They say you have to spend money to make money, but if you’re broke or skeptical, that might not be the process for you. Fortunately, I’ve got software that will let you enjoy the cost-saving benefits of workforce management without spending a penny.
What is Workforce Management Software?
Workforce Management software provides the tools, data, and insights to help you maximize the value of your workforce. This can be done by eliminating or streamlining costly processes, or by improving the workforce itself. The exact nature of these tools varies from package to package. They are most often dependent on the target company’s size, industry, and methods of operation.
As an example, consider small businesses in the hospitality industry. Workforce management software here will focus heavily on scheduling, time and attendance, and leave management. This is all about the basics of ensuring you have the right people in the right place. An example of an extra feature in this area is sales forecasting based on POS data to schedule employees more effectively.
In contrast, workforce management software for a large manufacturing company will have a different focus. It will still cover the basic scheduling and attendance functionality. However, it will focus more on identifying and promoting productive people and behaviors. This includes data collection and analysis from a variety of sources.
Finally, workforce management may focus on employee engagement and performance management in office settings. This type of workforce management often heavily overlaps with other HR software.
The following packages are all free versions of paid Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) products. Free versions are typically limited in their functionality. However, they are a great starting point for businesses that want to try the features without any commitments or for those with budget constraints. They are also capable of growing alongside a business, which may be preferable to a hard transition from one software package to another as a business grows.
Connecteam – Best Free Version and Best for Field Teams
Connecteam is all about your “deskless workforce.” It sells itself as an all-in-one workforce solution in various industries, including construction, hospitality, field services, logistics, security, and several others. It is a bold claim, and Connecteam does a good job of living up to it.
https://vimeo.com/662363219 (Connecteam demo)
Its free Small Business Plan is especially notable because it is simply the Expert plan limited to 10 employees. With access to the Expert plan, you get a plethora of features. Some of which would be difficult to imagine using with only 10 users. However, some of the highlights are as follows.
Connecteam’s Operation hub provides strong scheduling, time and attendance, and task management tools. The scheduling software uses a simple drag-and-drop scheduler. The effort to create weekly work schedules is reduced even further through the use of available templates. Once you create a schedule you like, simply save it as a template and modify it as needed. These schedules can then be exported to Excel, viewed by the whole team, or traded between individuals.
Additionally, Connecteam provides the ability to limit work hours per day or week for a user. The number of shifts per day or week can also be limited.
The time and attendance features are also plentiful. The features that set Connecteam apart in this area are its geolocation features. The app provides geo-stamps, geofencing, and a “Breadcrumbs” feature. Geostamps just note from where the employee clocked in and out. Geofencing prevents an employee from clocking in without being in a certain area. The Breadcrumbs feature will record GPS locations while on the clock.
Connecteam also provides many common features like mobile timeclocks, timesheet editing, and payroll integrations. There are also some rarer features (especially in free versions), such as auto clock-outs and schedule enforcement on clock-ins and outs.
Task management is another strong feature of Connecteam. You can create unlimited tasks, attach these to shifts, and require attachments and feedback from shifts. These abilities are particularly useful for distributed teams where a manager may not always be present. They can also serve as a very basic form of project management.
In addition to the scheduling, time tracking, and task management features, Connecteam also has communications and human resources tools. The communication hub provides straightforward announcement and conversational tools. You have the ability to communicate individually or in groups. You can also attach various media files. You are even able to run surveys.
Connecteam’s HR management (HRM) tools mostly focus on employee training, recognition, and rewards. The user-friendly training tools let you upload files (or link a Youtube video) and then quiz employees about the contents. This can be useful for quick training during onboarding. The recognition module works on messages and badges. The rewards are just tokens that convert to gift cards. The tools themselves aren’t terribly impressive, but they are probably the best thing you’ll get for free.
Overall, Connecteam’s Small Business Plan is an extremely good value. This value applies to both companies with deskless employees and those without. There are many features that you cannot find elsewhere in a free off-the-shelf software package.
