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Libby Marks

10 Best Tools for Employee Scheduling

From finding the right resources to scheduling shifts, here’s 10 of the best employee scheduling tools to try out in 2024.

Employee scheduling is like trying to do a jigsaw. Except the picture and pieces keep changing. 

For managers, this dynamic problem-solving requires detailed knowledge of each puzzle piece - the people who work for you. Their availability, skills, qualifications, personal preferences, holidays, allocations, and costs all give them a unique shape. And it’s up to you to make them fit perfectly together - so the picture makes sense and there are no glaring gaps. 

You think you’ve got it sorted. But suddenly someone calls in sick. Or the focus of the workday changes. Or there’s a spike in demand and you need to find a lot of new pieces, fast. No wonder employee scheduling is such a time-consuming process.

Plus it’s fraught with peril. Miscalculations, double bookings, legislative logistics. Get anything wrong and you could find yourself short-staffed and unable to deliver.

Employee scheduling software exists to make this process easier, less error-prone, and even automated. Here’s what you need to know about employee scheduling tools - and our top 10 for different business needs.  

What is employee scheduling?

Employee scheduling is the process of creating and managing a timetable that outlines when employees are expected to work. 

The primary goal of employee scheduling is to ensure that the right number of employees with the necessary skills are available at the right times to meet operational needs. To achieve that, it takes various factors into account - such as staffing requirements, employee availability, workload, and cost.

Employee scheduling practices and problems vary from business to business. For example, in hospitality or healthcare, it might involve providing 24/7 operations across a range of different work schedules. Simply finding people willing and able to work a night shift could be a problem.

Whereas in predominantly 9-to-5 project-based businesses, planning shifts isn’t a problem. But scheduling and optimizing resources across a dynamic portfolio of projects can be. 

The challenges of employee scheduling

Employee scheduling might sound simple but there’s a lot to consider. Anyone who’s been tasked with making sure shifts are properly staffed will tell you it can be a hair-tearing experience.

Obviously, there’s the immediate question of who’s working when, but beyond this, there’s the question of scheduling the right employees. Different operational activities require different skill sets. This may limit the pool of resources you get to choose from. 

Next, you need to address their availability and capacity. Are they available for work and do they have capacity to take more on? You need to know their working hours and preferred pattern, whether they’re full or part-time, if they’ve requested time off, or are on holiday or leave. In project-based businesses, you also need to know what work they already have assigned to them. 

In some circumstances, you also need to consider what people cost. If your preferred person isn’t available, do you have the budget to bring in someone who costs more - like a more qualified employee or even a contractor? Or can you afford to pay overtime to someone who’s already fully booked?

There’s also the question of workload distribution. Is everyone getting a fair amount of work and equal opportunities? If not, you could face a drop in morale and employee engagement.

Finally, you need to communicate the work schedule or rota with people - and almost inevitably face some sort of negotiation and revision due to scheduling conflicts or other issues.

With all of these moving parts at play, it’s remarkable employees get scheduled at all. But these are the challenges that employee scheduling software loves to solve.

Key features of employee scheduling software

Employee scheduling software is packed with features to streamline the process of creating, managing, and optimizing work schedules. It makes employee scheduling faster and more accurate. And often provide self-service access to people to view their allocations. 

Here are key features you can expect to find. Note these may vary depending on the industry you work in. 

  • Scheduling - The ability for managers to create and customize work schedules - sometimes via auto-scheduling based on predefined criteria. 
  • Assignments - The ability to assign shifts or projects to specific resources - as well as visibility into what shifts, projects, or tasks are already allocated - to prevent overallocation.
  • Availability - Visibility into who’s available - for example, leave, holiday, training, work pattern, etc - so that schedules don’t include people who can’t work.
  • Capacity - In project-based businesses, employee scheduling tools will typically include capacity and utilization rates, to ensure people aren’t being allocated too much work.
  • Skills/qualifications - Information on the skills or qualifications people have - to ensure you assign the right people to specific shifts or projects.
  • Time tracking - Tools for employees to complete time sheets - either to record completion of a particular shift or to track the time they’ve spent on specific activities. 
  • Real-time communication - Instant updates and notifications, so that people can be informed about their work schedule - often 1:1 and team communication via DM.
  • Forecasting - Some scheduling software forecasts workforce demand based on historical trends - so you can predict when you’ll need more hands on deck. 
  • Reporting and analytics - Insights into metrics like cost, utilization, attendance, etc - whatever is most relevant to your business.
  • Automation - For example, flagging when people are over-capacity, or when breaks between shifts aren’t compliant with legislation. 
  • Integrations - Relevant integration with other software - such as human resources, payroll, and invoicing - to reduce duplication and streamline workflows. 
  • Employee self-service tools - Tools for time off requests and holidays, see their shifts and allocations, accept or decline shifts, etc.

