July 31, 2013

On-Premises or SaaS Employee Scheduling

The efficient way to manage employee scheduling in today’s retail landscape.

Overwhelmed by spreadsheets, punch cards and manual processes? Don’t stress – MPEX has the tools you need to save time and increase productivity. By Stéphane Rancourt

By nature, the retail industry faces the toughest scheduling challenges. The increasing number of part-time and hourly workers adds to the difficulty of staffing multiple shifts effectively on any given workday. When you add to the equation absenteeism, sick leave and time wasted on the phone finding replacements, you’ll soon appreciate just how overwhelming a task this is.

Unfortunately most retailers still rely on inefficient manual processes to create employee schedules and capture payroll data. This takes time away from your managers’ core responsibilities. But automated time and attendance and related data-collection applications are now available to help increase efficiency and productivity. Growing competition and constant pressure on profit margins are gradually compelling retailers to examine software solutions that can help reduce store labor costs and improve customer satisfaction.

Disadvantages of manual scheduling and on-premise scheduling

Dynamic scheduling and automated payroll capture are designed to eliminate some of the most common disadvantages of manual processes such as:

  • Double scheduling and assignment errors
    An employee is scheduled to work in an already fully-staffed department while another department has to make due short one person.
  • Competencies and assignment mismatch
    An employee is assigned to a specific department but hasn’t the necessary skills or training to do the right job. This usually results in wasted time and increased customer frustration.
  • Limited access to information about employee availability
    Access to information about employee availability is frequently incomplete and may not always be updated with any recent changes to the availability profiles of your employees.
  • Labor costs budgetary overruns
    Managers cannot accurately foretell if labor costs remain within budgetary restraints for any given day.
  • Multi Store scheduling
    Retailers frequently move their employees from one store to another and on-premise software systems have no way to see in real time who’s scheduled where in order to avoid scheduling an employee in two different locations at the same time.
  • Payroll errors
    An employee punches in one hour earlier or leaves one hour later than scheduled. If gone unnoticed, this employee will be overpaid.
  • Paper handling costs
    There are significant costs associated with manipulating punch cards and time sheets or retrieving information from paper files.

SaaS employee-scheduling basics

With employee scheduling on the Cloud (¨SaaS¨), you’ll immediately grasp its efficiencies over stand-alone applications. Most importantly, on demand software is available 24 hrs a days and 7 days a week from anywhere. So your store managers will be able to make scheduling changes, determine and notify replacements, and do much more – all online. Although many other applications will do the job, you may want to consider features that will interface with your smart phone, tablet, iPad, whatever. Your employees will enjoy the ease with which they are able to look up their schedules, request a day off or change their availability, all from anywhere at any time. Correspondingly, on-demand software is the only way to provide effective tools equally to all of your managers, giving each and every one of them greater control over staffing and the ability to replace employees who just don’t show up for work with any suitable employee available.

On-demand employee schedules are easy to understand and in most cases the schedules are displayed on screen as color visual grids for a specific period of time (usually a week) that allows instantaneous user intervention in response to your workplace’s constant changes. Your managers can replace absent employees, carry out shift change requests, put through department or task transfers, and based on the complete information available on screen, your managers are able to modify shifts according to suggestions proposed by the system. The system considers the availability, skills, seniority and other human resource factors involved in replacing manpower. Employee scheduling software on demand can propose a large variety of reports, including budgets for any number of hours that may include manpower, position, period of time and department, and therefore offer full control over scheduling, human resources and, of course, budget.

Screenshot MX-SmartScheduler

As a rule, most dynamic scheduling applications are powerful and very affordable. However they may not all integrate seamlessly with existing ERP, HR and payroll applications that are in use. Choosing a scheduling application that is right for your company must include a close examination of how the product can interface with your current and future business applications.

It may come as a surprise that the most sophisticated ERP business solutions used by Fortune 500 companies are very limited with respect to employee scheduling on demand. Although they are very strong from an accounting and business point-of-view, they have not been the core focus of designers and a very strong market remains for scheduling products that can bridge the gap.

The benefits of employee scheduling on the web are numerous. They include a reduction of paperwork, reduction of paperwork transfers, improvement of data quality, a drop in inquiries to the HR department, fewer pay check corrections, the elimination of duplicate data entries and electronic notification of tasks.

