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Corporate FinanceExecutive Reports
September 3, 2007
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Dynamic Scheduling

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

Overwhelmed by spreadsheets, punch cards and manual processes? Tools are available to enhance productivity and payroll savings. By Michel Fortin

By nature, the retail industry probably faces the toughest scheduling challenges. The increasing number of part time and hourly workers adds to the complexity of successfully staffing multiple shifts on any given workday. Add to the equation, absenteeism, sick leave and time wasted on the phone to find replacements and you will soon realize just how daunting a task this can be.

Unfortunately most retailers still rely on inefficient manual processes to create employee schedules and capture payroll data. This takes time away from the manager’s core responsibilities. Automated time and attendance and related data-collection applications are available to help increase productivity and efficiency. 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.


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 the wrong department while another department has to make due with one person short
  • Competencies and assignment mismatch
    An employee is assigned to a specific department but lacks the skills or training to do the right job. This usually results in increased customer frustration and wasted time
  • Limited access to information about employee availability
    Access to information about employee availability is frequently limited and may not always be updated with recent changes to the employee availability profile
  • Labor costs budgetary overruns
    Managers cannot accurately foretell if labor costs remain within budgetary restraints for any given day
  • Buddy punching
    Retailers frequently overpay because of Buddy punching, a frequent practice whereas a fellow worker punches in for another fellow worker who shows up late or leaves early.
  • Payroll errors
    An employee punches-in one hour earlier or leaves one hour later than the time indicated on his schedule. If gone unnoticed, this employee will be paid for more time than he was entitled to
  • Paper handling costs
    There are important costs associated with manipulating punch cards and time sheets or having to retrieve information on paper files


Dynamic scheduling applications are generally available in stand-alone or as a part of suite of workforce management software. Although many applications will do the job, you may want to consider features that will interface with you manpower costing, manpower training and automated payroll data capture requirements.

In most cases, dynamic schedules are displayed on screen as color visual grids of a specific period of time (usually a week that allows instantaneous user intervention relating to constant changes (replacing absences, shift change request, spontaneous requirements for department or task transfers etc.). Based on the complete information available on screen, the manager should be able to modify the shift according to automatic suggestions proposed by the system. The system considers the availability, skills, seniority and other human resource factors involved in replacing manpower. Powerful scheduling software applications should be able to propose a large variety of reports including budgets for the number of hours as well as manpower, position, period of time and department and offer full control over scheduling, budget and human resources.

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 dynamic-scheduling and payroll capture. 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.”

Stephen Rancourt V.P. Business Development, Exactsoft

The benefits of dynamic scheduling are numerous. They include: Reduction of paperwork, reduction of paperwork transfers, improved data quality, fewer inquiries to the HR department, fewer pay check corrections, elimination of duplicate data entries and electronic notification of tasks.


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 accesscontrol 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 and when they leave for lunch or 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 the 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 of the member respondents did not have a problem with 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 most return on investment (ROI). By adding web based terminal, employees can have password access to their payroll information at all times which helps reduce the number of payroll related phone calls to HR.


When opting for modern dynamic scheduling and payroll data capture systems retailers tend to perceive it as a costly endeavor that may or may not yield the anticipated results. Many retailers will argue that most systems were in fact too specialized, out of touch with business needs, unable to share data between applications or basically overpriced. These applications are now worth revisiting for their current level of sophistication and affordability. Your return on investment can easily be calculated and the following case example will help you discover that pricing may no longer play an important role in your decision-making process.


Validation of time cards
Number of employees
Minutes saved to validate each time card
Minutes saved by the department manager
Hours saved for every pay period
Hourly rate of the department manager
Savings on total weekly time card validation
Payroll preparation
Number of employees
Minutes saved to verify each time card
Minutes saved for payroll data entry
Minutes saved per pay period
Hours saved for every pay period
Hourly pay of payroll manager
Savings on total weekly payroll preparation
Data entry errors
Average weekly work hours per employee
Number of employees
Total hours worked per week
Average pay rate per employee
Weekly total payroll
Estimated human error factor
Weekly savings attributed to human error
Total weekly savings
Savings on total weekly time card validation
Savings on total weekly payroll preparation
Weekly savings attributed to data entry human error
Weekly savings attributed to human error
Total weekly savings
Total Monthly savings
Total yearly savings


Why is the retail industry still lagging behind in implementing dynamic scheduling and payroll capture systems? A variety of factors come into play but the main answer lies in the fact that dynamic scheduling applications and payroll capture systems have matured in functionality and integration only in recent years.


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. Stand-alone applications may 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 will be 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 process.
  • Automated printing and tracking of form mail correspondence.

The retail industry has already proved it has the ability to gather all the necessary business intelligence required to effectively compete with respect to its products and services. We have no doubt it will overcome its workforce management challenges much in the same way.

About Exactsoft

Founded in 1992, Exactsoft is a leading supplier of integrated enterprise software solutions designed for the small and mediumsized businesses (SMB). Core products include the Exact-Solution workforce management software suite comprised of Exact-Time, Exact-Scheduling, Exact-HR, Exact-Punch and Exact-Access software applications.

For more information visit www.exact-soft.com or call: 1-877-928-7200

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