Selecting the right rota software for your business – 9 features to look out for

Megan Lipscombe

Megan Lipscombe

Head of Marketing

Choosing the right rota software can feel like a mammoth task. Particularly if you’re making the move from pen and paper and don’t know exactly what you should be looking for. Of course there’s the more obvious things like the ability to build and share rotas with staff, but there’s so much more you should be aware of. We’ve put together a list of 9 key features and functionalities to keep an eye out for when selecting a new staff scheduling solution.

Intelligent forecasting

To achieve the most efficient staff rota, you can’t just schedule the same shifts day in, day out. You need to account for factors such as the weather and seasonal events. If you have a beer garden and the weather is glorious, you’re going to be much busier than on a day filled with torrential downpours. And if you have a pub near a football stadium, you’re likely to be busier on a match day. Similarly, if you operate a retail business, you’ll be busier around Christmas time than in the height of summer. 

If you opt for a solution that uses artificial intelligence to forecast footfall and revenue, combined with live weather forecasts, you’ll be able to make more informed scheduling decisions. Meaning you can be confident that you’ll always have the right number of staff on hand to meet demand.

Templates and automatic scheduling

Although you have to account for varying demand, there will be a degree of similarity between your staff rotas. Look for a solution that lets you create templates to specify your fixed or baseline staffing levels. Be sure to check that it has the ability to create rotas from the templates too. This involves automatically assigning shifts to available & eligible employees, and ideally balancing rest and fairness across your workforce if there’s room to do so. 

Shift recommendations

There are bound to be patterns to when your staff work and the number of people you have working on any given day. If your rota software is intelligent enough it will learn from your past choices and recommend shifts based on that insight; saving you time when building and modifying rotas.

Integrations with your other business solutions 

Choosing the best solution for each area of your business can be a real headache. Even more so if they’re all disjointed and you have to duplicate work to make sure each system has the right data. If your business solutions integrate with one another it’ll save you a huge amount of time; all whilst maintaining data accuracy. 

Our advice: look for a provider who publishes their supported integrations online and check to see if your existing systems are on the list. It’s also important to ask a potential provider if they have a public API that exposes all the relevant data; this is a great indicator of whether you’re dealing with a modern or a legacy solution. Finally, check if there are any costs associated. Some providers will sneakily charge a monthly fee for enabling integrations or providing API access.

Takes care of compliance 

Juggling staff time and availability can be a logistical nightmare as it is, let alone when you have to factor in legislation and compliance issues. If you have a staff scheduling solution that automatically validates against local working time regulations, overtime rules and HR/contractual obligations, then any compliance issues will be taken care of for you.

Works as well for your employees as it does for you 

Usability is a key factor to consider when selecting the right rota software for your business. It needs to be easy to build staff rotas and make changes as and when needed. But don’t overlook what it’s like for your whole team to use. Is it easy for them to see when they’re working next? Are they notified of any changes to the rota? And can they easily request time off? 

It’s no secret that staff turnover is high in the hospitality and retail sectors. With this in mind, your rota software can’t require a training course for managers to get to grips with it. Not only would this be costly, but it’d be a blocker to new hires adopting the systems you have in place. Modern, well-designed software is built with user experience at the forefront, so look for a solution where all the important processes are easy to pick up with no prior knowledge or assistance.  

Time & attendance management 

Scheduling staff rotas is one thing but you need to keep tabs on any attendance issues or overtime. Make sure the rota software you choose has the functionality to track staff time and flag any attendance issues. This way you can always be sure that you’re paying your staff accurately. Also, look for a system that automatically applies your rounding rules, such as when someone turns up early or leaves late; you don’t want to be managing this manually.

Automatic holiday accrual calculations

Manual holiday accrual calculations probably isn’t something you want on your ‘to-do’ list. Though legally speaking it’s a crucial one to get right. Keep an eye out for automatic holiday accrual calculations as a feature when selecting your rota software. One that can automatically calculate holiday accrual from hours worked, will save you a huge amount of time and guarantee that your calculations are always accurate.

Also look for a solution that can give you forward visibility on your accrued holiday costs by factoring it into the labour costs of your rotas. The best solutions have the ability to smooth this cost out over the time period it’s accrued, rather than causing a spike in your wage costs on the days the holiday is taken.

Watch out for hidden costs 

This isn’t a feature as such, but something to look out for when selecting your staff scheduling solution. Watch out for hidden costs. What might seem like the best value for money on the face of it, may turn out to be quite the opposite a few months down the line. Question any potential extra charges in the initial stages to avoid getting caught out. We don’t believe in hidden costs at Rotaready, what you see is what you get.

To conclude…

There are of course other features you might want to consider, but these are the ones that come up time and time again when speaking to new prospects and clients. We’ve always worked closely with our clients and used their feedback to develop Rotaready into a staff scheduling solution tailored perfectly to their needs. We are continuously making improvements based on industry trends and client feedback; so if you’re interested in what’s coming next, you can find our full roadmap here. And if you have any questions about any of the features mentioned above, or would like to see Rotaready in action, just get in touch here.

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