Why employee scheduling software is important

There are lots of benefits to using employee scheduling software. Especially if you’re currently struggling to schedule resources using spreadsheets or even paper-based systems. The headline news is that it makes your life easier, your allocations quicker, and increases your chance of getting schedules right the first time. 

Scheduling software speeds up the process

Manual scheduling can be very complex and time-consuming - especially for larger enterprises, project businesses with complex allocations, or organizations operating in dynamic environments. Employee scheduling software automates many aspects of the scheduling process, saving time for managers and allowing them to focus on other critical tasks.

It reduces human error

No one could blame you for making a mistake after looking at all those moving jigsaw pieces. Employee scheduling software eliminates common errors through automation - like flagging double bookings or calculating hours for you. This isn’t just essential for creating viable work schedules - it also keeps you compliant with legislation and time-consuming communication about erroneous rotas.  

It’s based on real-time data

How often have you scheduled a shift only to find out it was based on bad data - out-of-date information about someone’s availability or allocations? An employee scheduling tool provides real-time data, so you can avoid allocating to someone who’s off sick or on holiday. And can respond quickly to any increase in demand, confidently allocating work based on live capacity and utilization insights. 

And it can reduce labor costs

By providing greater transparency into employee availability, capacity, and utilization, employee scheduling apps can reduce labor costs. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, they let you identify employees with spare capacity, helping you avoid overtime costs. Plus, for salaried employees, they help minimize idle time and increase utilization, meaning higher team productivity.

6 best employee scheduling tools for resource scheduling

1. Runn - best for IT and custom software teams

Runn is a resource management platform that’s designed to optimize employee scheduling and allocations in IT and software teams. 

It helps project managers identify the right people for different projects and tasks, based on real-time insights into their skills, availability, allocations, capacity, utilization rate, and cost. Filters make it quick and easy to pinpoint the perfect people. 

PMs can select the best person for each project and simply drag and drop them into a project plan. Their information then updates in real time, to reflect their new capacity. 

At-a-glance dashboards provide insights into utilization, so you can create a fair and balanced workload that prevents bottlenecks and burnout. While in-depth reports highlight resource trends, so businesses confidently know when they can take on more work or need to recruit new talent.

Team members can see allocations in their personal dashboard, and there’s built-in time tracking (which helps you invoice more accurately).

Runn also has a wealth of other features including project planning, forecasting, and management tools, capacity planning, scenario planning, and financial features - it’s more than just a scheduling app.

The People Planner interface in Runn

2. Kantata - best for professional services

Kantata - formerly Mavenlink - is designed for project-based businesses. It is optimized for resource management in the professional services sector. 

Like Runn, it increases visibility into resourcing, providing PMs with real-time insights into who’s available by skills, cost, and capacity for work. There’s also built-in time and expense tracking.

Kantata includes similar functionality to Runn - such as project management, skills mapping, and reporting - but also includes team communication and collaboration tools within the platform. 

Integration with Salesforce lets Kantata users see a holistic view of their funnel - from pre-sales to project close-out. Users also appreciate increased access to data - spanning resource and project management - which helps them measure progress against their KPIs.


3. Saviom - best for bigger businesses 

Saviom is another resource management platform aimed at project-based businesses - particularly at enterprise level. 

When it comes to employee scheduling - like Runn and Kantata - It includes resource management, planning, and scheduling tools. These will help you improve your resource utilization as well as the accuracy of your allocations.

As well as capacity planning and forecasting functionality, it also has financial and reporting capabilities. On top of that, it offers modules for strategic workforce planning and talent management. And like Kantata includes messaging tools.


4. Float - best for creative agencies & production studios

Catering for slightly smaller teams, Float is a great choice for creative agencies. It’s purpose-built for resource management - providing tools to plan, schedule, and track resources accurately.

First, the planning features let you plan projects, forecast budgets, and manage your capacity. Then the scheduling features let you create work schedules and allocate resources. You can see team schedules, capacity, and utilization at a glance, set custom work hours and locations, and schedule and approve time off. 

There’s also built-in time tracking for team members to log timesheets, and PMs to track their spend and export data to invoices.


5. Resource Guru - best for different kinds of resources

Resource Guru is another resource management tool that's aimed at the agency sector. But unlike most of the systems here, it isn’t limited to human resources. Resource Guru also lets you manage and schedule equipment and workspaces too. Which is pretty neat if that’s what you need.

