Managing a team of any size and type is a complex, time-consuming task that can be overwhelming at times. Thankfully, there’s a solution that was designed to help busy managers keep their teams organized and on task. That solution is scheduling software.
Software suites, like Inch, give you access to tools and processes that automate, simplify, and streamline many of the common tasks associated with managing a team.
It doesn’t matter if that team is made up of two employees or 200, or if that team works in-house, in the field, remotely, or some combination of the three — scheduling software can help.
But which software will give you and your team what they need to succeed?
In this article, we discuss what to look for in scheduling software so you can make the right choice for your business. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First, we’ll dive into why you might need scheduling software to begin with.
Why You Need Scheduling Software
Maybe you’re intrigued by the idea of implementing scheduling software at your business, but you’re not fully convinced you need it. Is it worth the cost and hassle of picking a tool and transitioning to the new system?
First of all, we should say that if you choose the right solution, the costs — in terms of both money and time — shouldn’t be as much as you might assume.
But think of it like this: Whatever type of business you’re in, you need the right tools to get the job done.
Good scheduling can have just as much of an impact on your business’s success as the equipment your employees use, so why try to “make do” handling scheduling with tools that weren’t designed for the job?
The problem with trying to handle scheduling without proper tools comes down to three main disadvantages: time, accuracy, and communication.
As the maxim goes, time is money, and the time managers spend on scheduling has a cost.
Any manager who has had to create a weekly schedule for a business with more than a few employees knows how confusing and time-intensive it can be, so we won’t talk much about that here.
Suffice it to say most managers could occupy the hours they spend each week on scheduling with other responsibilities demanding their attention — things like staff training, inventory management, or marketing the business.
Accuracy comes into play because simply matching up employee names with spots on the calendar isn’t enough to create an effective schedule.
Employees can’t be scheduled as if they’re interchangeable. Individual employees will have different availability, especially if they’re only working for your company part-time. In addition, some shifts will require specific tasks to be done that not all employees will be qualified to do.
Your business’s staffing needs vary from one shift to another as well. Aside from the tasks associated with opening and closing, effective scheduling requires predicting which days and times will be busiest and which will be slow so that you have the right amount of coverage.
If you aren’t using a dedicated scheduling software tool, you’ll have to keep track of all of these factors yourself, and there won’t be any warning if you make an oversight like scheduling an employee for a shift while they’re on vacation or forgetting to schedule a closing supervisor.
Beyond the fact that creating schedules without the right tools is time-consuming and comes with a high probability of errors, you also have to think about the challenges involved in communicating the schedule to your staff.
The unfortunate reality is that there are still many businesses where new schedules are only communicated to employees in the same way as decades ago: with a piece of paper tacked to the wall of a breakroom.
Employees then have to scribble notes or, at best, snap a picture of the schedule with their phone to remember when they’re supposed to come to work, and getting word to employees about any changes after the schedule is posted presents its own set of problems.
Of course, cloud-based word processor documents or spreadsheets that can be shared with employees are a big step up in accessibility. However, if any alterations are necessary, managers are still forced to reach out to employees to let them know.
Using specialized scheduling software can help you save time, avoid errors, and keep your whole team in sync, while also offering a great deal of value to your business in ways you may not have considered.
What To Look For In Scheduling Software
With so many options on the market for scheduling tools, how can you be confident in picking one that will provide the most value to your company?
It’s all about getting beyond the basics and looking for the robust features and smart design that will save time, reduce schedule-related stress for you and your employees, and help your operation run more efficiently and profitably.
1) Detailed Control
Most scheduling software allows you to organize employees by the shift (e.g., Lily works 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday).
And, while it’s true that shift information is the foundation of every business schedule, sometimes you need more detailed control.
An advanced team-management app will give you the power to “drill down” into each shift and schedule activities by any fraction of an hour that you need.
So, for example, after you set Lily to work 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, you can schedule her to:
- Meet with a client from 8:15 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Tuesday and Friday
- Meet with you from 10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday
- Pick up supplies at the office store in the afternoon on Tuesday
- Give a presentation to the shipping department on Friday at 11 a.m.
