the scheduling process.

There are also some time and attendance systems that offer integrated scheduling modules, and comprehensive HR software solutions that include workforce planning; but be careful: not all human resource solutions have appropriate scheduling functions.

Whether it is a small business, or a group with over 10,000 employees, there is suitable workforce scheduling software for every company. When selecting one, it is important to evaluate which workflows and processes are supported.

You should consider the following criteria when making your selection:

1. Number of employees and locations

Depending on the size of the company, the requirements for workforce scheduling software are very different. The more employees and locations, the more complex the planning process. 

Some software solutions are only suitable for small businesses with one location. Others are designed to support fast-growing companies.

What does the future of your company look like? Would you like to expand and open additional locations? Then choose a solution that meets your current needs as well as your future plans.

2. Time tracking included

For some companies it is important to precisely record the working hours of the employees. This is especially the case when they are billed on an hourly basis. For other companies, however, it is sufficient to document the presence of the employees.

This should be considered when choosing a provider, because some software solutions for workforce scheduling also offer integrated time tracking.

3. Mobile solution - yes or no?

Do your employees work from home or travel a lot? Would you like to be supported for emergency scheduling on the go? Then a web-based solution is recommended.

With a mobile app, you can plan flexibly at any time and send messages and reminders to employees directly on their mobile device. Also, employees can see their work plan and schedule changes any time on their mobile phones.

4. General or industry-specific solutions

Most workforce scheduling solutions can be used in all industries. However, there are also industry-specific solutions that are tailored to the specific requirements of a company, such as gastronomy or healthcare. 

If you are looking for a solution tailored to your needs, you should consider an industry-specific solution.

5. Additional functions and extras

Many workforce management solutions have additional functions, such as certain communication features, control of overtime, or personalized access for certain employees; but not every company needs every feature. 

So, think carefully about what your company really needs.

Conclusion: software for workforce scheduling

Scheduling of the workforce with digital solutions brings many advantages to a company. It saves time and money, and ensures flexibility, transparency and happier employees‘s. Market offers a variety of different software programs for scheduling.

The good news is that depending on the size of the company, the industry and the requirements, there is a suitable solution for every company, it’s just important to ask yourself the right questions to find the one for you. 

For example: how am I going to use new software? Which features bring me real added value? How can this solution help me achieve my goals?

At Spica, with our more than 30 years of experience, we have proven workforce scheduling solutions that can cover the most complex cases in industries such as hospitality, retail, health services, and many more. 

If you would like to know more, you’re kindly invited to leaf through our workforce management brochure or contact us by phone or email. 

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