While Deputy (which begins at $1 per employee per month) wants to be considered a full human resources (HR) tool, it started out as just employee scheduling and shift planning software and that shows. An Australian aviation services company originally designed it to schedule the ground crews they supplied to commercial airlines. In the general HR space, it’s an up-and-coming competitor with a nice price tag, but one that still trails the more robust offerings. For this reason, when we reviewed Deputy through the prism of general HR, we rated it at a solid 3.5—good but not as outstanding as BambooHR, our Editors’ Choice in that category. However, when we looked at it strictly as a shift scheduling solution, it shone much more brightly, receiving a 4.5 rating and earning our Editors’ Choice award in that category.
The friendly user interface (UI), multiple time-saving features, mobile-first approach, generous support, and the ability to integrate with time and attendance and other HR software through an open application programming interface (API) puts it among the top tier of cloud-based shift scheduling platforms targeting small to midsize businesses (SMBs), such as Humanity and When I Work.
Company owners, managers, and system administrators log into the same home screen as employees but have access to more functions. For example, a restaurant manager can use the News Feed or Tasks feature to leave one or more employees instructions for that day’s shift (e.g., “Come to an all-hands meeting today at 5PM in the break room”).
As with most other shift scheduling software, Deputy’s core functions consist of an employee database, list of locations, scheduling module, and reports—all of which are displayed on a main navigation bar that runs across the top of the screen regardless of what you’re doing in the program. Companies with a handful of locations and employees can easily create a new account and manually enter all of the information they need. Larger businesses can use People > Add People > Import or Upload to upload existing personnel data from payroll providers and Point-of-Sale (POS) software including Gusto, Intuit QuickBooks Online Plus, and Oracle NetSuite OneWorld. To create locations, use Locations > Add Location, and then follow the prompts that ask for a name and street address (which automatically generates a Google Maps view that will show up on shifts). Additional prompts ask you to assign types of jobs (e.g., cashier, server, driver, and supervisor) and employees to a location.
With employee and location information in the system, you can start creating schedules. Deputy offers a variety of shortcuts that makes what is a fairly daunting process a little less painful, including uploading schedules from Microsoft Excel or, once you’ve created shifts, using Schedule > Copy Shifts to copy or import shifts from a previous time period. The default weekly view displays a calendar-style grid of days of the week and positions to be filled each day, with a list of all employees authorized to work at that location running down the far left-hand side column. Clicking the “plus” sign in any cell opens up a pop-up window to add a new shift, with boxes for searching for an employee, setting start, finish and break times; designating a manager, and adding notes. Recently, Deputy added a monthly calendar view, a feature that’s standard on competitors such as When I Work and ZoomShift, plus additional ways to sort employees in the scheduling grid.
You can also create new shifts by dragging and dropping an employee from the employee list into an empty shift cell. If you try to schedule someone who is not available, already working, or not authorized for a specific position, then a warning will show up on their employee profile and on the schedule. Some businesses want employees to choose their own shifts. To create an open shift, use the Add a New Shift > Shift Actions > Send Offers to notify some or all of the employees qualified to work that position that an open shift is waiting to be claimed. Once a schedule is set, use the yellow Publish button in the top right-hand corner of the screen to finalize and distribute it to the appropriate staff via email, text message, push notification, or printout.
The software’s Schedule view can be set up to display metrics across the top so schedulers can see how different options for filling the day’s or week’s shifts would affect labor costs and measure them against expected sales for the time period. This makes it easy to determine the most profitable staffing option (e.g., “If I put Pete, Laura, and Sam on the 6PM-to-midnight shift, my wage costs will be 50 percent of sales. But if I put Jonah, Laura, and Sam on during the same time, wage costs will be 40 percent of sales, so I better to go with Plan B.”).
One unique feature of Deputy’s Schedule function is a “stress profile,” which a manager can use to set how many hours an employee can work per shift, day, or week, or to regulate hours between shifts. That kind of feature can help restaurants, retailers, or other small businesses with a lot of shift workers limit how much they’re paying in overtime or make sure workers aren’t scheduled to close one night and open the next (a practice called “clopening” that many employees hate).