Such detailed control helps your team stay focused and prioritize the work that needs to be done.
2) Task Management Tools
This goes hand-in-hand with the detailed control we talked about above. Most scheduling apps can help you assign employees to shifts, but the best software will also boost your employees’ productivity while they’re working their shifts.
As we said before, scheduling employees for unproductive shifts only ends up costing your business money. Each employee should have specific goals and tasks for every shift, and you as a manager need to make sure that all employees are clear on these duties.
Scheduling software that stands out from the pack can boost your operation’s efficiency by giving you ways to distribute workload and help employees stay on task.
Task management features are especially helpful for businesses with mobile distributed teams where employees have to complete multiple jobs each day across various locations.
Inch, for example, lets you coordinate client work, appointments, and visits all from one app. You can see which employees are available; assign any job to one employee, several employees, or the whole team; and monitor progress.
The ability to attach maps, reminders, photos, and other files to tasks helps provide clarity on each assignment and verify that work has been done properly.
3) Ease Of Use
Scheduling software won’t help your business if it’s so difficult and frustrating to use that you find yourself considering going back to making schedules manually.
You have more important things to do than read manuals or watch a long series of training videos in order to learn new software. All of the impressive features that a scheduling tool may boast are meaningless if they can’t be used easily.
Make sure the software you choose is easy to pick up for both managers and employees.
4) Free Trial
You can look at every screenshot, read every review, and research every aspect of the scheduling software, but how are you going to know if it works for you, your team, and your business unless you try it?
Sometimes, you just need to “get your hands on” the software, so to speak, before you can really decide on the right tool for the job.
But you don’t want to pay for something that might not be what you’re looking for. That’s why it’s so important to look for scheduling software that offers a free trial.
It doesn’t matter if the free trial gives you the ability to try all the features for a certain number of days (e.g., 30, 60, 90), or to try the basic features indefinitely, such access is worth more than all the reading and research you can possibly do.
Another indispensable feature to look for in scheduling software is accessibility.
Is the app you choose only available on the computers in the office? Or, can your employees access the tools and data they need while they’re at home, in a coffee shop across town, or in a different country?
You just never know where you’re going to be when you’ll need access to the information your scheduling software provides. This is especially true if you manage multiple locations or if your business has on-site, remote, and field service teams.
The best way to provide access to everything your team needs to get the job done — no matter where they are or when they’re working — is to choose an app that operates in the cloud.
With a cloud-based software suite, as long as your employees have access to the internet over a WiFi or cellular signal, they’ll be able to use the tools anywhere, anytime.
Like accessibility, versatility is crucial if you’re going to get the most out of your scheduling software. And, no, we’re not talking about using the app for something other than its original purpose.
We’re talking about the versatility to use the software on any device.
We already talked about being able to use the app anywhere, anytime. Similarly, you just never know what device (or what operating system) you’ll have available when you need to check, edit, or delete some piece of information on the schedule.
With the right scheduling software, it doesn’t matter.
You and your employees will be able to use the tools and access the information on any smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop, whether they’re running Windows, Android, macOS, or iOS.
Combined with the accessibility we mentioned earlier, the flexibility to use any device and any operating system serves as the foundation of modern scheduling apps.
7) Time-Saving Automation
Compared to struggling with word processor or spreadsheet applications, almost any dedicated scheduling software should free up at least some of your time. However, the best scheduling tools include features that take your time savings to an even higher level.
We’ve talked about how effective scheduling depends on a manager keeping track of a lot of bits and pieces of information, from tasks that need to be done during each shift to changing employee availability.
Good scheduling software saves you time by keeping track of many of these factors for you.
The best scheduling tools will even go beyond keeping track of key information by automating much of the scheduling process.
For example, Inch takes into account factors like employees’ skills and availability, your budget, sales data, and many more, then uses artificial intelligence to automatically make schedule recommendations.
8) Built-In Time Tracking
Another essential feature to look for in scheduling software is built-in time tracking capabilities.
Managing a team successfully depends on two key variables: creating a good work schedule and tracking the work time within that schedule.