The (human) resource management functionality is similar to Runn and Float. You can see a real-time overview of resource availability, allocations, and more - and use that to schedule the right people for the right projects. You can drag and drop resources into project plans - and easily rearrange, extend, or split allocations if they take people over capacity. 

Resource Guru includes skills management tools so you can keep on top of organizational capabilities, as well as capacity. Filters let you sort resources by skills, location, and more, to find the perfect fit. It also lets you add, archive, and unarchive freelancers - so you can flex your workforce if you need extra capacity.  

Resource Guru

6. Productive - best for agencies 

Productive bill themselves as THE tool for agencies. We love a bit of confidence, so hats off for that. Much like the other software discussed here, Productive offers a range of resource scheduling and project management functionality. But they also include sales and budgeting modules too. 

Productive lets you see - at a glance - who’s overbooked and who needs more work. It lets PMs schedule work and team members see what they’ve been allocated. We like the to-do list functionality for task management. And the project management tools include a pleasing range of views - from Gantt to Kanban.


4 best employee scheduling app to schedule shifts 

7. Deputy - best for ease of use 

If you need to create rotas, schedule employees, and sync it all up with payroll, Deputy could be good for you. It’s a single central place for managing your people and they say it is ‘celebrated for its ease of use’. We hope there’s cake and candles. 

Deputy lets you schedule staff based on availability, training, and cost. Then monitor their attendance and record accurate timesheets for payroll purposes.  You can plan shifts to meet demand based on info like appointments, sales trends, and other demand indicators. Or you can let Deputy’s built-in AI do it for you. 

Scheduling is as simple as drag-and-drop, and you can send rotas directly to people’s mobile. Staff can swap shifts with someone suitable within the system, and it only takes one click for Deputy to identify the best replacement if they can’t make it. 

You can set caps on working hours to avoid burning people out and get an alert if they go over - so people stay fresh and you stay on the right side of the law. 

8. Connecteam - best for managing multiple locations 

Connecteam offers employee scheduling, time tracking, task management, and reporting in one. When you’re starting out, you can create schedules quickly by importing your old ones. Or you can create them from scratch using drag-and-drop functionality. Once your schedule is set up, you can identify and allocate people based on their availability and registered qualifications. 

In the Connecteam app, employees can see their schedules, get reminders about work, accept or trade shifts, clock in and out easily, and request time off. 

Managers can see who’s clocked in or not - and manage multiple locations - with a real-time GPS-based map view of employees.  They can also track shifts and time spent on specific tasks and then export that information directly to payroll.


9. When I work - popular in hospitality and food 

When I Work is a shift scheduling tool that promises to save you time, improve communication, and boost accountability. It helps customer-facing businesses plan employee schedules, and track time and attendance. 

This employee scheduling tool has won awards for how quickly it can be implemented. And the speed doesn’t stop there. It boasts one-click scheduling that can auto-suggest optimal shift allocations. Then you can quickly publish your schedule and your whole team receives shift notifications instantly.

Like Connecteam, the mobile app lets team members receive and confirm shifts, and clock in and out. Managers can approve time off requests and shift trades, and chat to team members as a group or 1:1. 

Managers can also use the Labor Forecasting functionality to understand future demand and manage their budget. And dodge unnecessary overtime costs by distributing work more evenly among available staff. 

When I Work

10. Staff Savvy - popular choice for galleries and museums 

Staff Savvy is a workforce management platform. It goes beyond simply scheduling shifts and planning rosters. It includes additional functionality covering timesheets, expenses, payroll, recruitment, onboarding, training, and compliance. 

The scheduling tools include a simple drag-and-drop timeline to create shifts and see instant cost estimates for the day. You can manage your budget by setting fixed staff costs or even using a percentage of your sales.

An auto-scheduler can plan shifts for you, mindful of employees’ contracted hours, holidays, and other bookings. If someone can’t work an assigned shift, Staff Savvy will recommend suitable alternatives. 

Staff Savvy boasts automation that makes managers' lives easier - like being able to set alerts and actions when certain criteria are met - for example, frequently clocking in late. While the built-in team communication tool provides a single place for managers and employees to discuss and agree scheduling issues - and read-receipt provides an audit trail of who’s seen what. 


What’s the best employee scheduling app? 

You know we can’t answer that. The best employee scheduling software is the one that does what you need, with ease, and within budget. And only you can decide that.

Whether you're looking for shift scheduling or resource management, there are a lot of employee scheduling software solutions on the market. And most of these tools offer similar functionality. Your choice comes down to your priorities and how you feel when you demo the product.

Don't just look at functionality. Go into the product and see how easy it is to do what you need. An intuitive user interface will make day-to-day use and improve user adoption. And if your employees need to use it on the move, make sure it has a great mobile experience too.  

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