On the employee side, checking in for work is simple. Workers enter a PIN to log into their personal account, and then click on a green, red, and yellow button that is visible at the top right-hand corner of the home screen to clock in or out of a shift or break. Whether they clock in from their own phone or from a shared device such as an iPad, the software can be set up to signal the device’s camera to take and store their picture. This is a handy feature for dissuading employees from punching in for a late coworker or working an unauthorized shift.
Employees can use their accounts to check schedules, request shifts or time off, see tasks that managers have assigned to them, or read messages on the News Feed. In addition to claiming open shifts, they can also swap shifts with other employees (pending manager approval). If an employee is logging in from a mobile device, then Deputy’s main navigation bar runs down the left-hand side of the screen and includes neatly labeled icons for major tasks such as Calendar, News Feed, and Tasks. Scheduling is represented by a big blue “plus” sign that workers can click to request a shift or a shift change. Log in through the web version of the software and the same main navigation bar and icons run across the top of the page.
Helping employees gain access from anywhere is Deputy’s mobile-readiness. The service is built to be used on Android or iOS mobile devices, including the Apple Watch. Company officials say 80 percent of their customers’ employees access it via smartphones or tablets. It’s also available as a web-based app. The mobile app lets you create and update employee schedules, share schedules via email, SMS, or push notifications; offer or replace open shifts or let employees swap shifts base on their availability; communicate, monitor, and assign tasks to individual employees or to a company’s entire employee base; and create and approve timesheets in real time. You can also instantly export finalized timesheets into your company’s existing payroll software, according to the company.
A very nice capability introduced in early 2017 is the ability to customize your company’s Deputy dashboard. Customers who opt for this can upload their organization’s logo and choose from a color theme that’s consistent with their own branding collateral to give employees a consistent experience across internal tools. You can even customize your business name into your Deputy URL.
Deputy does have a noticeable downside, though. The iPad employee check-in kiosk is available in Spanish and seven other languages, which is helpful for companies with large populations of non-native English language speakers. However, the downside is the website and mobile apps are not available in all of these languages.
HR Management “Lite”
Scheduling is Deputy’s strong suit but the service includes stripped-down versions of other core HR tech suitable for businesses with 50 to several thousand employees. Some of this tech includes onboarding, timesheets, and a News Feed that can replace email communications. Customers can use the software’s open API to integrate with close to 300 vendors that provide time and attendance, payroll, and other HR services, in and outside the United States (provided you’re willing to invest in some custom development).
Deputy provides a performance management (PM) capability of sorts but probably not in the way most people expect. In place of a standard PM function, Deputy has a Journal feature. To see this feature, go to People > Name of the Employee > Write Journal. Supervisors or managers can use it to publicly or privately recognize employees or teams for their accomplishments or to maintain a written record of problems. When it’s time to do reviews or to back up disciplinary action, managers can use the Reports > Journal Usage feature to read positive and negative comments that any employee has accumulated. The Reports module automatically produces reports that managers can see on employee statistics and locations, schedules versus sales, and time-off schedules. While this approach may throw people who are used to traditional PM for a loop, it can actually be an effective method, not just for annual or semi-annual employee evaluation but for day-to-day work management as well.
Deputy’s lowest price is $1 per user per month for shift scheduling only, or $3 per user per month for scheduling and timesheets. Caterers, convention centers, and other businesses that use large numbers of temporary, part-time workers can pay $1.50 per user per week. Deputy also offers an enterprise-level version of the software for companies with 100 or more workers that begins at $8 per user per month. Regardless of what they pay, customers get 24/7 support, lots of Help prompts, how-to videos on all major functions, and a user Help forum.
To beef up its management functionality, Deputy recently announced an integration with ADP, another well-known maker of HR and payroll software solutions. The integration lets mutual customers synch between the two services so data isn’t duplicated. The update also includes real-time payroll integration between the two services.
If you need shift scheduling software that can double as an HR management platform, then Deputy’s a good pick. You’ll get a service that works well on mobile devices, gives managers helpful analytics and shortcuts for building schedules, and gives employees the flexibility many of them want to arrange their own schedules. That’s a win-win any way you look at it.