Automated payroll data capture

Even today, punch cards remain the most widespread method of capturing payroll data in the retail environment. Considering the time it takes to analyze each card and enter the data into the payroll system, one could easily wonder why punch cards have survived so long, especially when many affordable punch clock simulators are now available on the market. The evolution of access-control and biometrics has even made it possible to merge these technologies with automated payroll capture software. These technologies help eliminate buddy punching, and when linked to automated scheduling software, the chances of paying for early and late punching becomes virtually non-existent.

There are many methods to capture payroll data. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, depending on the needs of your organization.

  • Interactive voice response systems
    These systems allow employees to call a number, enter their password and their time information by pressing keys on the phone pad. Although affordable, interactive voice response systems are limited. They do not have a visual interface and nothing guarantees that the person entering the password is the actual employee.
  • Badge readers
    Badge readers use magnetic stripes or bar code technology. Employees swipe their badge at the beginning of the workday, when they leave for and return from lunch and at the end of the day. This technology works best in organizations with a centralized controlled entry. They do not, however, provide an interactive user interface. This can easily be arranged by setting up a network terminal or providing web-based access to payroll and scheduling information.
  • Network or web based time clocks
    These are accessed through employee logins via a company Intranet. Employees enter their time and managers approve each employee’s time.
  • Biometric punch clock simulators
    Biometric punch clock simulators will recognize up to 3 unique finger prints per individual and provides the system with the certainty of the identity of the employee punching in. A January 2005 survey from the APA (American Payroll Association) has indicated that 51.3 percent of the member respondents did not have any problems implementing this technology and no longer viewed it as an intrusion of employee privacy.

Automated payroll capture virtually eliminates payroll errors and accounts for the best return on investment (ROI). By adding web-based terminals, employees have password access to their payroll information at all times, and this helps reduce the number of payroll related phone calls to HR.

Calculating your return on investment

When opting for modern dynamic scheduling and payroll data capture systems, retailers tend to think of it as a costly proposition that may or may not yield the anticipated results. Many retailers will argue that most systems are too specialized, out of touch with business needs, unable to share data between applications, or basically just too expensive. But in fact these applications are now worth revisiting for their current level of affordability and sophistication. Your return on investment can easily be calculated and the following case example will show you that pricing need no longer play an important role in your decision-making. It’s very simple, a SaaS application will cost you no more than $1 per month per employee to have access to all of this Software as a Service.

Why is the retail industry still lagging behind in implementing employee scheduling and time and attendance systems? A variety of factors come into play but the main answer lies in the fact that on-premise applications and time and attendance systems are very expensive to install and maintain. But in recent years SaaS applications have matured significantly in functionality and levels of integration. Now with Software as a Service you can get the entire solution for no more than $1 per month per employee. So you no longer have any more excuses to postpone your implementation of SaaS employee scheduling.

The importance of an integrated workforce management solution

In order to yield all the anticipated benefits, efficient workforce management solutions must possess a level of integration that will allow seamless sharing of data between the time and attendance, scheduling, human resource and payroll applications. On-premises stand-alone applications do not provide the functionality and scalability of complete workforce management solutions that are now available from of variety of reputable software vendors. Most integrated workforce management solutions are able to automatically notify a supervisor that a particular employee has missed his clock-in as per the data contained in the scheduling application and that a critical decision is required to find a replacement. Integrated systems currently provide all the business intelligence to manage worker productivity and performance and reduce costs with up-to-the-minute information on resource availability.

Before deciding on which system works best for your organization, you should ask yourself if the integrated workforce management solution you are planning to buy will provide:

  • Real-time measurement of key performance indicators,
  • Threshold alerts for potential labor law violations or missed clock-ins,
  • Just-in-time decision making on relevant information,
  • Complete reporting capabilities,
  • Automated notification processes,
  • Automated printing and tracking of form mail correspondence,
  • Pay as you use from a SaaS application.

The SaaS industry has already proved it has the ability to gather all the necessary business intelligence required to effectively compete in products and services. We at MPEX have no doubt that with SaaS Employee Scheduling both small and large companies now no longer have budget restrictions in their selection of the right software.