If you’re a small or mid-size business, and you’re in a decision-making position, you might literally have a thousand employee scheduling solutions to choose from. For certain, most are primitive and homegrown, others are doubling in brass as something else like a payroll application with some timekeeping add-ons, while still others lack any formalized technical support, and a few, a very few, are really complete, end-to-end solutions that can reduce payroll costs, eliminate pain-points, and solve the complexities of scheduling challenges.
So, how do you know what labor scheduling software to purchase? Just like a job interview, the answers to the tough questions that are asked will always be the point of distinction.
According to Tommy Schroeder, an executive with Workloud, a workforce management solutions company with offices in Boston, MA, Athens, Greece and Madison, WI, there are three overwhelming and compelling questions you’ll need to ask that can quickly determine if a particular scheduling solution is right for your business. Schroeder believes that Fit, Function and Facilitation are critical questions. “If you’re a small or mid-size business, it’s going to be extremely important for you to determine if the scheduling solution is the right fit for your business; if the application possesses the right functionality that makes it intuitive to your industry; and if the provider is indeed a facilitator in regard to promoting an efficient onboarding process and maintaining a far-reaching technical support system,” explained Schroeder.
Q1 Not every scheduling solution is going to be the right fit for you. In fact, most won’t be, but some will be. Explore at the very deepest levels how the software fits your business requirements, can it be scaled for growth if that’s your trajectory, is it repeatable from one location to the next, and does it have the mobile flexibility to engage all employees including those on the road or working in a remote environment? Schroeder encourages the drafting of a list of all requirements before you even begin your search. That way you won’t be wasting time sitting in demo after demo. And solicit input from all departments on the must-haves; one of the worst things that can happen after the fact is not including all the requirements on your list – this can result in added customization to the base scheduling product and that can increase costs, delay the implementation, and skew your ROI.
Q2 It goes without saying that the solution you purchase will need to have the functionality that both your business, and to some extent, your industry requires. For instance, if you’re a manufacturer, it’s a near certainty that you’ll want the ability to initiate demand-driven scheduling during each shift. Knowing that this practice can save up to 7% on payroll costs is going to impact the business case for choosing the right scheduling software. If you’re a public safety organization, you’re going to require the capabilities to adjust scheduling at a moment’s notice, make decisions on the fly as circumstances dictate, and incorporate rules into your scheduling application that might be mandated by municipalities. In fact, look for experience or associated experience in similar industries from your time and attendance and scheduling software providers before you make any decisions.
Q3 Ah yes, facilitation, or as they say the devil is in the details. How quickly, but without risking quality, can your labor scheduling partner onboard your company? If it’s a long and arduous process, that’s a telltale sign, and potentially a red flag, for a future saddled with pitfalls and obstacles. And to make matters worse, the longer the implementation process takes, the longer the payback. But it doesn’t end there. Will there be custom programming requirements to adapt the baseline software to your specific needs? If the answer is yes, and many times it is, you’ll need to calculate not just the added costs into your ROI, but also how long it will take. After those upfront questions are answered, you’ll need to do a deep-dive into the provider’s customer service and technical support methods. What will those costs be, is the support outsourced or in-house, and will you have a specific account owner who you can contact and rely on?
As Workloud’s Schroeder says, “Make sure you schedule enough due-diligence time before selecting your employee scheduling software.” And he adds, “Like any important purchase, follow-up with references in aligned businesses to your own. That’s going to be the best validation of all.”