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How to Choose the Best Rotating Schedule Maker for Large Teams

How do you deal with creating rotating schedules for your workers? When we talk with our clients, most of them admit that when it comes to managing rotating schedules for more than 100 employees, they either have to lock themselves in the office for a few days straight to finish all the scheduling or hire more people for this task alone.

Both scenarios don’t sound great, especially if you want to save money and time. The obvious solution is relying more on technology and automation.

But with so many options to choose from, how do you find the one that sticks? Not many people talk about the hurdles of going through countless tools and facing tech exhaustion. That’s why in this article, we explain the process of finding the best rotating schedule maker to make it a bit easier.

You’ll also find:

  • What challenges does a rotating schedule maker solve
  • What features to look for when choosing new tech tools
  • How to calculate the ROI of your new software purchase
  • Why you should pay attention to onboarding and customer support
  • And other important steps in finding the best rotating schedule maker for your team.

Table of contents:

Why do you need a rotating schedule maker in the first place?

Let’s say you’ve never tried a digital rotating schedule generator or the ones you tried didn’t meet your expectations. It can be hard to look for a tool if you don’t know why you need it in the first place.

So here are a few pain points that managers of large teams have to deal with daily that could be solved with the right tools.

  • Assigning shifts: It’s the first step in making a schedule, but it’s often the hardest. Try recording how much time it takes you each month to schedule all the shifts. Just for that alone. Smaller teams can average a few hours, while larger ones take a few full days (based on what our clients share). You can’t leave empty shifts, double-book workers, or book someone when they’ve already exceeded their maximum weekly/monthly capacity.
  • Labor law violations: Did you know that you’re probably unaware of the labor violations happening in your company? Every country and state has its own rules, and those rules can be almost impossible to follow. For example, in some countries in Europe, you have to give employees breaks every 5 hours. These breaks have to be divided throughout the day and can’t be merged into one. In California, USA, employers must pay workers 1.5 times their normal hourly rate when employees exceed 8 hours in a day and double the rate after 12 hours in a single workday. Try to keep all these requirements in the back of your mind.
  • Complicated calculations: Let’s say you managed to assign shifts and avoid labor law violations. But when the accounting period finishes, you have to put all the data into the system to calculate hours worked to pay fair wages. Manual data input often results in mistakes and causes so much unnecessary work.
  • Poor demand management: Do you tend to overlook demand fluctuations when making rotating schedules? It’s a lot of work to keep it in the back of your mind with many other requirements and rules. But when you don’t pay attention to business demand, you might not schedule enough employees to handle high customer demand during some shifts, while on other shifts, employees have nothing to do. In both scenarios, you’re losing money.

How to choose the right rotating schedule maker

If you have at least one of the problems listed above, you could benefit from automating your scheduling.

However, when it comes to automating schedules for hundreds of employees, you can’t just try a bunch of software to find the one that fits. You have to look carefully because it takes at least a few months to train and onboard your team to use new tech. Not to mention the financial investment in employee scheduling software.

We prepared a step-by-step process for evaluating a tool to find the one that works for your team.

1. Look for the features you need

Before you even start to hunt for the best rotating schedule generator, make a list of all the pain points you have now as a manager creating and overseeing rotating schedules. This list will help you look for specific features that could help you fix those problems.

For example, if it takes you days to create schedules, look for features that automate this process as much as possible. If you struggle with manual data input, for instance with constantly changing employee contracts, look for features that offer automatic integrations and data transfer between systems.

Here are some features to look for in a rotating schedule maker:

  • Automated schedule generation: Can you create monthly schedules for your entire workforce just by filling out the basic information? While automation is important, you'll find many service providers claiming they automate scheduling while, in reality, it's just a digital environment to semi-automate your work. Search for those that let you automate as much as possible and use AI algorithms to generate error-free schedules.
  • Adapted to rotating shifts: You’ll find that lots of scheduling tools online are designed for the traditional 9-5 work or workers whose schedules don’t rotate. It’s important to find tailored software because rotating work comes with additional labor laws and unique requirements that the schedule maker has to offer.
  • Compliance and labor law: Look for features that spot compliance issues. A system should provide the ability to preselect rules that apply to your local labor laws. By following these rules, a system would flag the mistakes or automatically generate a schedule without any errors.
  • Reporting and analytics: What we see a lot with our own clients is that they struggle with employees who tend to be always a few minutes late, leave early, or skip their shifts altogether. But without proper tracking and reporting tools, it’s impossible to prove that. An advanced rotating schedule maker should allow you to track the time workers come in and leave work, and register planned and worked hours, night, day, weekend, and holiday shifts to generate reports with clear performance statistics.
  • Integration with existing systems: The final step is integration with other systems you use in your processes. Integration with payroll or personnel management systems is very important because, without it, you have to transfer data manually. Manual work takes time and often causes mistakes and discrepancies.

2. Evaluate the basics: features and pricing

Once you have the list of features you need, you can start selecting the service providers.

You can find vendors by:

  • Asking for recommendations in your network.
  • Searching on Google using key phrases such as "automated rotating shift maker," "employee scheduling software for manufacturing companies/restaurants/retail," etc., or by features: "scheduling software with labor law compliance," "rotating schedule generator with payroll integration."
  • Searching locally by inserting your location.
  • Checking SaaS business directories, such as Capterra, G2, or Crunchbase.
  • Attending networking events for SaaS businesses or businesses in your industry to connect with service providers.

When you make a list of software providers, assess their websites, social media, and other online information to make sure they’re legit.

Compare the features and pricing

Employee scheduling software is usually a long-term commitment. Not only do you need to invest a lot of money in software purchases, but also the most important asset that we have: time.

You need time to make necessary software configurations, learn how to use it, involve employees in the whole process, and so on. So, make sure you calculate your budget for at least a year into the future.

But it’s not to say that you have to pick the cheapest provider. Check the features your selected vendors offer and compare prices for different plans. One provider might be cheaper but lack the features that you need the most.

Another point to consider is the pricing model.

Here are the most common SaaS pricing models:

  • Price per user: You pay only for the employees who use the software. It’s easier to adjust the price as your team grows.
  • Subscription-based pricing: As a customer, you subscribe to the software license for a set period of time, such as a month, quarter, or year. You pay for the time you use the software.
  • Tier pricing: This pricing method charges based on the features you need. For example, the first tier offers limited features for a limited number of users, but it might be enough for a small business. Higher tiers offer more features or are better suited for larger teams.
  • Freemium model: It’s a basic version of software for free, with limited features or functionality. Users can then upgrade to a paid plan to access more advanced features or remove usage limits.
  • Custom pricing: Some SaaS companies offer custom pricing plans. It might be good for you if your company is large and requires specific functionality and other more personalized features. This way, you can negotiate the price to suit your budget better. But be sure to consult and figure out all the ins and outs before contracting this way because it can be unclear.

3. Read case studies and testimonials

Social proof is very important, whether you’re looking to buy a new phone or an employee scheduling tool for your business. However, finding client reviews about the software can be more difficult.

Unlike the reviews you find for consumer goods, SaaS businesses provide customer case studies. When you search for a service provider, make sure they have case studies demonstrating how other businesses in your industry successfully used their solution. This lets you see how the solution targets specific issues and works in real life.

You can also find useful information in product roundups and reviews in reputable publications where they compare different tools based on different criteria.

If you ask, the service provider might also share their customer contacts with you. Smaller vendors are more than happy to help you make the right decision. Talking to their current customers can help you identify common problems that the solution solved. They might also share the ways in which they trained their teams so you could save time.

4. Try the software with your team in mind

By now, you should have a few favorites. When contacting schedule software providers, ask them about the process of trying the system and further integration and training steps.

Ask vendors for a demonstration

Before you buy a SaaS solution, it's important to try and see how it works. We also recommend inviting employees who'll be using the system the most to see if they like the navigation, if the system is easy to use, and if your team sees themselves using it daily.

At OPTAS, we invite potential new clients for a pilot . During the pilot call, we check their existing scheduling processes to show them how an automated rotating schedule maker could make a difference. It’s not a simple 10-minute call. We create schedules based on the actual employee data, local rules, and labor laws so that the client can get a real feeling of how the system works.