There are only two strikes against Connecteam. First, upgrading your plan can actually lose you access to features, including Breadcrumbs, geofencing, schedule limitations, and many more. This could potentially result in some weird transitions. Second, while the free plan is unrivaled, the paid ones are not. If other WFM options are more tailored to your business, it may be the right play to forego Connecteam’s excellent free plan to smooth later transitions.
Homebase – Best for Larger Teams
Homebase is a strong all-around workforce management software solution. It has a solid feature set, but more importantly, it is free for unlimited users as long as they work in one location.
The scheduling tools are fairly straightforward. Homebase uses a drag-and-drop scheduler. Employees can note their availability and preferences as well as request time off. Previous schedules can be templated for future use. This can significantly streamline the schedule creation process.
The schedule can be shared both by email and through the mobile app. Employees can also use the mobile app to claim any open shifts, trade their shifts, and cover team members’ shifts. The mobile app also has tools for real-time team communication. You can message employees either individually or in groups. The software also allows you to send notifications to your employees. These are useful for telling your employees something when you don’t need a response.
The mobile app can also be used as a time clock. Homebase’s time-tracking module records clock-ins and clock-outs. It also creates timesheets that can be exported to a payroll program of your choice. The module also can record breaks, overtime, wages, and tips. This information can be accessed through the employee self-service module.
Homebase also provides some employee engagement tools. It has a recognition tool that takes the form of shoutouts. Unlike many other recognition tools, there are no built-in rewards associated with this recognition tool. The software can also be used to send surveys for feedback from employees at the end of shifts. Finally, Homebase provides early wage access for employees, which can help increase employee productivity and increase loyalty.
Homebase is an excellent free tool for basic workforce management. Its lack of an employee size cap makes it a prime choice for businesses with large teams who still want to try workforce management tools. None of the tools in the free version are standouts, but Homebase is a well rounded software with a great pricing model that scales with your business.
Clockify – Best for Project Management
Clockify undersells itself as a time-tracking software, but its features go beyond that. Unlike the previous software packages on this list, Clockify is geared toward white-collar projects and time management. As such the feature set differs, especially in the free version.
For time tracking, Clockify provides a time clock that can be used in the mobile app, on the desktop, or through a web-based system. This system allows a time clock or manual entry to be used. This is used to create timesheets, which can also be displayed in the calendar view.
However, tracking is not solely at an employee’s word. Clockify also provides an Auto-Tracker that records time spent on different websites and apps. Additionally, Clockify detects if the user has been idle for long periods of time and allows them to remove that time from their timesheet.
As for project management, Clockify lets users add their time to projects to which they have access. These projects can have hourly rates and set budgets attached to them. If the cost, based on recorded time, exceeds the set budget, Clockify will notify you.
Clockify provides numerous reports centered around what your team is doing. Categorize activities to track time spent on each category. See what individual employees are spending their time on. Determine how a project is progressing vs. how much time has been spent on it.
Clockify is best for businesses focused on project-based, white-collar work. Its time tracking, project management, and reporting features make it simple to track who is working on what.
7shifts – Best for Restaurants
7shifts has one of the best toolsets for basic workforce management for restaurants. It has a number of restaurant-specific features and add-ons to simplify what is a notoriously hectic business. Unfortunately, 7shifts has a bigger feature gap between its free version and its paid version than anything else on this list.
The free version uses a drag-and-drop scheduler. You can use associated tools to find covers and replacements. The software also keeps track of availability and employee time off requests. That is what you can do for scheduling with the free version. What you can’t do is schedule more than a week in advance or template the schedules you have already created. It’s a step up from Excel, but not even a large step.
The gap between the free version and the paid versions continues to grow in the time and attendance module. The free version lets your employees clock in and out through a mobile device and tracks their hours. The software then calculates paid time off and sick time. The module also includes an employee health questionnaire. Again, that’s it. You do not get access to the features that really make 7shifts stand out, like tip tracking, break tracking, or wage-based roles.
Beyond the scheduling and attendance tracking, you do get access to the full suite of hiring tools. While more of an employee lifecycle or talent management tool, it is nice to have. You also get access to the mobile app and communication tool. The communication tool has both individual and group communication and one-way announcements.
