If you have been tasked with finding a new employee scheduling software for your organization, a quick Google search has probably indicated that it is no simple choice. There are a wide range of systems available, all with different features and benefits. Here are 3 questions to help get you started with finding employee scheduling software that is right for your organization.

Is the solution comprehensive enough for your needs?

Many employee scheduling software solutions are designed to solve simple scheduling problems; just a step up from excel or creating the schedule manually. If you have a small, stable staff, a low-end system might be right for you.

However, if your organization has some complex scheduling challenges, you will need a solution that can handle more comprehensive requirements. If you have labor laws to consider, business rules such as overtime and seniority, a high level of turnover, and more than a few dozen employees, you likely fall into this category.

Can the solution grow with you?

As your business grows, your software needs to grow with you. Your employee scheduling software may start in one department, but could be used by other departments, or even your whole enterprise. Ensure the system can expand to meet your changing needs over the long haul.

Does the software vendor understand your industry and specific challenges?

A good employee scheduling vendor should understand the challenges you face in your particular industry. Ask how many other customers they have in your sector, or how many customers face similar problems as your organization. A company with experience in your industry can help you set up a good employee scheduling workflow for your key processes, having already established that for other clients in your sector.

Good scheduling software is flexible enough to export and import data from your existing systems, saving you time and effort.

Does the system have all the features that you need?

Different types of businesses will have different scheduling needs. These needs are important when considering what features to look for.

For union based operations, you will likely need scheduling software that can support rules-based scheduling that accounts for seniority, certifications, qualifications and the agreement in place. For businesses with remote or mobile employees, or event based companies such as venues, catering, and security, the ability to input multiple customers and sites will be extremely important. Ensure that any scheduling software you consider has the tools you need for your business.

Does the company provide support if your users require assistance?

Support and maintenance is often overlooked in the software buying process. Many people assume that it is included in the pricing given. However, be on the lookout for additional fees for support or very limited hours.

With on-premise installations of employee scheduling software, keep in mind that eventually the versions that you purchase will be discontinued as the vendor introduces new versions. You will have to upgrade the software and possibly the hardware used to run it. You can continue to run it as long as you like but at some point the vendor will discontinue support which may create major problems in the future. This situation can be avoided by going with a “hosted” or “cloud” option.

Can the scheduling solution integrate with your payroll, HR, and other financial systems?

This is perhaps one of the most important questions you can ask your employee scheduling software vendor. How a scheduling solution “talks” to related software is integral to ensuring that you get the best value out of it. If you have to manually key in payroll information after scheduled hours have been performed, you are working harder than you have to.

Can the software be deployed both as Software-as-a-Service over the Internet, as well as on premise?

If you want the software and your data to reside on your own system, behind your own firewall, tended by your own IT staff, you will want the traditional licensed software model. This means you pay one lump sum for the system, plus an annual maintenance fee for support and updates. And your company is in control of your system, with your IT people responsible for your own data security and system up-time.

If you would prefer to let the vendor deal with IT issues, the hosted or “cloud” model may suit you best. This means your people can access the system from anywhere at any time through the web, with no need for IT to install any software or tweak any hardware.

You pay a low monthly fee for each user on the system, and the vendor is responsible for safeguarding your data and keeping the employee scheduling software working. Generally, you can pay for cloud computing out of your operating budget, with no need to make a capital purchase. Cloud computing will generally be up and running faster than a licensed system.

If you have a preference—or you haven’t yet made up your mind—make sure the vendor supports both models.

Is the company highly regarded in the space?

There are many start-up scheduling systems in the market place today. A vast majority can be considered “plug-and-play” software systems; which are hosted entirely on the internet and perform basic scheduling functions as well as some employee communication. However, if scheduling in your organization requires a certain degree of complexity, then these systems may not be right for you.

Advanced scheduling software should be able to input multiple sites, customers, bill and pay rates, remove avoidable overtime, account for meal breaks and minimum rest periods, and match employee qualifications with various roles.

Additionally, ask your vendor how long they have been in business, how many customers they have, and if you can speak to references. Ideally, their references should be in the same or similar line of business as yours. Ask them how smoothly the installation and training went, how gracefully the vendor handled any issues, and what type of payback they experienced. The vendor’s attention to customer service should figure prominently in your purchase decision.

Is the system cost effective?

Employee scheduling programs can range from $100 to tens of thousands of dollars. You should expect to pay more if you’re trying to solve complex employee scheduling or business problems. Ask the vendor what type of payback their clients normally experience. When setting your budget, a good rule of thumb is to look for a payback in six to nine months.

Where will this return-on-investment (ROI) come from? Here are the likely areas of cost savings:

  • Are your schedulers and middle managers spending too much time handling calls from employees asking about their schedules, managing requests for time off, hunting down employees to fill short-notice shifts, and calling employees to verify that they arrived at their shifts? (A good system can drastically cut down these tasks, freeing up time for managers to attend to more strategic activities.)
  • How much can you save in un-billable overtime if your call-out lists automatically exclude any employees who must be paid overtime? (A good workforce scheduling system can cut unrecoverable overtime payments in half.)
  • What would you save in training costs if your turnover rate fell by 25%? (A good system can substantially reduce payroll errors, turnover, and training costs.)
  • Ask the vendor to help you quantify these expected savings for six to nine months, and see what kind of budget seems realistic.