Without the ability to track time, everything that comes after — payroll, task assignment, and employee engagement, just to name a few — will be more difficult than it has to be.
The right scheduling software will come with an integrated time tracker so you don’t have to force separate apps to work together to get the job done.
Modern software suites, like Inch, make it easy to track your entire team’s full workdays and their time on task.
In addition to total work hours and time-on-task, the most advanced apps give you the power to:
- Prevent early clock-ins and forgotten clock-outs
- Allow employees to clock in and clock out from anywhere
- Reduce time theft
- Turn any phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer into a time clock
- Export timesheets for simplified payroll processing
- And much more…
Whatever type of team you manage, and wherever they may work, a robust scheduling tool with built-in time tracking can help you simplify and streamline all your employee-management activities.
Geofencing is especially useful for tracking what’s going on at multiple locations or coordinating employees that may be spread out over a wide geographic area.
This powerful tool allows you to create a virtual geographic boundary (a geofence) around a certain area. You can then set the scheduling software to react in a certain way if an employee is inside or outside those boundaries when they try to do something with the app.
For example, you might set a geofence of a few hundred feet around all of the work locations (e.g., second and third locations, appointments, or deliveries) for a single employee. You can then prevent the employee from clocking in until they’re within the radius you’ve defined.
Similarly, you can set the software to stop tracking time if the employee exceeds the distance you’ve set.
Another example of using a geofence in your business is to set boundaries to keep employees out of a certain area (perhaps another employee’s territory). If someone crosses into a space that’s off-limits, you can set the software to notify both you and the employee.
Geofencing is a feature that most managers don’t even realize they need and is a great way to keep team members where they should be, prevent time theft, and reduce operating costs all in one fell swoop.
10) Team Communication Capabilities
Communication is vital for keeping your business running and your team organized, focused, and productive.
Things can change in the blink of an eye, and you need to be able to relay this information to your team as quickly as possible — whether they’re in the office, across town, or across the country.
You could, of course, talk to each employee face to face (if they work in the office), call them on the phone, or set up a video conference, but that takes time.
With scheduling software, like Inch, you can communicate quickly and easily with all of your employees via SMS and push notifications. You also get more control than just mass text messaging capabilities.
You can also send messages to user-defined groups of people or individuals based on certain characteristics (e.g., skills, availability, etc.).
Such advanced features make it simpler to communicate with employees within groups, locations, or specific job positions.
You can even share files, photos, videos, and links for faster and more complete communication so that everyone is on the same page.
11) Labor Cost Optimization
Effective scheduling is about a lot more than just making sure all your shifts are covered. When it comes to your bottom line, scheduling too many staff members and wasting money on idle employees can be just as bad as leaving your business understaffed.
Good scheduling software will go beyond just helping you get employees scheduled for every shift by helping you reassess the assumptions you’ve been making about your staffing needs.
Instead of making a schedule and then finding out how much you’re spending on labor, good software will allow you to set a labor budget at the outset and compare the costs of each shift as you’re scheduling.
Choose The Best Scheduling Software
If you’re searching for the best scheduling software for your business, look no further than the Inch app.
Inch is a voice-operated team scheduling, organization, and communication app that offers everything on this list — and then some.
Employees and managers alike will benefit from such features as:
- Voice-assisted reminder notifications
- Automatic task assignment
- Real-time monitoring
- Built-in time clock
- Shared task list
- Powerful communications
- And much more
If your business chronically struggles with problems like confusion about schedule changes, tardiness, no-shows, low employee accountability for completing work, and garbled communication, Inch can be the solution.
Inch is especially ideal for businesses with distributed hourly staff in industries like homecare, construction, maintenance, cleaning, and catering. You’ll be able to cut idle and travel time, ensure tasks get done, and keep in touch with employees on the road more easily.
Whether you need help setting up when each team member will work or what tasks they will perform, Inch gives you unprecedented control over a complicated process and makes it easier than ever to keep your team’s schedule organized, efficient, and productive.
For more free resources to help you manage your business better, organize and schedule your team, and track and calculate labor costs, visit TryInch.com today.