Ask about implementation

See how the integration process works and whether the system can be smoothly integrated with your existing business infrastructure. You don’t want to go through hours and hours of selecting a software solution only to find out that you need major changes in your own structures to be able to install it.

Ask about the training process

Even if, after the first demonstration, you think you can handle the system on your own, don’t get too overconfident. We see even the most tech-savvy employees struggle with new systems, and it’s completely normal.

To avoid missing out on important features, make sure the vendor includes a training and onboarding program. Another thing to check is whether the provider has educational videos, how-to guides, white papers, and other free and accessible information so that you can solve any problem on your own.

At OPTAS, we prepare employee onboarding based on each individual client. For example, the onboarding for our client Siauliai Hospital took a few months. Due to the size of the hospital and different staff responsibilities, we wanted to make sure they could use the system successfully on their own.

We created online chats with the team and our consultants where employees could get instant assistance. Eventually, the team didn’t need our help because they could manage everything on their own. In case someone had questions, usually, a person within the hospital could solve it. By then, we knew our job was done.

5. Look for continuous customer support

Continuous customer support is important. Most service providers offer customer support, but you have to find the one that works best for you. One problem or a bug can mess up your entire schedule. You have to solve problems quickly.

Does the vendor provide timely customer support? Is it easy to reach human support agents? If it’s mainly AI chatbots, can they provide personalized and accurate help?

All these things matter when selecting a service provider.

6. Calculate potential return on investment

We mentioned that finding the best price/quality ratio is important. But when you look at the pricing, you don’t always see the full picture.

To estimate your expenses and budget accurately, calculate the total cost of ownership. It includes the purchase price, plus the costs of operation, support, and maintenance.

Potential expenses you might expect outside the main pricing:

  • repairs
  • maintenance
  • upgrades
  • service support
  • integrations
  • additional licenses
  • employee training

Once you know your TCO, you can calculate the potential ROI. You can use this simple formula to calculate software ROI:

Software ROI =( Net Benefits/Cost of Investment)×100%

To calculate net benefits, you need to take your total benefits (financial gains, cost savings, efficiency improvements, increased revenue, etc.) and subtract total costs (purchase cost, implementation, training, maintenance, etc.).

A good ROI for software solutions ranges between 5 and 20%.

Things to consider when estimating gains:

  • Saved hours on scheduling
  • Reduced labor law violations and associated costs
  • Reduced overtime costs
  • Improved employee productivity
  • Increased employee retention and less money spent on hiring new staff
  • Fewer no-shows and latecomers
  • Fewer employee complaints

Of course, it’s difficult to measure things like improved well-being, but in the end, it translates to increased motivation and satisfaction with the employer.

The next steps in finding the best rotating schedule maker

Creating schedules for large teams isn’t a simple task that can be done in one go. It takes practice, time, and patience (lots of patience). The traditional methods of manual scheduling are neither efficient nor cost-effective in the long run. That’s why it’s important to look ahead and embrace technology.

We’re not gonna say it’ll be easy, but with the right preparation, you can find a rotating schedule maker that works for your team.

Just to recap:

  • When evaluating rotating schedule makers, keep in mind the pain points you have to look for features that solve them.
  • Compare vendors based on the features, pricing, case studies, and customer support.
  • Finally, calculate the potential ROI of the new SaaS tool to make a smart decision that will last you a long time.

If you want to see how automation could improve your scheduling processes, we invite you to book an audit for your scheduling processes with us.

During the audit, we’ll:

  • Learn about your current scheduling processes and challenges
  • Simulate a schedule for your team where you can see how OPTAS works
  • Show you how fast and simple your scheduling can be.

Why should you give OPTAS a try:

  • We use the latest AI technology to automatically generate schedules
  • Our software spots labor compliance issues and notifies you to fix them
  • Employee scheduler allows registering employee preferences and creating schedules based on them
  • It does all the calculations for you
  • It automatically transfers data to your other systems, such as payroll and personnel management
  • OPTAS works well for rotating schedules and banked-hour calculations
  • The software gives statistics about all employees, their attendance, and shift types.

Forget about manual scheduling – let’s talk!

Eglė Račkauskaitė
March 28th, 2024