Many small businesses are moving away from using Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Calendar or other manual processes to create work schedules for their team members. Effective scheduling programs for shift businesses are important to business success and there are more cloud-based, SaaS, employee scheduling software platforms than ever before that are streamlining shift scheduling for small businesses.

But with so many scheduling apps, how can you tell what is a good scheduling program for shift businesses? Let’s review some key features to look for before looking at our picks for the 5 best employee scheduling programs for shift businesses.


What is a Good Scheduling Program For Shift Businesses?

A shift scheduling platform can reduce labor costs and increase productivity, but not all systems are created equal. What features should you expect from a top scheduling app?

All of the top employee scheduling tools will have an employee database containing key employee information, a job/position library that lists all of the jobs and locations that need to be scheduled and what each position requires, and a scheduling module that allows you to create the schedule by clicking on a calendar or dragging and dropping employees.

In addition to these key features, some scheduling apps provide powerful reporting and forecasting features that allow you to strategically schedule to maximize revenue and manage labor costs. These tools can help you maintain positive cash flow and grow your business. Another thing to look for in your employee scheduling tool is employee self-service features that let employees manage their work schedules and time-off requests. You should also consider how much support they provide to their clients. Implementing a new system can be disruptive to your business, no matter how easy to use it is, and strong provider support can help you deliver a positive experience for your team members, ensure a pain-free scheduling process, and help you minimize your labor costs.

Okay, now that you know what to look for let’s turn to the five best employee scheduling software platforms that can help small businesses streamline the scheduling process:


The Most Configurable Shift Scheduling App



Humanity offers a combination of power and support but might be overly complicated depending on your needs. The user interface is streamlined and modern, but a lot is going on under the surface. Humanity has comprehensive features for reporting and forecasting so that you can manage your labor costs and schedule strategically as well as easily. At an extra cost, Humanity also provides one of the best automated scheduling features in the industry so that your managers don’t have to spend time to schedule employees. All of these features are incredibly powerful, but they can also be difficult to configure and implement. Luckily, Humanity provides perhaps the most support of all of the top scheduling apps to help you navigate and leverage their many features.

Humanity might be too much for small businesses looking for a simple, easy-to-use employee scheduling tool. But it leads the industry in so many different categories and provides such comprehensive support that it can be well worth the effort to implement.


Hybrid HR and Employee Scheduling Software



Deputy is an HR software platform that is strongest as a scheduling app. It is one of the most robust cloud-based employee scheduling tools after Humanity. The scheduling platform is easy to use but highly customizable, allowing easy employee and location creation, including Google Maps integration. Shift scheduling is a breeze and can be completed by clicking available timeslots or dragging and dropping employees onto the calendar. Labor costs and expected revenue can be displayed at the top of the scheduling interface to make it easier to optimize schedules.

One advantage to Deputy is that it is marketed as an HR platform, meaning that the scheduling app comes along with several basic HR systems that can further empower your business. The platform provides onboarding, timesheets, and performance management functionality as well as open-API integration with payroll, attendance, and general HR systems. However, some of these features come at an additional cost and all are fairly basic and should be seen as a bonus on top of the core scheduling functions rather than a replacement for dedicated HR software.

At $2 per user, Deputy offers an affordable and powerful work schedule solution with some useful HR features. It’s not as in-depth as Humanity or as streamlined as some other offerings, but it is one of the best employee scheduling tools available for small businesses.


The Easiest to Use Employee Scheduling Software


When I Work

When I Work is a simplified scheduling app that focuses on cloud-based mobile-functionality and ease of use. It makes it extremely easy to add new employees and set up schedules as the administrator and allows team members to manage their work schedules. Team members can easily set their availability through a When2Meet-style drag-to-select interface and can pick up or drop shifts and request swaps easily from their computer or phone.

Reporting and forecasting features exist but are much more limited than those of Humanity and other more intensive employee scheduling tools, and a lot of the information has to be entered manually. When I Work does not integrate with payroll and POS systems as much as other scheduling apps. The app is also designed for small teams of 1 location and just 5 users. While this can be expanded to 20 users across multiple locations and to a larger ‘enterprise’ version, the tiers are not as flexible or affordable as other pay-per-user platforms and the streamlined interface does not provide the kind of comprehensive tools that larger organizations often need.


The Compromise Employee Scheduling Tool



shiftboard offers a more robust scheduling solution than When I Work, nearing Humanity in its complexity, at prices that are near Deputy’s affordability. It provides powerful scheduling features, including the ability to create custom requirements for specific employees for more accurate scheduling, several safeguards against double-scheduling, a limited time clock system, and even a basic applicant tracking system. It also has powerful reporting and forecasting features that are some of the best in the industry. It combines many of the advantages of Deputy and Humanity but falls short of positioning itself as the best overall scheduling app because of two major disadvantages.

For all its functionality, shiftboard’s interface can be hard to follow and its calendar view – where most of the scheduling functions live – is cluttered and difficult to use. And unlike Humanity, which makes up for its complexity with a dedication to client support, shiftboard offers extremely limited support options. So once you get a handle on the interface, you will have one of the most powerful tools at a surprisingly low cost, but you will have to figure it out largely on your own.


An Integrated Platform for Work Schedules and Time Clocks



TSheets is the best solution for small businesses who want to set work schedules and track employee time in one platform. As a result, it is often the employee scheduling tool of choice for contractors and other small businesses that manage multiple remote jobs. Given its remote focus, it provides greater mobile functionality than most of its competitors, allowing you to set schedules on your mobile device and letting employees clock in on their smartphones. It’s easy to navigate and the shift scheduling is robust. You can also enter team member instructions on each shift, allowing you to describe the job and the tools that the team member will need to complete it. And the time clock feature triggers GPS tracking so you can be sure that employees are at the job site. TSheets rounds these features out with powerful reporting and forecasting tools.

TSheets is the scheduling app for remote service businesses that need to schedule and manage field teams. And it provides these added features without sacrificing any scheduling, reporting, or forecasting functionality. However, it comes at a steep price so it should only win out over competitors if the remote job features matter to your business.

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Jeremy Pearlman | Jeremy is a New York native enjoying the good life in the Big Easy. In his writing, Jeremy covers a wide-range of topics, but his specialties are personal finance and business leadership.