One thing 7shifts’ free version does well on is its reporting. 7shifts provides a number of reports that help to visualize costs easily. This can help you to make strategic decisions around metrics and optimize labor costs. The engagement dashboard also helps identify unreliable and disengaged employees. Although you could probably already know who these people are, it is always nice to have data and a chart to back it up.
7shifts is a software package specializing in restaurants, but its free version lacks most of the features that actually accomplish that. Without those features, 7shifts is a bottom-of-the-top free package with above-average reporting and subpar time tracking and scheduling modules. Its biggest selling point is that if you are able to upgrade, the next level of features is great. Which may or may not be a selling point at all.
The following packages are all open source, meaning that you can see their source code. Like most open-source projects, you will not be able to get professional customer support using these packages. You will need to rely on documentation, knowledge bases, and user communities for assistance.
TimeTrex Community Edition – Has Payroll
TimeTrex Community edition is a pretty standard basic workforce management solution. It is available on Windows, Mac, and Linux. TimeTrex has one very notable feature for open-source software: it handles payroll. Not just time multiplied by pay calculation, but it will actually handle calculating federal, state, and local income taxes and generating tax reports. It also claims to facilitate direct deposit and can print checks.
Going open source on payroll is a little risky. Part of the reason for using a third-party payroll provider is that they often cover liability if something goes wrong. That isn’t there with open source. You are trusting the software. The software is pretty good, but it is a reasonable ask if the extra cost for a paid provider is worth the peace of mind.
Beyond payroll, TimeTrex provides a pretty standard set of features. Its scheduler isn’t quite drag-and-drop but has a similar interface. Time tracking in the free version is done through a web-based system. Absence management is integrated with the scheduling system. The iOS and Android apps are not included in this. Because employee scheduling, time tracking, and payroll are all handled by the same system, you can more or less automate the entire payroll process.
TimeTrex also has an HR system. This module focuses on three areas: employee personal information, employee qualifications, and performance appraisals. The first two just record employee data. However, the performance review system sets up a surprisingly simple workflow that can help standardize a key HR process.
TimeTrex Community Edition is an interesting piece of software. Its time-tracking and scheduling modules are nothing to write home about, even for free software. However, its performance review and payroll functionality are relatively unique among free software and help to differentiate from its competitors.
OptaPlanner – Best Pure Optimization
OptaPlanner is slightly different from other workforce management software. Whereas other software on this list take a broad approach with lots of employee management features, OptaPlanner is just an optimization engine with limited use cases. Within those use cases, it is extremely powerful. The catch is you need to be familiar with Java, Kotlin, Scala, or Python to run it.
The first use case of OptaPlanner is employee rostering i.e., employee scheduling. OptaPlanner goes several steps beyond of many schedulers. Not only can it create a schedule at the click of a button, but it is much more flexible than many other schedulers. It can handle role and skill constraints. However, you have to input these constraints and employee information yourself.
OptaPlanner can also handle what the website calls overconstrained planning. This means that if you don’t have enough people to cover everything, it will give you the best staffing and coverage available. Many other systems would simply fail.
The second use of OptaPlanner is task assignment. OptaPlanner will take employee skill levels and task priority into consideration to determine an optimal schedule for completing them. Another use case of OptaPlanner is vehicle routing. Simply put, OptaPlanner can use data from Google Maps or OpenStreetMap to determine the optimal routes for a vehicle or set of vehicles. This would be very useful for a small logistics company.
OptaPlanner is one of the most powerful pieces of software on this list. It is very limited in its scope, but extremely useful within those scopes. The only issue is that the nature of the problems it solves requires a lot of information. This must either be input manually, or an application needs to be developed around it.
Didn’t quite find what you were looking for? See more workforce management software, both paid and free, here. If workforce management wasn’t quite what you were looking for, browse through our HR and Human Capital Management, and other HR software, including the following categories related to workforce management:
- Employee Scheduling
- Time and Attendance
- Leave Management
- Workforce Analytics
- Employee Engagement
- Performance Management
Finally, if you have used any of these products, leave a review here. You can help other buyers in their journey.
Was this helpful?