Employee scheduling is a simple concept, but applying it to the real world isn’t so easy. Not all employees or jobs are the same. Manufacturing facilities that run on a 24-hour schedule have very different shift demands than a café that’s only open for breakfast and lunch. 

On top of that, employees aren’t just numbers on a spreadsheet—they’re people. What happens to your schedule when an employee requests time off for a child’s birthday or calls in sick at the last minute because they came down with the flu?

Whether you have five employees or 500, you can use scheduling software designed specifically for your industry to automate large parts of the scheduling process and keep this simple concept from becoming over complicated.

What Is Employee Scheduling?

Employee scheduling is the process of planning which employees will work which shifts, for which job posts, and setting specific times for that shift to begin and end. Employee scheduling ensures enough people are working to keep your business running and accomplish all of your goals. 

Why You Need to Schedule Employees as Far in Advance as Possible

Employee scheduling offers many benefits, including the following:

Increased revenue

Effective employee shift planning increases your bottom line. A retail study conducted by UC Hastings College of the Law found that stable scheduling of employee shifts drove median sales up by 7%. That same study showed that stable shift scheduling also increased labor productivity by 5%. 

The reason? Employee scheduling increases employee efficiency and helps leadership team members make accurate predictions about expenses and revenue. Effective scheduling is a vital tool in your workforce capacity-planning arsenal. You can use it to measure your workforce capabilities, analyze demand, and form strategy for your entire year. Whether you need to ramp up contract workers to cover a surge in holiday orders or reduce shifts during the slow season, employee scheduling is your workforce success playbook.

Increased employee happiness

Employee happiness has a direct correlation to productivity and, as a result, revenue. Almost any task—including work—becomes harder when you’re under stress or really unhappy. Missing deadlines is a common indicator of an emotionally exhausted employee. Worker unhappiness trickles down, too. Unhappy employees, if they interact with customers, could affect customer experience.

Effective scheduling promotes a healthy work-life balance for employees. An employee that gets their work schedule a month in advance rather than a week in advance has more time to find coverage if they want to take the day off for a child’s birthday party or need to schedule a doctor’s appointment. Better schedules make happier employees, leading to happier customers and, in turn, more profit for businesses. 

Less turnover

Poor scheduling leads to higher employee turnover, which equates to high costs. Just think of all the expenses associated with recruiting, hiring, and onboarding new staff. Not to mention the time your current management team needs to spend executing all of those processes. 

Employees want to know as early as possible when they’re scheduled to work. Smart companies are investing big in improving employee scheduling in an effort to boost retention. Gartner predicts that “by 2025, 75% of large enterprises with hourly-paid workers will have invested in WFM (Workforce Management) to support employee experience and/or digital workplace initiatives.” 

Less room for error

In addition to fostering a positive workplace culture and increasing happiness, proper scheduling mitigates risks. Over-scheduling workers results in wasted spend because if your employees don’t have anything to do, you’re paying them to stand around. On the other hand, under-scheduling often leads to missed deadlines, long wait times for consumers, and a poor customer experience. 

The best employee scheduling strategies also take into account a business’s unique wage and hour considerations. It’s important that employees are taking proper breaks, only working overtime when it’s intended (and approved), and that hours are being logged/tracked accurately. Mistakes in any of these areas can lead to huge costs and even lawsuits associated with violations of labor laws.

Employee Scheduling Software by Industry

Different industries can have very different employee scheduling demands. Choosing software tailored to your specific business type will reduce planning time, increase planning capacity, and make the entire process easier (for both management and employees). 

Below you’ll find a list of top scheduling software for seven different industries. Don’t see your industry listed below? Try searching Capterra to see what software is available to meet your needs and how it stacks up to the competition.

Last mile delivery – driver scheduling

OptimoRoute combines driver scheduling, order delivery scheduling, and route optimization. This gives fleet managers the ability to plan, route, and schedule deliveries in one convenient software. All you have to do is upload orders from an Excel spreadsheet or other document. Then choose to distribute equally amongst drivers, assign by lowest overall cost, or balance the two. Delivery team mangers can plan five weeks at a time, so drivers get ample notice about shift schedules.

OptimoRoute is an effective scheduling software for:

OptimoRoute Planning

OptimoRoute also helps schedulers spot shifts where more drivers are needed to fulfill orders (or fewer drivers could be scheduled to reduce costs). Routes can be modified at any time if an order changes or a driver calls in sick. Real-time tracking shows both fleet managers and customers when packages will be delivered. 

