Accurate employee scheduling is an important aspect of any business, but especially those that experience fluctuations in their staffing needs or have a mix of hourly workers in full-time, part-time and temporary positions. Without it, these organizations would likely find it difficult to maintain regulatory compliance, let alone turn a profit. That’s why many of them rely on employee scheduling software to help boost productivity, reduce labor costs and improve customer service.

What is employee scheduling?

Employee scheduling is the process of identifying labor needs and filling shifts with employees who are best-suited for the role based on their skill set, work preference and availability. These critical business decisions are often made with the support of robust labor forecasting and employee scheduling software.

What can employee scheduling software do?

Employee scheduling is designed to prevent overscheduling and under-scheduling and can help employers strike a balance between the needs of their organization and the needs of their employees.

What are the benefits of employee scheduling software?

Automated staffing solutions help managers better understand labor efficiency so they can ensure they have the right people in the right place, at the right times. In the process, employers who use employee scheduling software may also be able to:

Reduce costs

Real-time analytics that show estimated schedule costs, actual vs. scheduled hours, earned hours and other details can help managers stay on budget.

Manage overtime

Analytics also highlight overtime that could have been better controlled. With the aid of historical trends and predictive algorithms, employers can make improvements and plan more accurate staffing levels.

Cover time off and unavailability

With a shift scheduling app, employees can request vacation or sick days in a timely fashion and employers can quickly find another employee to fill the open shift. Employees can also swap shifts and ask others to cover their shifts for them.

Schedule according to skills

When creating schedules, managers may be able to assign employee tasks based on their certifications and skill levels, thereby improving job performance and compliance.

Monitor attendance and breaks

Schedule exceptions can be highlighted, which helps supervisors monitor who is working and who is on break. Some types of scheduling software will also alert employers of tardy behavior and allow them to compare their absentee data to industry benchmarks so they can address issues promptly.

Simplify compliance

Businesses that use staffing technology may find it easier to comply with fair scheduling ordinances, work-and-rest laws, meal break regulations, overtime rules, union agreements and more.

How do you schedule employees?

There’s more to workforce scheduling than just making sure there are enough employees for a particular job. Businesses also need to predict future staffing demands using historical data. With those objectives in mind, employers generally create schedules as follows:

Assess the resources needed

Labor forecasts help employers anticipate spikes and lulls in customer demand so they can plan their staffing levels accordingly. They may have to account for a number of different scenarios, including holidays, special events, sales and even the weather.

Assign workers by availability and qualifications

Employers can help prevent last minute schedule changes and gaps in coverage by having their employees provide their availability in advance. To further improve productivity, they may look at certifications and previous job performance to match individuals with assignments that best suit their skill sets.

Manage and communicate schedule changes

Even the most meticulously planned schedules will sometimes be disrupted by an unexpected absence. In cases like these, text messages, mobile apps and other means of communication can help employers notify employees about shift changes.

Analyze results and adjust the scheduling process

HR leaders should continually track key workforce metrics, like hours scheduled, hours worked, overtime hours and revenue per employee. Armed with this data, they can fine tune staffing levels to improve service, reduce risk and better prepare for unplanned circumstances.

Use scheduling software to make the process easier and more efficient

Employee scheduling software automates the shift scheduling process and eliminates managerial guesswork. In addition, digital solutions are often capable of processing large amounts of data to forecast labor needs and create schedules that are optimized to meet the projected requirements.

Employee scheduling techniques

Gone are the days where scheduling was a one-way street direct from the manager to the employer. Technology has allowed businesses to engage in collaborative staffing techniques that use two-way communication. Managers can post available shifts and employees can claim those that work best for them. This type of workforce scheduling is a win-win for many organizations.

Assigning employee shifts

Collaborative employee scheduling hinges greatly on self-service capabilities, available with some types of scheduling software. In a typical scenario, an employee can log into the system via the web or a mobile app and block times that they are unavailable and accept or reject requests to work certain shifts. Mobile scheduling also provides more flexibility for employers because they can plan their schedules from anywhere, not just the office, and communicate shift changes with employees quickly.

Managing employee preferences

As much as modern employee scheduling relies on data to make workforce decisions, there’s still a human element to consider. Businesses that account for employee preferences are more likely to have fewer change requests, greater employee engagement and lower absenteeism and turnover. 

Satisfying every employee’s wishes, however, is often impossible. To minimize conflict as much as possible, employers may want to follow these basic ground rules:

  • Be transparent about a job’s flexibility or lack thereof
  • Clearly specify if night shifts or weekend hours are necessary
  • Ensure new hires meet all job requirements
  • Treat similarly-situated employees similarly when considering schedule requests
  • Educate employees on all policies and procedures

Why choose ADP® employee scheduling?

ADP leads the workforce management industry with flexible scheduling to match any business’s needs. We offer basic online scheduling, advanced, system-assisted scheduling and optimized solutions that can align schedules with labor forecasts and budgets. Employers using our software may be able to:

  • Easily create schedules with a system that helps visualize labor needs
  • Find the best person for a shift based on need, skills, proficiencies, preferences and availability
  • Share open shifts via text message and manage shift swapping online and via mobile devices
  • Gain up-to-the-minute visibility into hours worked, actual vs. scheduled hours, earned hours and overtime to help stay on budget

Learn more about ADP’s time and attendance solutions

Frequently asked questions about employee scheduling

See what other employers are asking about employee scheduling:

What is work or shift scheduling?

Shift scheduling is how employers match workload volumes to available resources. The goal is to avoid understaffing and over-staffing, which can lead to wasteful spending, inefficiency and poor customer service. For these reasons, many businesses rely on employee scheduling software to streamline staffing assignments.

How much does scheduling software cost?

Businesses might pay for scheduling software on a per employee, per month basis. ADP will work with employers to determine which type of scheduling solution best suits their needs and budget. In addition to cost, we recommend evaluating providers based on capabilities, such as:

  • Data collection
  • Timekeeping
  • Employee self-service
  • System, data and vendor integration
  • Data security
  • Configurability and scalability
  • Support

Which software is used for scheduling?

The are many types of software that can be used for employee scheduling. Small businesses might only need a standalone time and attendance product, while organizations with many employees tend to opt for more robust workforce management solutions. Ultimately, the type of scheduling software used will often depend on industry, workforce attributes, work locations and strategic goals.

How do I create a work schedule?

To create a schedule using scheduling software:

  1. Prepare the schedule grid – Upcoming work periods are automatically prepared with the new dates and workers’ names.
  2. Determine coverage needs – Staffing plans can be entered or generated using forecasting algorithms.
  3. Populate shifts – Shifts can be created quickly using templates, patterns, rotations or copies of shifts from previous periods.
  4. Assign people – Search for the best person to fill each shift based on availability, preferences and skills. Alternatively, shifts can be posted for employees to claim.
  5. Publish the schedule – Make the schedule available for all employees to view or claim shifts.
  6. Maintain the schedule – Find replacements when people call out or request to drop shifts and/or let workers swap shifts or find coverage on their own.

This guide is intended to be used as a starting point in analyzing an employer’s scheduling obligations and is not a comprehensive resource of requirements. It offers practical information concerning the subject matter and is provided with the understanding that ADP is not rendering legal or tax advice or other professional services.

ADP Editorial Team

ADP Editorial Team The ADP editorial team is comprised of human resource professionals with extensive experience solving complex HR challenges for businesses of all sizes.