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The opportunity cost of using Excel to schedule staff versus using a specifically designed work schedule app

July 29, 2015

Did you know that we uncovered in a recent phone survey that more than 70% of businesses are still using Excel to do their schedule!? And it is taking them 1-2 hours to do a staff schedule that gets changed a lot up until the last minute and it doesn’t meet targets. You’ve probably seen or worked in a business where the schedule was put together in Excel.

3 reasons not to use Excel

In our experience, there are three main reasons that scheduling in Excel is waste of your manager’s time that could be better spent on managing staff and ensuring customer service levels are met and exceeded. Firstly the manager gets in a bad habit of just creating a copy of the file and changing the dates to do a roster for the next week - paying no attention to changes in customer demand due to seasonality, promotions, staff availability or weather. Secondly, the manager has to visualise staff coverage in their mind and there’s no insight into problem areas. Thirdly, sharing Excel spreadsheets via email or Dropbox is cumbersome and time consuming, and causes conflicts when two people modify the schedule at the same time.

In the end, the manager spends more time fixing errors and googling to fix broken formulas than they do to putting together the schedule! I've seen some amazing Excel spreadsheets that some wizards have put together that, given the fact that it is a spreadsheet, perform exceedingly well. However, they tend to be hard to maintain over time, and are fragile with respect to significant changes. Excel is not a good database, no matter how hard someone tries. Don’t get me wrong, reading the Microsoft Office forums is a great way to procrastinate while still looking like you’re working - but is it the best use of your store or area manager’s time?

A work schedule app beats Excel every time

Enter the work schedule app. You have do work schedule in any business where there’s a pool of staff to choose from for a limited number of shifts. The work schedules need to fit in with staff social lives and school commitments, as well as come in under budget every week. Without a work schedule app you’re essentially flying blind as to whether staff can work the shifts you allocate them. At best, you get it 90% right and staff only have to rearrange a few shifts. At worst, you get it 90% wrong and staff have to spend hours swapping shifts with colleagues - then you arrive and a completely different crew is working compared to the schedule you set!

Filling shifts at short notice

There are more problems when it comes to filling shifts at short notice. If you haven’t got a work schedule app, staff will struggle to communicate their availability to you in time for you to know who’s available at short notice. You’ll find yourself juggling your internalised knowledge of your employees regular availability, plus a mess of slips of paper change requests. If you have a sufficiently capable work schedule app, staff are able to log in and update their availability - so you know who is available when you put together the schedule. Knowing this info is vital to your scheduling to minimize staffing changes.

What roles can staff fill?

In addition, you need to know what staff can fulfil what roles. Can everyone on the schedule work the bar? Can they all do gift wrapping? Has your most recent hire been trained in closing the store? Without a work schedule app you don’t know what jobs staff can do.

The more information you have at your fingertips when putting together the work schedule, the better. A work schedule app can help by pulling together data from multiple sources of data:

  • approved availability & leave requests
  • wage costs (a good app will do accurate Award, Work Order and penalty wage rate calcs for you)
  • jobs
  • hours scheduled so far
  • maximum hours they can work
  • how many hours the staff would like to work
  • wage, hours, sales budgets and forecasts
  • hourly point of sales data, foot traffic count data that can be applied to the shift level forecast

Access to all this data, sorted, filtered and presented in a meaningful way is what a work schedule app can offer - your staff schedule is done in less time, more accurately and right the first time!

The role of a work schedule app

The role of a work schedule app like Zuus Workforce is to pull together the various bits of data that a manager needs to produce an efficient schedule. Scheduling with Excel instead of a work schedule app is like driving with a paper map compared to a sat nav - you can do it, but it’s time consuming, it’s manual, and you have to stop and think constantly. With a properly-designed work schedule app, you plug in your destination - your labour KPI targets - and the system guides you to your destination - an efficient staff schedule.


About the Author: Michael Pullman

Michael Pullman

Michael loves working with franchisees and franchisors to introduce cool technology. He's passionate about using data to help managers make great staffing decisions. He loves flying, climbing trees and playing in the snow.