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Retail – sales associate/employee scheduling

Customers are ever-present for brick and mortar retail stores. Consumers might walk through the door anytime a shop is open. So, employee scheduling is the front line when it comes to customer satisfaction in stores. Reflexis is a workforce management software that caters specifically to these types of businesses. Major retail chains, including AutoZone and Vera Bradley, have streamlined their employee scheduling using Reflexis.

Changing a shift for a front of store associate can be complicated without the right tools. Reflexis helps small businesses and large retail chains overcome this challenge. They give sales associates the ability to request changes and access their schedules from a cell phone (iPhone or Android) or computer as soon as they’re posted. Store managers get to spend less time tracking down employees or manually reworking schedules and more time interacting with customers. 

Field service companies – technician/sales rep scheduling

Companies that operate in the field can plan when to fulfill service requests, schedule employees, and plan routes using OptimoRoute. Once orders or service requests are uploaded, specific constraints can be input and saved for future orders. Whether you have certain jobs that require a worker with a particular skillset or have workers that are only available on certain days, OptimoRoute can factor in your business’s unique constraints.

OptimoRoute is an efficient scheduling software for:

Breadcrumbs OptimoRoute

You can schedule eight-hour shifts, split shifts, or multi-day, long-haul service routes up to five weeks in advance using OptimoRoute. Real-time tracking shows where drivers are along their routes, and breadcrumbs indicate actual route taken vs. planned route. These deviations are tracked in analytics, so you can use them to make informed decisions about future routing.

Fitness studios and health clubs – instructor scheduling

Glofox is a complete management solution for health clubs offering classes and/or training sessions. With Glofox, you can easily create class schedules for multiple instructors and enable clients to sign-up for those classes (and even pay for them) digitally. Studio managers can easily identify classes that are typically maxed out or consistently underperforming so they can make adjustments to future schedules. 

Glofox is a great scheduling software for:

As a bonus, Glofox even offers marketing tools, so studios that want to capitalize on social media traffic can access everything from one convenient software. You’ll find solutions for everything from funneling website traffic to offering on-demand video content.

Healthcare – doctor and medical staff scheduling

Momentum Scheduling simplifies hospital and healthcare provider scheduling. Small private practices and large hospitals alike can use this software to manage physician, nurse, resident, and on-call schedules. Momentum works with clinics, doctors’ offices, and hospitals to develop employee scheduling tailored to that organization.

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Image Source

Employees can initiate shift-swapping with ease via a digital job board. Once shift changes are made, updated employee schedules are automatically redistributed, so everyone has the most up-to-date information. Momentum’s add-on tracking module can even track employees’ working hours down to the minute. 

Warehouse – workforce scheduling

Warehouses depend on many different types of employees and contractors working in unison. Parim warehouse scheduling software gets that. Managers can create one-off shifts for temp workers in the same intuitive software that tracks part-time and full-time worker hours. Employees can clock in and out from their mobile app and real-time alerts notify managers if an employee is late or entering overtime.

Businesses can use customizable absence categories to track employees’ time off, whether for a holiday, personal day, or illness. Parim’s self-service portal also allows employees to easily request time off when they need it. Have trouble keeping track of employees or assets across a large warehouse space? Parim’s GPS tracking features help managers locate employees or products with ease.

Remote teams – employee scheduling

Timely is an employee scheduling app by Memory.ai. It helps remote teams coordinate schedules across multiple time zones. Drag-and-drop scheduling tools and an intuitive user interface make Timely a great choice for remote marketing agencies, software development teams, and more.

Timely visual display of hours spent working in various apps and programs
Timely visual display of hours spent working in various apps and programs (image source)

As a remote employee, it can be time-consuming and frustrating to manually track time spent on various projects. If you forget to clock in or out just once during the day, it throws everything off. Timely solves this problem with AI-powered time tracking tools. The software automatically tracks all of your time spent in various apps and then populates that information into a timesheet, so you can focus on hitting your goals without worrying about a time clock.

Your Business Is Unique, and Your Software Should Reflect That

There’s a lot of great scheduling software available, so you have the power to choose one that caters to your unique business needs. For delivery companies, this might mean finding a balance between evenly distributing orders and sending drivers on the routes that will cost the least. For boutique fitness companies, this could mean balancing peak volume class windows with instructor stamina.

At OptimoRoute, we understand that priorities vary not only from business sector to business sector, but between individual companies. We specialize in providing scheduling and routing solutions for companies with workers in the field. Learn more about how OptimoRoute enables logistics and delivery companies to balance cost savings with evenly distributed driver workloads and maximum vehicle capacity in our last mile delivery article.